Album review: JETHRO TULL’S IAN ANDERSON – Thick As A Brick – Live In Iceland

JETHRO TULL'S IAN ANDERSON - Thick As A Brick - Live In Iceland

Eagle Vision [Release date 25.08.14] Also available as a DVD/Bluray

When I interviewed Ian Anderson in 2010 he stated that “Thick As A Brick 2 is not on the cards” when asked about revisiting former glories.  I wonder what changed his mind? He even kept Martin Barre in the dark.  And, furthermore, with ‘Homo Erraticus’ in 2014 the third part of the surprise “trilogy” was complete.

In 2012 Anderson embarked on an extensive tour playing the original TAAB and following it up in the second half with the updated version.  In concert, as with ‘Homo’, it worked very well, with the music deftly synched to complementary film footage.  In that sense, this was a great piece of musical theatre.

For those who witnessed that tour, this is a worthwhile souvenir.  Because the whole production was click-tracked to infinity, it really doesn’t add anything to the original recordings and on the close-filmed DVD you don’t really get the scale of the undertaking.  Anderson emphasises in the bonus interview that both pieces are finely structured but with some space for improvisation.  You’d be hard pressed to hear this.

Anderson also makes something in the liner note of Ryan O’Donnell’s presence – adding some of the vocal content that he can’t achieve because he’s playing various instruments.  This is a little disingenuous, given Anderson’s known vocal issues.  In this respect, O’Donnell  has more input to the original, while TAAB2 benefits from being more suited to Anderson’s current vocal register. However, the “theatrical” O’Donnell remains an irritating distraction throughout.

Anderson rightly congratulates the band who reproduce the original and its successor immaculately.  Indeed, the quality is sustained throughout parts 1 and 2 and arguably the reproduction of TAAB2 is as good as the original.  One of Anderson’s best recent melodies ‘Banker Bets, Banker Wins’ is reprised as ‘Wootton Bassett Town’ and also features in the bonus material recorded at Montreux in 2012.

However, on repeated plays (it was mildly amusing on the day) you’ll need to skip the Anna Phoebe-with-baby cameo.  With such an immaculate and intense musical performance and little audience interaction it could be argued that there needs to be some light relief.  But whether the “prostate awareness” interlude fits this brief is another matter, although it does get two bemused Icelanders involved with white coats and rubber gloves.

The DVD is boosted with a 14 minute interview (Anderson gives some explanation about the “Ian Anderson” billing.  But without Martin Barre could he call the band Jethro Tull?) and a couple of songs  from Montreux 2012 plus an informal tribute to the late Claude Nobs.

It is significant that TAAB2 in 2012 was Tull’s first new studio album since 1999.  One hopes that Anderson’s next project will produce something less derivative but in the meantime this is another good watch and listen for Tull fans.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Archive features:
Gig review (TAAB2)
Album review (TAAB2)

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