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Playing Around: Jethro Tull



Jethro Tull is not one of the numerous cash cow, comeback bands making the rounds these days to rake in those $40-and-up tickets.

Though they've gone through several incarnations with numerous personnel and style shifts, the band never disbanded since its founding in late 1967. Jethro Tull has been recording (11 gold and 5 platinum albums, with 65 million records sold), performing and touring for lo these entire 33 years.

The group established itself as a post-psychedelic rock legend in the late '60s and early '70s with a trio of blockbuster albums that included Stand Up, Benefit and Aqualung.

Tull was founded by Edinburgh-born Ian Anderson, whose schtick was wildman-flautist with anarchist hair, exaggerated gestures, ragged coat and one-leg stance, his flute playing modeled on jazzman Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

The Tull sound features progressive hard rock -- provided largely by lead guitarist Martin Barre -- that blends blues licks with folk melodies and complicated time changes woven in and around Anderson's slightly mournful voice, acoustic-oriented, folk-based melodies and cerebral, dense lyrics.

Anderson cites Muddy Waters, Beethoven and Indian classical music as his three main inspirations. In the meantime, he projects himself as a kind of diabolic visionary-prophet who subverts sunny pieties and conventional religion in the name of a more vital, but much darker, spirituality. Now 52 years old, Anderson recently completed his third solo album, The Secret Language of Birds.

In quasi-Grateful Dead style, Tull performances combine favorites from the band's 250-song, 33-year repertoire along with make-it-new improvisation and wide-ranging new works based on a variety of styles ranging from English folk to Middle Eastern doodlings.

At a Tull performance, you think and rock.

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