Once again your crusty chronicler felt the need to resurrect his old “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another perhaps did not receive the attention/acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was that the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we reconsider Jethro Tull’s Stand Up.
For those of you not up on your rock history, Jethro Tull is a Brit band founded in 1967. While the line-up has gone through numerous changes since its inception, the band’s signature sound has always been characterized by frontman Ian Anderson’s vocals, flute and acoustic guitar work as well as the guitar playing of Martin Barre who joined the band in 1969. Named after the 18th-century farmer, Jethro Tull began as an experimental blues rock band that soon came to incorporate elements of art rock, classical music, folk, hard rock and jazz into their trademark tunes. The band has sold over 60 million albums world-over—making them the world’s best-selling music act with a career that has already spanned over four decades.
In April of 1969, the band would return to the studio to record their sophomore selection Stand Up. Guitarist Mick Abrahams, however, had quit the group “due to musical differences with Ian Anderson.” He reportedly “wanted to stay with the blues-rock sound of This Was”, while Anderson wanted to explore other musical avenues. Abrhams was replaced with guitarist Martin Barre who would also play flute on parts of this new recording.
Stand Up would mark not only Barre’s first appearance but it would also be the first project to feature music and lyrics totally controlled by Anderson. Anderson would, of course, play flute, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, piano, balalaika, mouth organ and sing lead. The roster also included Glenn Cornick on bass, Clive Bunker on drums and percussion and David Palmer conducting and arranging strings.
Co-produced by Anderson and Terry Ellis, the work includes ten cuts and had a running time of almost 38 minutes. The lead-in is the rather appropriate “A New Day Yesterday”. It is followed by the shortest track on the LP “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square”. The latter being a tuneful tributary tale of their former bass player Jeffrey Hammond.
“Bourée” is noteworthy because it is an instrumental by J. S. Bach that was arranged by Anderson specifically for inclusion on this album. This would go on to become one of the band’s better known pieces and is essentially an adaptation of “Bourrée in E minor”.
Back to the Family” follows here along with “Look into the Sun” and “Nothing Is Easy”. This block of songs makes it even more obvious that Anderson has broadened his horizon to include elements from different musical genres including prog-rock, hard rock and folk rock. Other songs here are the somewhat famous “Fat Man”, “We Used To Know” and “Reasons for Waiting”.
By the time one reaches the closing cut, “For a Thousand Mothers” it is clear that the band has taken a new direction from their previous platter. The album is replete with classical and Celtic influences rarely if ever heard prior to this.
Previously, the band was at best a gut busting mash-up of jazz, progressive rock and R&B. This was the true origin of Anderson’s domination and a new direction for the group. Released in the late summer of the same year (1969) on Reprise (in the US), it would soar to the top of the UK charts.
The work included some interesting packaging in that it had a gatefold album cover that featured a woodcut style by artist James Grashow. It actually opened up like a child’s pop-up book and the band would “stand up” in the center of the album. It would even earn New Musical Express‘s award for best album artwork in 1969.
The recording was re-issued but a few years later by Chrysalis Records. The following decade would also include Jethro Tull as it would be remastered and re-released again in 1989. The new millennium would witness the 2001 digital remaster release of the album.
This would include four additional tracks including: the hit song “Living in the Past”, “Driving Song”, “Sweet Dream” and the noteworthy numeric number “17”. This would increase the running time to over 51 minutes. Several years later (2010), would find Tull fans celebrating the release of a Deluxe Edition package.
It included 2 CDs and an audio-only DVD of live concert material. The first CD contains 21 tracks made up of the most recent release plus additional material. The extra tracks were made up of the original mono single version of “Living in the Past”, BBC radio session versions of “Bourée”, “A New Day Yesterday”, “Nothing Is Easy” and “Fat Man”. It even includes a couple of radio spots for the album. The second CD features music recorded live at Carnegie Hall.
The critics generally agreed that the LP included some of the band’s best material. Unfortunately, it would—according to Rolling Stone magazine—also mark the moment the group began “their characteristic diddling around”. This might, perhaps, account for the record only earning a four-star rating. Mind you, this rating may acknowledge a flaw but still labels the work as excellent.
If you’ve never listened to Jethro Tull’s Stand Up, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.