Having been a Jethro Tull fan since I was born, a new release from Ian Anderson and co. always makes me excited. Although I can’t remember the first time I heard Ian Anderson’s flute, the first (and only) time I saw them was on the Roots to Branches tour in November of 1995, at the tender age of three. Now approaching my 21st birthday and with 10 years of flute playing and a lifetime of searching for new music ever since, it’s hard to deny the influence that the music of Ian Anderson has had on my life. This new DVD Around the World Live is admittedly a mixed bag and the new footage presented here is of varying quality, but the diehard Tull fan will find much to appreciate. As much of this is previously released; the Isle of Wight footage appeared on Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, the two German gigs represented both appeared on Jack in the Green – Live in Germany 1970-93, the London performances on Living with the Past, and the complete Montreux performance is available on Live at Montreux 2003 – both DVD and Blu-ray, I will focus my review on new material alone. So, does the unreleased material make this new collection worth acquiring for someone who has these DVDs?
The first disc is comprised of footage from three different performances from three years. The first is, of course is two excerpts from the Isle of Wight – 1970, while the second and core of Disc One is the much sought-after 1976 Tampa, Florida gig, sporting the classic lineup of Tull: Martin Barre on guitar, the all-too short lived John Glasscock on bass (formerly of Carmen), Barrie Barlow on drums, and David Palmer and John Evans on keyboards. The performance here is in support of Too Old to Rock ‘n Roll; Too Young to Die (1976) album, but unfortunately only two songs from that oft-unfairly maligned record are represented – “Crazed Institution” and the title track. The show is sourced from an illegal copy of the live feed to a screen above the performers (dubbed Tullavision) and the video quality, while not poor, is washed out, ghost-ridden, blurry, and noisy. Due to this, the video centers around individual performers, primarily Ian Anderson, and while he is on stage, we barely see anything of the rest of the band – particularly David Palmer. Musically, the band are absolutely on fire, and each song segues into the next – leaving the audience unable to catch their breath before the band launches into the next tune. Sound quality wise, it is quite good, making up for the shortcomings of the video and ultimately an enjoyable show for a Tull fan. Stand out tracks here are: “Crazed Institution”, “Barre” (an unreleased instrumental), the centerpiece medley comprised of “To Cry You A Song”, “A New Day Yesterday”, “Bourée”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Living In The Past”, and an instrumental reprise of “Thick As A Brick”, and a rarely performed, complete version of “Minstrel in the Gallery”. For me, this is the highlight of the 4 DVD boxed set and I think that the diehard Tull fanatic will be pleased to see this footage.
The next performance is derived from the Stormwatch (1979) tour and the last of what many Tull fans know as the ‘classic’ lineup, sans John Glasscock, though Dave Pegg (Fairport Convention) more than capably fills the bassist position after his tragic death in 1979. The gig, filmed in Munich, Germany in 1980, exists solely for the purpose of television broadcast. The performance, though top notch, is rather jarringly interspersed with an annoyingly dubbed-over interview with Ian Anderson, however subtitles are provided which softens the blow. The interview is informative, but I’d have preferred it to be tacked on as a bonus feature, as opposed to disrupting the flow of the material. The film footage has about three angles and though it is not quite as blurry and noisy as the Tampa show, the sound quality is roughly that of a bootlegged Youtube video. Granted, it’s probably the best available, but a bit disappointing if you were excited to see some footage of the overlooked Stormwatch (1979) period. Still, this is a treasure for the serious Tullhead like myself, though I’d liked to have seen more songs from Stormwatch and less that are represented heavily on this set and in the Tull canon in general. Performance-wise, it’s always worth listening to the Tull live – there really wasn’t a more dependable live act on the road in the 70’s and 80’s than Jethro Tull, and for people who didn’t get to see them in their prime, it’s worth seeing. Stand out tracks are “Dark Ages”, “Home”, and “Orion” – though they are incomplete.
The next disc is, once again, occupied by three performances, the first two of which are excerpted from the Jack in the Green – Live in Germany 1970-93 DVD, specifically Dortmund, 1982 – supporting The Broadsword and the Beast and Loreley, 1986 are two rare performances, but the third performance is even more so. From 10 years after the Loreley gig, we are transported to Santiago, Chile and a special performance to me from the Roots to Branches tour which was, as previously stated, the first concert I ever attended. Quality-wise, this is the best footage presented yet, with crisp sound and clear video. The lineup here is Ian Anderson on concert and bamboo flutes and acoustic guitar, Martin Barre on guitar and flute(!), Jonathan Noyce on bass, Doane Perry behind the kit, and Andy Giddings on keyboards. Musically, they are filled with energy with Perry’s drums thundering, snapping, and cracking out of the speakers and every subtle nuance of Martin Barre’s signature guitar tone ringing in the mix. Noyce’s bass work is deep and jazz fusion inspired, while Anderson’s flutes are clear in the mix. The only thing lacking is Anderson’s voice which is considerably weaker in comparison to the other footage due to the damage he suffered during the Under Wraps tour in 1984. This can be overlooked, but it is certainly enough of an issue to take away from an otherwise splendid performance. Stand out tracks here are “Roots To Branches”, “Rare And Precious Chain”, “In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff”, “Dangerous Veils”, “Aqualung / Aquadiddly” (an instrumental version of “Aqualung”, and “In The Moneylenders Temple”.
The third disc takes us in time only three years to 1999. What we get here is a 32 minute intimate set from Hilversum, Holland recorded after Tull’s American tour in support of J-Tull Dot Com. There are only two new songs presented here, “Dot Com” and the title track from Ian Anderson’s third solo album, The Secret Language of Birds (2000). Tull are in subdued mode here, as Anderson notes in the interview provided, they were directed to bring only what they could carry to the TV studio, and the lineup is the same as the Chile performance which remains for the rest of the set. Musically, they are quite good here with primarily songs from the first few albums and yet another version of “Locomotive Breath”. Ian Anderson is in good form here, both in humor and voice, the latter of which is a great improvement over the Chile show. Highlights here are the two new songs and “Fat Man” – with Martin on flute and an extended flute solo from Anderson. The rest of the disc, with the exception of the aforementioned interview, is comprised of entirely previously released material, which is good, but inessential if you already own Living with the Past and Live at Montreux 2003.
The fourth and final disc of the set is the entire hour and 40 minute set from Lugano, Switzerland’s Jazz festival, which up until now, had only been available on Youtube. Because of this, the set draws heavily upon Tull’s jazz / blues inspired earlier efforts which seems to please the enthusiastic audience. Though the classics are here – “Aqualung”, “Locomotive Breath”, and “Bourée” to name a few, we are also treated to a few obscurer songs that rarely get attention – “For a Thousand Mothers”, “Serenade to a Cuckoo”, and “Up To Me” to name a few. Though the band is in decent form, any of the songs’ power is robbed by Anderson’s weakened vocal work which, though not nearly as poor as the 1996 show, are even detrimental to the relatively recent songs like “Farm on the Freeway” and “Budapest” – both from the Grammy award winning album Crest of a Knave (1987). Still, it is a good show, but watching and listening to Anderson strain vocally is difficult to stomach for a huge Tull fan like me – not only because it sounds bad, but also because it appears to be physically painful. The other members of the band put on a great show, particularly Martin Barre, who’s guitar tone is, as always, exemplary throughout and he never misses a note, even in the trickier passages. On this subject, I’ll never tire of listening to him play the “Aqualung” solo, no matter how sick I am of hearing the song itself. Stand out tracks here are “Serenade to a Cuckoo” (originally by Roland Kirk), “Beggar’s Farm”, “Boris Dancing”, “Mother Goose” (which is an entirely new arrangement from the original), and Barre’s “Empty Cafe”, though all of the songs feel labored in general compared to the other shows on the DVD’s.
In conclusion, Around the World Live, is for the diehard Tull willing to overlook some flaws in video, audio, and in a few cases, vocal performance. As Ian Anderson explains in the booklet, Tull were not heavily documented in the 70’s and 80’s and much of this is his fault – he doesn’t like the intrusion of cameras during live performances. For the fan who already has most of the Tull DVD’s, I’d say this is still worth picking up for the Tampa 1976, Munich 1980, Santiago 1996, Hilversum 1999, and Lugano shows which are hitherto unreleased (though many of these have circulated among fans for years). Though I don’t really understand why the previously released material was included (it’s been a practice of Tull’s since 1972’s Living in the Past to compile previously released material with unreleased rarities), the new material certainly makes up for this. Ideally, I’d liked to have seen in place of these duplicates, the also much-circulated Hippodrome 1977 show from the Songs from the Wood tour, the Bach Rock 1985 gig with Eddie Jobson guesting, or the Paris 1975 show which has been rumored to exist in more or less complete form for years. Nonetheless, what we do have here is a reasonably priced (but far from perfect) Jethro Tull live compilation with a few real rarities that make it recommended for fans, but newcomers or those who merely flirt with their music should look elsewhere.
You can purchase Around the World Live here: