Personally, I always find it more than a little fun to take a look at a new band struggling and enjoying the process of developing its sound.
The very first Jethro Tull album is a prime snapshot of four very creative and headstrong musical minds in that process. The first thing one will notice is how starkly different This Was sounds from every other Tull album after. Here, THE BLUES holds sway as the predominant musical flavor, thanks in no small part to original guitarist Mick Abrahams (a raging blues lover if ever there was one), in addition to sprinkles of jazz (witness Ian's subdued reading of Roland Kirk's "Serenade To A Cuckoo") and faint folk strains that would come through very loudly on subsequent albums.
Even though heavily steeped in the blues, this disc had plenty of odd twists to make sure that you couldn't confuse Jethro Tull with anyone else coming out the the Brit-Blues boom of the mid-late 1960's. The opening "My Sunday Feeling" is a pretty accurate musical depiction of someone trying to get their bearings after a few too many pints of Guiness. "Move On Alone" begins to suggest what quirky genius that Jethro Tull was capable of, utilizing a very unconventional blues-derived chord progression, and one of the most hilariously quirky horn arrangements I've ever laid ears on (courtesy of one David Palmer who would collaborate many times with the band afterwards). According to the liner notes, the horns were added afterwards without Mick knowing it at the time.
"Dharma For One" gives drummer Clive Bunker a chance to step front and center, oddly charming even if it does sound a bit dated. "Song For Jeffery" would go on to become a popular staple in Tull's repetoire. "Someday, the Sun won't Shine For You" is a spiteful little country blues number that gives Ian Anderson's biting wit a good airing, "It's Breaking Me Up" and the old blues chestnut "Cat's Squirrel" are additional high points.
While the band does strive for precise ensemble work, the looseness with which this incarnation plays is in fact very refreshing to hear. One potentially annoying or amusing (depending on your viewpoint) thing in the mix is a contraption called the Claghorn, a rather, shall we say, pitch-challenged piece of plumbing the band pulled out for effect.
Not long after, Mick and Ian would have a legendary falling out (Mick going on to form Blodwyn Pig, his way of describing Ian Anderson) and the band's sound would change radically into the Jethro Tull we all know and love. But here is a very essential snapshot of a bands developing muse that no one should be without. Plus, it's just plain great fun to listen to!
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