In late 1969, amidst the peak of a British Blues outbreak that dominated the English club scene and BBC airwaves, Jethro Tull's ascending star could shine no more brightly. The band was riding a swelling wave of popularity in response both to its successful debut release, This Was, and its live appearances at the Marquee Club, the Sunbury Jazz & Blues Festival, and opening for Pink Floyd at a free show in London's Hyde Park.
Tull's unique and peculiar mixture of raw blues, jazz motifs, pop sensibility, and folkish nuance attracted a diverse listening audience. Although the band had by this time lost guitarist Mick Abrahams and his blues-purist approach, still, it persevered, replacing Abrahams with the more-than-capable and somewhat more versatile skill of Martin Barre. Frontman Ian Anderson garnered considerable attention and musical press with his theatrical flutework and stage drama, and by the time Tull released its second recording, Stand Up just after issuing Living in the Past (with its tricky, non-commercial 5/4 beat) to strong acclaim, the band was in high demand.
Stand Up, along with The Beatles' output from Rubber Soul through Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin", Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and perhaps The Who's Tommy, stands as one of the finest proto-progressive rock recordings ever made. The album isn't quite 'prog' proper; Tull would have a few years yet before it could stretch out and produce art rock masterpieces in the order of Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play. However, all of the foundational elements of the early 1970s progressive rock boom are there in Stand Up, and the present-day listener, in hindsight, can hear the prog-train starting down the tracks.
Of course, that is not to say Jethro Tull was totally inclined to abandon the blues at this juncture of its career. Rather, under Ian Anderson's guidance, Tull with its tight rhythm section of Clive Bunker on drums and Glen Cornick on bass guitar branched out into a variety of musical styles, with blues-based rock 'n' roll as its trunk. Stand Up offers several blues-oriented pieces, including "A New Day Yesterday" and "We Used to Know"; the recording quality of these tunes is thick and coffeehouse-smoky, but pleasantly so, and any fans of John Mayall, Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac, or Cream might find some enjoyment therein.
As well, certain songs, "Back to the Family", for example, and "Nothing is Easy" move into the driving heaviness of early Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, as Tull establishes its capability with thundering riffs. Over the top of it all is Ian's flute, an odd choice perhaps in a blues/hard rock context (and this was Mick Abraham's opinion also), but it tends to fit more often than not. The introduction to "Nothing is Easy" sets the pace and timbre of the song with acumen. Where the flute is inappropriate, Ian Anderson simply blows the harmonica. The Roland Kirk legacy in Ian's nascent flute style is obvious, as he mutters and exclaims during breath intake, but if anything, it's humorous to hear someone wear an influence so openly upon the sleeve.
The more memorable tunes of Stand Up are those in which Jethro Tull starts its transformation into a progressive rock innovator. "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square" begins with balalaika and tuned percussion and segues into a mock-Slavic folk melody resting upon well-played hand percussion, and gives out tentative hints of "Mother Goose" and "Wond'ring Aloud" from Aqualung. A second tune, "Fat Man", is similarly cast in a folk setting, this time the Middle East, and, despite the sheer cruelty of the lyrics and their offensively nasal delivery, the music is thrilling and enthusiastic.
Obviously, Tull on Stand Up is playing within the hippy zeitgeist of the late '60s, and it is definitely riding along with Zeppelin and Traffic in terms of acoustic arrangement and musicianship, but the band introduces world music into its solid rock delivery expertly.
In "Bouree", a snippet from J.S. Bach nonetheless, Tull showcases its affinity for both classical music and jazz, and here, again, we see the band making headway toward the art rock period, incorporating diverse musical forms into popular tunecraft. Glen Cornick gets a share of the spotlight here with a nice solo incorporating bass chords.
"Reasons for Waiting" is the beginning of a long-standing trend in Tull's catalog: Ian, with acoustic guitar, as some minstrel out of the legendary past. Here, he's backed by a string accompaniment, a cliché today but at the time a novel willingness to move rock music out of and away from the twelve-bar blues.
Chrysalis Records (under the aegis of Capitol Records) has released remastered versions of Jethro Tull's first three albums, each with bonus tracks. Stand Up includes the aforementioned "Living in the Past", and "Sweet Dream", a brilliantly energetic composition using a very brash horn chart with a Spanish, conquistador feel, as well as two other tunes from the era. Generally, the remaster is a mild improvement over earlier CD releases; the mix is clean and listenable, and extremely well-balanced, but there's no huge increase in sonic integrity.
Regardless, this is an outstanding example of Tull's early musical finesse and power. Really Stand Up made Tull's career, along with "Living in the Past" ? and a fine move forward for the band. It is remarkable indeed (and admirable) that, once hitting such a high-water mark, Tull continued to reinvent itself and expand musically, at least through Warchild (if not beyond). Fans of Tull's more progressive offerings, curious about the origins of such complex and intricate performances, might like to try Stand Up, and fans of late '60s-early '70s rock 'n' roll would definitely find much of interest in the album. For Jethro Tull, at the tail-end of 1969, more impressive music was yet to come, but Stand Up did not and does not fail to command attention.
This masterpiece (oh, yes it is!) is the second outing from the great Jethro Tull and the first one to bring forth the very excellent guitar player Martin Barre ( He and Ian are still the nucleus of Tull) and he really proves here ,why he was chosen amongst so many other fine players!
"New day yesterday" brings us head in, this fine album and what a fabulous riff it contains supported by Ian´s brilliant vocal style and after Barre´s fine solo we get to hear Ian´s flute part...lovely!!! Next up " Jeffrey goes to Leicester square" which comes across as a typical English folk song (traditional leanings) albeit the Tull influence. Track #3 "Bourré...well this actually should need no introduction. What´s that? You haven’t heard it??! Well then you really haven’t heard Tull. So go to the corner, put on the silly hat and turn your back to the room...and be ashamed. No really, this album is a classic. You must own this one. It contains both " Fat man" and "Nothing is easy" which by now...should be, in every serious prog fan´s musical vocabulary!! Andersson is a superb song-smith and the band shines on every track.
And this my friends are only one in a long series of brilliant folk/rock/prog albums. Do yourself a favor if you are new to Tull (you are either from another planet or you are too young to have heard about them!?) do try them, I promise you, you are in for an nice surprise! ANY prog friend need to have encountered Tull.