For­ever a Tull mo­ment: life is a long song.

Prog - - Echoes - Cr

since re­leas­ing their de­but in 1968, when Harold Wil­son was advocating the I’m Back­ing Bri­tain campaign and Daniel Craig, Kylie Minogue and the Big Mac first ap­peared on Earth, Jethro Tull have en­joyed re­mark­able dura­bil­ity. They’ve fallen in and out (let’s be hon­est, mostly out) of fash­ion, and been through over 30 band mem­bers across those five decades.

Yet Ian An­der­son has kept the name afloat, whether they’ve been per­ceived as Amer­ica-pitched sta­dium rock­ers or mor­ris-danc­ing folkies.

From cod­pieces to coun­try gents,

Tull have ex­plored more gen­res than is usu­ally ac­knowl­edged, from blues to prog to elec­tron­ica, from world mu­sic to Christ­mas songs to hard rock. Their hard rock may not have been hard enough for Me­tal­lica fans, as the con­tro­versy over their 1988 Grammy win showed (in fact, that win­ning al­bum, Crest Of A Knave, sounds more like Dire Straits than Def Lep­pard), but that’s Tull for you – you think they’re one thing, then they’re another. It’s a shame scep­tics don’t dive into their cat­a­logue more of­ten. Much like their mu­si­cal struc­tures, it’s a wealth of twisty sur­prises – a joy­ful track like Songs From The Wood has more ideas than most man­age on a whole al­bum.

This 50-track se­lec­tion, cu­rated by An­der­son him­self, gives a fine over­view of a band who’ve sold 60 mil­lion al­bums, and you don’t do that if you’re just a goo­gly-eyed bloke on one leg with a flute. Gen­res are gen­res, but songs cross bridges – these tunes have en­gines, and An­der­son’s a de­tailed lyri­cist. One imag­ines his sto­ries of lusty li­aisons with mys­te­ri­ous women are a rea­son why Nick Cave is such a fan.

As with any com­pi­la­tion, you can’t please ev­ery­body – this re­viewer’s favourite al­bum, Thick As A Brick, feels un­der-rep­re­sented – but the greats you’d ex­pect from Aqualung, Heavy Horses, Too Old To Rock’n’Roll and A Pas­sion Play are in­cluded on this lively, colour­ful three-CD set. (There are one-CD and LP edits avail­able too.) Fifty not out, but def­i­nitely out there.

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