Led by the charismatic, flute-wielding Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull began as a somewhat Led Zeppelin-like, bluesy hard-rock band. Before long the balance tipped to courtly, Elizabethan-sounding progressive rock tinged with folk and marked by tricky time changes and long suites. Though they were masters of the concept album (THICK AS A BRICK, AQUALUNG), Tull was able to churn out hook-laden hard-rock riffs that guaranteed them a permanent place on classic-rock playlists the world over.
The back of this 20-track retrospective's booklet pictures 23 men (not a single woman, interestingly) who've been members of Jethro Tull at one time or another since the group emerged in the late '60s. And, of course, rock's only flute-playing frontman, Ian Anderson, is pictured (where else?) at the center of 'em all. Anderson's haughty vocals and eccentric vision (the '70s were a time of excess, but few could top a single song filling two sides of a studio album--and this on the follow-up to a hit album) made Tull unlikely stars after the release of their 1971 breakthrough opus, Aqualung. The band was in retreat by the late '70s, but has soldiered bravely on through the decades. This hits collection allows more casual fans to forgo some of the ungainly maneuvers in Tull's lengthy history in favor of what Anderson characterizes as "a broad representation of the big picture"--meaning the likes of "Living in the Past," "Locomotive Breath," "Minstrel in the Gallery" and a three-minute version of "Thick as a Brick," the aforementioned two-sided song. --Steven Stolder
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