Ian Anderson revelling in 50 years of Jethro Tull

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Ian Anderson was—is—the voice of British rockers Jethro Tull.

The band itself may be on ice. But the voice of Anderson is still actively heard on the road. And Anderson has never shied away from his legacy with Tull, which gave the world such classic tracks as “Aqualung,” “Thick As A Brick,” and “Living in the Past.”

The 50th anniversary of Jethro Tull is in full swing. And Anderson is celebrating that golden anniversary with a tour focusing on the band’s catalogue and by releasing “50 for 50,” a three CD package that collects a wide swath of Tull’s output.

The tour comes to the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

When Jethro Tull released “This Was” 50 years ago, there was a coincidental outburst of bands who have come to define “classic rock.” For instance, Yes and Led Zeppelin also are celebrating their 50th years.

“It started with The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Pipers at the Gates of Dawn’ (both released in 1967),  which were sign posts and the catalysts that gave us some feeling of direction that you can be different,” said Anderson in a phone call from the U.K.

The outburst of creativity, said Anderson, was the result probably of the flush of young men born after World War II, who were enrolled in art school. “Look at the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd… Elton John,” said Anderson. “Everybody was at art college.”

These young men subsequently began creating music, inspired by the “painterly world,” he said.

Additionally, Anderson said, “We were a generation who grew up with and were excited by… American rock and roll, blues and jazz,” said Anderson.

“That creative period would be difficult, I imagine, to bring around again,” said Anderson.

Sometimes artists will look back on their previous efforts and think about how they wish they approached it differently. Some will even go as far as to take action.

For instance, George Lucas went back and retooled the original “Star Wars” movie. Tull’s musical peers Yes even went so far as go back to their album, “Fly From Here,” and strip the original lead singer’s voice from the tracks and replace them with its current singer Trevor Horn, and reinstating jettisoned musical parts back on to the tracks.

On Jethro Tull’s live album “A Little Light Music” in 1992, Anderson made an aside about the group’s 1984 album, “Under Wraps.” In his stage banter, it was clear that Anderson had problem with the preponderance of electronic tones on that effort.

Anderson said the synths used on “Under Wraps” were relatively new and fun to play with. Even though the album had some great songs, he said in his recent interview that the electronic excursion was a music exercise he would not repeat.

Asked if he had his druthers, would he re-approach “Under Wraps” differently today, Anderson said, “It would be great to hear that with real drums and a real drummer.” He also would like to hear the instrumentation played “in real time by real people.”

But he said a revisit and re-recording is not in the cards.

When the song selection began for the new CD set “50 for 50,” Anderson went back to each of Jethro Tull’s albums and eventually drew up a list of 80 songs worthy of inclusion. He then whittled it down to 50 songs, trying to keep the selection varied.

After he made the selections, he said he compared notes with the record company’s selections. “We were about two to three songs apart,” said Anderson.

With 50 years of material at his disposal, when he draws up a concert list, he crafts a “pragmatic” grouping of songs that makes for a cohesive musical evening. Playing his favorite tracks doesn’t figure into it, he said. He wants an evening of music that reflects different tempos, different moods, and presents a dynamic of highs and lows for the listener.

However, said Anderson, he also likes to please the fans. In the case of the current tour, although it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Jethro Tull, most of the music for the show will be derived from the first 10 years of the band.

“I think basically that era defined when Jethro Tull really made an impact on people.”

“An Evening Ian Anderson presents: Jethro Tull 50th Anniversary Tour” comes to the Toyota Oakdale Theater in Wallingford on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, go to www.Oakdale.com or www.JethroTull.com

Ian Anderson is celebrating the music of Jethro Tull in a concert at The Toyota Oakdale Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

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