“A”, released in 1980, is Jethro Tull’s 13th album, would you have guessed? It requires the effort of a flawlessly executed sommersault if you want to appreciate this piece of work properly. This will not work without sufficient rotation. “A” differs from the usual Tull sound due to its low folk content and its song-based structure, although there are also enough recognizable parts in it.
That deviant is not so strange when you consider that the album was written and recorded with the intention that it would become a solo album by Ian Anderson. Also important is the fact that Anderson has gathered an almost entirely new band. Of the old line up, only guitarist Martin Barre is still of service to him. Anderson can be happy because Barre is hitting the strings well again. Collaborating with Eddie Jobson, keyboardist and violin player of the band UK and guest on this album, must have been a great inspiration to Barre as well. Their cooperation brings out the best of them which you can hear best in Black Sunday but actually most of the ten songs are very okay. Take Fylingdale Flyer where the deep dark harmony vocals are delicious or take Working John, Working Joe and what about the instrumental The Pine Marten’s Jig.
There is a lot to enjoy. Beautiful are the many synchronous loops of bass guitar and flute in Protect And Survive and also the voluptuous violin playing in Uniform enforces the lyrics. The almost pastoral closing track And Further On shows once again that Anderson is a great composer.
The vocal-oriented album is full of angular guitar riffs, icy keyboard sounds, powerful flute playing and sizzling violin parts, while Dave Pegg on bass guitar and Mark Craney behind the drums constantly cover the music with a progressive layer.
If you’re wondering where that ultra-short album title comes from: as mentioned, the album was recorded with the intention that it would be a solo lp by Anderson. The boxes of the recording tapes were indicated by the letter A. That’s all. Surely you don’t believe that there is a red A floating somewhere in the sky?
© Dick van der Heijde 2022