“What’s clear is the decision to pursue a direction that’s both harder and more experimental – electronics, looping and some fierce guitar”: Jethro Tull’s The Château D’Hérouville Sessions vinyl edition

‘Lost’ album from the studio they nicknamed ‘Château D’Isaster’ is a chance to hear A Passion Play material in embryonic form

Jethro Tull
(Image: © Warners)

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In 1973, Jethro Tull followed up their popular parody concept album Thick As A Brick with A Passion Play, another concept album – only this was one they took a little more seriously.

It’s arguably Tull’s most progressive work, certainly their most inventive and lyrically acerbic, but it marked the end of their honeymoon period with the press. Its poor reception led Tull manager Terry Ellis to declare that the band had split up – much to Ian Anderson’s annoyance.

The story behind its creation turned out to be even stranger. A Passion Play had been pulled together in just a few weeks after an abortive – borderline disastrous – recording session at the Château D’Hérouville, a residential studio outside of Paris recently used by Pink Floyd to make Obscured By Clouds. Tull discovered that much of the equipment was faulty, while a cook from Hell seemed intent on poisoning them.

The twisting, gnarly riffage of Critique Oblique sounds like the source code for prog’s awkward squad

Despite this, Tull produced more than an album’s worth of material there, some of which would end up being reworked for A Passion Play. A few decades later the sessions were remixed by Steven Wilson and included on 2014’s Extended Performance book set of the album – and now they’re released on vinyl for the very first time.

It’s fascinating to hear the APP material in embryonic form, but what’s clear from the off is the band’s decision to pursue a direction that’s both harder and more experimental, with electronics, looping and some fierce guitar in evidence.

There are still melodic, acoustic-based songs – for instance, Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day, later to appear on Warchild – but the twisting, gnarly riffage of Critique Oblique sounds like the source code for prog’s awkward squad.

Left Right possesses a Sabbathian heaviness, while No Rehearsal is positively evil. And exclusive to this set is a version of The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles without its orchestral backing. Any Tull fans who haven’t heard the ‘Château D’Isaster’ tapes before are in for a treat.

The vinyl edition of The Château D’Hérouville Sessions is on sale now via Warners.

Joe Banks

Joe is a regular contributor to Prog. He also writes for Electronic Sound, The Quietus, and Shindig!, specialising in leftfield psych/prog/rock, retro futurism, and the underground sounds of the 1970s. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, MOJO, and Rock & Folk. Joe is the author of the acclaimed Hawkwind biographyDays Of The Underground (2020). He’s on Twitter and Facebook, and his website is https://www.daysoftheunderground.com/