Jethro Tull - The String Quartets album review

Chamber folk from the Tull frontman

Cover art for Jethro Tull - The String Quartets album

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Usually viewed as something of an indulgence, with some notable exceptions, the orchestral treatment of the rock genre is not always a successful one. Opting for a string quartet, however – two violins, a viola and a cello – brings a lighter and airier dynamic to Ian Anderson’s folkish vignettes.

A fairly even split between instrumentals and songs with partial vocals, the Carducci Quartet, tightly arranged by Tull keyboardist John O’Hara, work through a selective back catalogue with zest and flair.

Slightly renamed highlights include In The Past (Living…), resplendent with a pizzicato cello adopting the circular bassline; Velvet Gold (Green), a tad twee but certainly charming; and perhaps surprisingly, Farm, The Fourway (Freeway). Anderson chips in sporadically with flute, mandolin and low-in-the-mix vocals, though not always bringing that much to the table.

The more riff-based compositions, Aquafugue (guess) and Loco Breath (ditto), are less effective, but a relatively straight take on Wond’ring Aloud (titled Only The Giving here), with the strings melding in incrementally, applies a more traditional usage, rendering it easier to absorb for the less classically inclined ear.

Tim Batcup

Tim Batcup is a writer for Classic Rock magazine and Prog magazine. He's also the owner of Cover To Cover, Swansea's only independent bookshop, and a director of Storyopolis, a free children’s literacy project based at the Volcano Theatre, Swansea. He likes music, books and Crass.