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Jethro Tull - The String Quartets album review

Chamber folk from the Tull frontman

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.