Friday, 22 April 2016

"Aqualung: 40th Anniversary Adapted Edition" by JETHRO TULL (2016 Chrysalis 2CD and 2DVD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…Elephants And Lions Too…”

Back in the tenement fog of Monday the 31st of October 2011 – I got terribly excited about the 2CD variant of the '40th Anniversary' Reissue of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung". Remastered with real skill and care by Porcupine Tree's STEVE WILSON – compared to the audio dreck we'd had for nearly 30 years – the 2011 2CD set was/is a sonic revelation. Out of my financial reach at the time (and the same for most everyone else I suspect) – there was also a 2011 5-Disc 'Collector's Edition' of "Aqualung" with LP, CDs, DVD and BLU RAY that was pricey then and has become something of an extortionate collectable ever since.

Well along comes Chrysalis in April 2016 and offers up a cheaper alternative - a fully-loaded 'Adapted Version' of that Super Deluxe 'Collector's Edition' Box set – this time with 2CDs and 2DVDs clipped inside a beautifully packaged 80-page Book Pack. It's the same Remastering from 2011 but 'newly' handled in 2016 'only' by Steve Wilson with some multitrack transfers by Kris Burton. The Audio is fabulous - it's packaged better and at under a twenty-spot - priced to sell. Here are the snots running down my nose...

UK released Friday 22 April 2016 - "Aqualung: 40th Anniversary Adapted Edition" by JETHRO TULL on Chrysalis 0825646487080 (Barcode is the same) is a 4-Disc REISSUE BOOK SET consisting of 2CDs and 2DVDs (1 is Audio, 2 is Audio and Video) that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (43:45 minutes):
1. Aqualung
2. Cross-Eyed Mary
3. Cheap Day Return
4. Mother Goose
5. Wond’ring Aloud
6. Up To Me
7. My God [Side 2]
8. Hymn 43
9. Slipstream
10. Locomotive Breath
11. Wind Up
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 4th album "Aqualung" - released 19 March 1971 in the UK on Chrysalis ILPS 9145 and 3 May 1971 in the USA on Reprise MS 2035. It reached number 4 and 7 on the UK and US LP charts. No 45's were released to support the album in the UK - but "Hymn 43" was put out as a 7" single in the USA with "Mother Goose" as its B-side on Reprise 1024 (see Disc 2 Track 1 re UK singles).

Disc 2 – Associated 1970 & 1971 Recordings (51:25 minutes):
A Steven Wilson Stereo Remix (Tracks 1 to 10)
Flat Transfer (Tracks 11 to 15)

1. Lick Your Fingers Clean - an album outtake that first appeared on the 1996 25th Anniversary reissue - this is a 2011 'New Mix'. It was supposed to be released as a single in 1971 on Chrysalis WIP 6098 in the UK but was withdrawn
2. Just Trying To Be - first appeared as the last track on Side 2 of the July 1972 double album "Living In The Past". This is a 2011 'New Mix' at 1:37 minutes
3. My God (Early Version) - a 9:42 minute outtake complete with studio dialogue at the beginning
4. Wond'ring Aloud - a 1:51 minute outtake recorded 13 Dec 1970
5. Wind Up - an 'Early Version' at 5:21 minutes with Ian Anderson on piano. This is a 2011 'New Mix'
6. Slipstream (Take 2) - a 54-second outtake
7. Up The 'Pool - an 'Early Version' at 1:12 minutes (released version is Track 10)
8. Wand'ring Aloud, Again - a 7:07 minute 'Full Morgan Version' with the band and extra verses
9. Life Is A Long Song (New Mix)
10. Up The 'Pool (New Mix)

Life Is A Long Song (Original EP, Flat Transfer)
11. Life Is A Long Song
12. Up The 'Pool
13. Dr. Bogenbroom
14. From Later
15. Nursie
Tracks 11 to 15 were recorded in May 1971 and made up the "Life Is A Long Song" 7" EP released September 1971 on Chrysalis WIP 6106 in the UK (the picture sleeve is featured in the last collage pages of the booklet along with its sheet music). They reappeared as Tracks 3 to 7 on Side 4 of the "Living In The Past" double LP in 1972.

16. Reprise Radio Advert - is a 52-second "US Radio Spot" featuring Ian Anderson talking about the album and God with music snippets from several tracks
NOTE: Tracks 3, 4, 6 7 and 8 were PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED in 2011. The original Disc 2 in 2011 had 14 tracks – this 2016 16-track version adds on the flat transferred remasters of "Life Is A Long Song" and "Up The 'Pool" (tracks 11 and 12) as extras.

DVD ONE (Audio):
'Aqualung' remixed in 5.1 surround and presented in DTS 96/24 AC3 Dolby Digital and 96/24 LPCN Stereo
Associated 1970 & 1971 Recordings. Seven tracks remixed in 5.1 Surround and presented in DTS 96/24 and AC3 Dolby Digital, and 10 remixed in 96/24 LPCM Stereo

DVD TWO (Audio & Video):
A flat transfer from the original Stereo master of the album in 96/24 LPCM Stereo
Original 1974 Quad Mix as 4.1 presented in DTS 96/24 and AC3 Dolby Digital Surround
A flat transfer from the original Stereo master of the 5-track EP "Life Is A Long Song" in 96/24 LPCM Stereo
The 1971 "Life Is A Long Song" promotional film with new remixed stereo soundtrack

The 4-discs are housed in a gatefold BOOK PACK with an 80-page booklet attached to the centre (the 45-page variant in the original 12" x 12" Collector's Edition reduced in size). It has the 6000-word DOM LAWSON Essay on the whole "Aqualung" process (recording, tours, singles, aftermath), recollections from Engineer John Burns, songwriter and band leader Ian Anderson's own track-by-track recollections, notes from remastering Engineer Steven Wilson on the whole transfer process (July 2011), lyrics to all songs (including the extras) in the same script as was depicted on the original LP inner sleeve, an article on Island Studios and the usual plethora of pictured memorabilia. This looks and feels substantial and at twenty quid (or less) is a deal for fans and newcomers alike.

A smart move is to have the entire "Life Is A Long Song" EP on Disc 2 (5 tracks) rather than the three that appeared on the 2011 2CD version. Disc 2 now has 16 tracks rather than 14 – and they've included the lyrics too - so someone in the Chrysalis camp has heard those moans. As you can see Disc 3 is DVD Audio only while Disc 4 is DVD Audio and Video – but what an array of stuff. I've never seen the "Life Is A Long Song" promotional film – but they've even remixed it with a new stereo soundtrack. I find the channel separation in the 1974 'Quad Mix' to be utterly bizarre and fascinating at one and the same time. I must admit having lived with the Wilson Remaster – I find the flat Stereo transfer just that – flat as a bleeding pancake. But I hadn't heard the Surround 5.1 mix before and listening to it (admittedly on a mate's system) is a truly stunning experience. Stuff comes at you from every direction – clarity and instruments colliding like a wild dodgem ride on a recording you thought you knew inside out. Another smart move is to keep both DVDs Region 0 - Region Free in other words. Other nice touches include the painting-artwork of Burton Silverman reproduced beneath the front and rear see-through trays (the inner gatefold of the original vinyl LP) - the CDs are green in colour as per the original Chrysalis labels – the DVDs carry the LP cover and inner sleeve shot - and even the booklet numbers the pages in Roman numerals in keeping with the original album artwork.

As I said before – the 2011 Audio is a sensation. STEVEN WILSON explains in suitably techno gobbledygook the lengths he and his team went to get the best possible sound out of the 8 and 16-track master tapes without compromising the integrity of the original recordings. Multi-track Transfers were done by KRIS BURTON and Mastering carried out by PETER MEW at Abbey Road (a name long associated with quality reissues - see Listmania and tags). The results are amazing. However for 2016 (as I said above) - the liner notes have 'only' Steven Wilson listed as the mastering engineer this time out and are definitely credited as new (2016 copyright). Harking back to say "My God" - the track that opens Side 2 - the clarity on this most brilliant of tracks is truly hair-raising and ever so slightly better than I've heard before. 

Even as the opening riff of "Aqualung" rattles around your speakers accompanied by the sleazy "...sitting on a park bench..." lyrics - the audio quality is in your face, but not in a forced way. Suddenly the track has real muscle and the details leap out at you. It's breathing for the first time. "Cross-Eyed Mary" has superlative bass end now and the treated guitar 'so' good. But for me the real fireworks start with the double combo of the acoustic "Cheap Day Return" with the acoustic/rock of "Mother Goose". The improvement is GLORIOUS - and when the guitar kicked in half way through "Mother Goose" - I'll confess to blubbing out a little proggy tear. "Up To Me" is fantastically good too - huge guitar riffage. The improvement continues on Side 2 with amazing clarity on "My God" - especially those acoustic passages. The riff in "Hymn 43" is just huge now and the quiet lead into "Locomotive Breath" is not drenched in hiss - but clean and powerful. The album ends with "Wind Up" which has the best lyrics Anderson ever wrote about personal beliefs and it sounds just wonderful (lyrics above).

I had thought after the blast of the album that Disc 2 would be throwaway - not so. A truly lovely gem tucked away on the "Living In The Past" 1972 double is "Just Trying To Be" which I had on a 1999 Mobile Fidelity remaster (see review) - well here the sound quality is beautiful and far better. I was also taken aback by the full 7-minute band version of "Wand'ring Aloud, Again" which properly stretches out - it's a superb bonus. It takes the "Wand'ring Aloud" album track from "Aqualung" at 1:53 minutes length and adds on the "Wand'ring Again" outtake at 4:15 minutes length that turned up on the 1972 "Living In The Past" double and segues way them together with an extra bridge in the song and more lyrics (hence its new title here is a make up of both song titles). It's very cleverly done and because there are new bits in it - it's been called 'Previously Unreleased'. The roughest sounding outtake here is the 'Early Version' of "My God", but again his passion in the vocals is the reason for inclusion. And again the clarity on the 5-track "Life Is A Long Song" EP is far better than that on the MF release. Great stuff...

Fans who bought the original 2011 2CD 'Collector’s Edition' may feel they don’t need this – but I'd argue the extras and the new sound make it yet another 'must own'. The curious should just dive right in as the cost is now within the bounds of most people's pockets...

2017 is the 45th Anniversary for 1972 - so roll on "Living In The Past" - Jethro Tull's July 1972 double album of odds and sods. I've always loved the beautifully packaged "Living in The Past" and it deserves no less than the same lavish treatment...

PS: see also my reviews for Steven Wilson's remaster of 1970's "Benefit" (the album before "Aqualung"), EMI's superb 'Collectors Edition' of their 1968 debut "This Was" and Mobile Fidelity's 1999 2CD stab at "Living In The Past"...

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