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Monday, 3 May 2021

"Minstrel In The Gallery" by JETHRO TULL – September 1975 UK and US Eight Studio Album on Chrysalis Records featuring Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evan, Jeffery Hammond-Hammond with Barriemore Barlow – Guests Include Orchestral Arrangements by David Palmer (May 2015 UK Chrysalis 40th Anniversary Edition 1CD Reissue Version – A New Steven Wilson Stereo Remix) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Mother England Reverie..."

Tull's eight studio-album of Folk/Prog Rock "Minstrel In The Gallery" originally hit the shops in vinyl form in September 1975 and has been subject to many digital variants ever since. But this May 2015 beauty from remix/remaster maestro Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) is the very best – thorough, affectionately handled and revealing in ways that none before have ever been. As with all things JT-reissue, the Wilster has only gone and done it again...

There are two UK/EUROPE CD variants issued on the same day 5 May 2015 – the Deluxe 2CD + 1DVD "La Grande Edition" on Chrysalis 0825646157204 (Barcode 0825646157204) that comes in an 80-page Hardback Digibook presentation. It offers seven Bonus Tracks on CD1, a Jakko Jakszyk Stereo Remix of a 5 July 1975 live show staged at the Palais Des Sports in Paris on CD2 with the album presented in 5.1 Surround and other various digital mixes on the DVD-A. Tull aficionados will have to own the book baby – a thing of beauty and reissue excellence bar none. But the rest of us will only need to settle for Door No. 1...

What we have here is the plain-old single-CD '40th Anniversary Edition' variant with its chock-a-block 24-page booklet and that masterful Steve Wilson Remaster in tow. So once more my balcony babies to the Mother England Reverie...

UK released Friday, 5 May 2015 - "Minstrel In The Gallery" by JETHRO TULL on Chrysalis 0825646157181 (Barcode 0825646157181) is a 40th Anniversary Edition Single-CD Reissue with a New Stereo Remix/Remaster from Steven Wilson that plays out as follows (45:11 minutes): 

Side 1:
1. Minstrel In The Gallery
2. Cold Wind To Valhalla 
3. Black Satin Dancer 
4. Requiem 

Side 2
5. One White Duck/o10 = Nothing At All
6. Tracks 6 to 10 are five-parts of the "Baker St. Muse" Suite
(6) Baker St. Muse 
(7) Pig-Me And The Whore 
(8) Nice Little Time 
(9) Crash-Barrier Waltzer 
(10) Mother England Reverie 
11. Grace 
Tracks 1 to 11 is their eight studio-album "Minstrel In The Gallery" – released September 1975 in the UK and USA on Chrysalis CHR 1082 (same catalogue number for both countries). Produced by IAN ANDERSON – it peaked at No. 7 in the USA and No. 20 in the UK LP charts. 

For a single CD reissue pitched at roughly seven quid new, the booklet is huge. The massively detailed DAVID WEBB essay is wittily called 'The Full Monte' after Tull had (for tax reasons) decamped to Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco on the French Riviera to record the album at a newly rigged out studio there with the latest tech. Four of the original five band members - Ian Anderson (Lead Vocals, Flute, Principal Songwriter), Martine Barre (Electric Guitars), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (Bass), Barrimore Barlow (Drums and Percussion) relay the story to Webb with the text peppered by period photos. The fifth member of the band was Keyboardist John Evan and there were string arrangements by David Palmer. 

But the big news is a new Stereo Remix and Remaster by STEVE WILSON whose name is now synonymous with these Jethro Tull reissues. In the second last page of the booklet he goes into full-on nerd mode by telling us that Martin Barre's guitar solo on "Cold Wind In Valhalla" has tape echo employed to enhance the notes as they ping from left to right channels. We non-techno-wizard types might not know our oscillator from our fretboard sustain – but there's no doubting the feeling you get of attention-having-been-paid as you play this CD. The clarity is fabulous and powerful. Those who have held a candle for "Minstrel In The Gallery" will be moved and not just pleased. 

A couple of weeks prior to the LP's 8 September 1975 UK release, Chrysalis took the self-titled album opener "Minstrel In The Gallery" in all its 8:18minute pomp and pumpkin-eater glory and edited down to a usable 45-single of 4:10 minutes. Issued 22 August 1975, Chrysalis CHS 2075 also sported a non-LP B-side in the shape of "Summerday Sands" which is available on the "La Grande Edition" set. Although hardcore Blighty fans probably bought copies at the time, it's American issue on Chrysalis CHS 2016 (August 1975 too) actually charted - albeit at a lowly No. 89. The combo of flute, strings and acoustic comes out of your speakers with gorgeous musicality when "Cold Wind To Valhalla" hits your man-palace and then you hear those cool electric guitar licks Wilson was talking about in the liner notes - brilliant. 

Guitars ping in combination with serious string arrangements on "Black Satin Dancer" and when it dips in that bells and cymbals moment - the clarity is fantastic. Side 1 ends with the LP's prettiest moment - Anderson's voice shimmering on "Requiem" and once again, hero of the hour is David Palmer conducting Violinists Elizabeth Edwards, Rita Eddowes and Bridget Proctor alongside Cellist Katherine Thulborn. Anyone who has had fondness for the album will wipe away a Proggy tear at this one. 

Side 2 opens with soft acoustic guitars catching a ride on violins, picture postcards of music for the two-parter "One White Duck/o10 = Nothing At All". I'd forgotten how good this is - deep and yet accessible - a perfect line-up for the LP's big one - the five-parts of "Baker St. Muse". Newspaper warriors chase headlines that thrill - Barre's guitar parts so Zappa-like- accomplished instrumental passages in "Nice Little Tune". But the section I like the most is the one-band-man of "Mother England Reverie" – a little boy sitting on a burning log dreaming of being a Minstrel In The gallery one day. And it all ends on the pretty ditty of "Grace" – a lone violin fading out what feels like a far better album than 1973's two-sider "Thick As A Brick" which is somehow revered more.

In some respects you can't help thinking that 1975's "Minstrel In The Gallery" is the forgotten gem in Jethro Tull's arsenal – a public (as I recall at the time) having had their confidence in the band tested by "A Passion Play" just a tad too much.

They would go on to even greater success of course – especially in the USA - who took Tull's Blighty Prog musings to heart – even in the years when they were as unfashionable as a band could get. But what clobbers you here is the Audio that has somehow elevated this LP way up high - high enough for us to notice the five-piece up in the gallery area waving with a glint in their collective beady eye...

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