ART ON YOUR SLEEVE #3 – JETHRO TULL

An occasional series featuring LPs boasting ‘fine art’ on their covers, with commentary on the music and something about the art.

#3

JETHRO TULL – Minstrel in the Gallery [1975]

Jethro Minstrel LP

THE MUSIC

After the patchy but commercially successful Warchild (#2 in the US), Jethro Tull’s eighth album was an energetic and consistently excellent return to form. Combining ballads, tasteful application of strings, lashings of English folk and some of the most piquant guitar-work in recent memory, Minstrel in the Gallery is an unfairly overlooked dish on the Tull menu. Probably the only thing missing for world-wide acclaim and mass consumption was a killer single.

It’s all there in the opening title track: a folky preamble dripping with caustic observation then a kick up with some searing Martin Barre guitar. Add in a couple of time shifts and a rocking reprise of the verse and you have a great opening to the feast.

“Cold Wind to Valhalla” shows that you can engage in Norse mythology without bombast (cf “Immigrant Song” from LZ III) while “Black Satin Dancer” croons, sighs and rocks its ballet shoes off. On side two, extended suite “Baker Street Muse” evokes aspects of Thick as a Brick with shifting tempos and moods and a returning melodic theme that ties it together effectively.

There is an attention to detail here that rewards repeated listening. Probably the only quibble is the somewhat muddy production; the drums are soggy and Ian Anderson’s voice lacks the cut-through clarity that draws you into his story-telling. This aspect is improved on the 2002 CD remaster, which also includes three interesting bonus tracks (two with strings) and a brief live performance teaser of two Minstrel songs.

Overall, a terrific addition to the Jethro Tull larder.

Diary Note: Minstrel in the Gallery was released on 5 September 1975

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THE ART

Christmas-revels-haddon-hall-joseph-nash-mansions-1839

This lithograph comes with several names along a common yuletide theme:

Christmas is Coming

Christmas Revels, Hadden Hall

Twelfth Night Revels in the Great Hall

When published in The Mansions of England in the Olden Time in 1912 it bore the caption seen above, perhaps suggesting that they revelled like this not just for Christmas, but the whole year round.

The artist, Joseph Nash [1809 – 1878] was an Englishman who, in addition to being a lithographer, was a painter of watercolours. His architectural works, often enlivened by people occupying the spaces, were very popular.

I love this lithograph. There’s an energy of celebration and fun, unless of course you are the monkey in the ball and chain or the miserable Yeti. Would your six-year-old self be brave enough to ride a crocodile? Look closer…

On the left a persistent suitor is being firmly rebuffed (“I believe you may be inebriated, Mr Weathercock!”) while on the right (of course) stand the Lord and Lady, observing the revels from a safe distance. “Bravo, peasants. Party like it’s 1839!” I rather like that Tull edited out the aristocrats while just squeezing in the chap on the table toasting the band.

Meanwhile, behind and above, as the jests, japes and capers unfold, stand the minstrels in the gallery.

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Art Link

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire: The Banqueting Hall

Joseph Nash [1809 – 1878]

LP/CD

Jethro Tull – Minstrel in the Gallery [Chrysalis/EMI 1975/2002/2015]

Jethro Minstrel CD

In May of 2015, Tull released a “40th Anniversary La Grande Edition” of Minstrel, featuring a new stereo mix (and a 5.1 surround mix) by Steven Wilson. In addition, a bonus CD includes a contemporaneous concert (Paris, July 1975) and a short live film. The album also includes some BBC versions of Minstrel songs. Full details at the band’s website here.

Title Song

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The previous  Art On Your Sleeve posts were:

#1 Procol Harum – Exotic Birds and Fruit

#2 Osibisa – Osibirock [with JDB]

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15 comments

  1. Probably my favourite Tull album in many ways, I always think Baker St Muse has echoes of Roy Harper to my ears, I wish Anderson had gone down this path more instead of immersing himself in Folk-rock although that made for three excellent albums.

    I was going to write about this and now I have to think of something else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry man! If it’s any consolation (probably not) this piece has been sitting in the can for about six months awaiting the anniversary date!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s organization, I just go with what I am into at the time. Currently Randy Newman but that could change in minutes.
        Nice piece though and a great album cover, mine was butchered by the previous owner.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A very pleasant outing.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nickgreensreviews · · Reply

    Perhaps one of my favourite album covers is the Machine Head’s The Blackening as it was styled on 16th Century paintings. The text, when reversed, says “the mirror which flatters not” which represents that the band were looking at themselves. You may (or may not) know of this album and/or band.

    Here is a link to the artwork (the biggest size I could find):

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The torches seen out the window at the back being the revolutionary proletariat masses on the verge of putting an end to the debauchery of their pumpkin-eating capitalist exploiters maybe? And the band played on …

    Just added this to my Jethro Tull holdings earlier this year – the ’02 remaster. Not yet fully conversant on it, but man, Barre’s guitar work .. wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dude, this is way before capitalism. These are lords and peasants, aristocracy and serfs, masters and slaves. Still, come the revolution, come the revolution, eh?

      And Barre is brilliant on this, for sure.

      Like

  5. As self-serving as it might seem since I contributed to one of them, I have to say that I really like these “Art On Your Sleeve” offerings. My brother was a big Tull fan and promptly added every new LP to his collection…very nostalgic to see that green Chrysalis label; my Tull holdings are all on CD. It was also fun to note that the Nash scene is taking place at Haddon Hall. When visiting longtime family friends in England many years ago, they took me there on a day trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not self-serving at all. I’m constantly on the look-out for another suitable cover to shove your way.

      And you really went to Haddon Hall? Fantastic. Did you party like these dudes?

      Like

  6. Kick out the revels MFs!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really liking these posts, Bruce. I don’t know enough Tull, but I’ll be looking to pick this one up on account of the artwork just as much as the music! Really highlights why the old vinyl format is so special – kinda thing you could just spend the lengh of the record (and then some) looking at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback James. I know it’s a quirky idea so it is nice to know others get some enjoyment.

      As for Jethro Tull, I think that with careful choices they still have something to offer. Off the top of my head, I’d recommend for consideration the first four (This Was, Stand Up, Benefit, Aqualung) and if you really enjoy those, get Thick (which I do not think has aged as well as the earlier albums).

      Minstrel and Songs from a Wood are excellent too. Avoid Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll and ‘A’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only Jethro Tull album I have is Aqualung. Good to know it’s one of those you recommend. The others are duly noted!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. […] Certainly a fine place to start, but don’t overlook—as the compilers did here—the excellent Minstrel in the Gallery […]

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  9. […] begun and abandoned after two or three articles. Sometimes the ideas have been good, but limited (Art on your Sleeve, for example). Others have driven a theme until it was out of gas (the ‘Car‘ series of […]

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