[Review] Jethro Tull – The Zealot Gene

Jethro Tull are a band that made the history of Rock music, one of the most refined mixes of different styles from Prog to Folk, passing through the most Bluesy influences of the early days. Over 30 albums to their credit, more than 50 million copies sold, tracks that still sound today after 50 years as they did then, thrilling young and old fans. A lot of progress has been made by the band, which has been able to adapt to the times, always maintaining a first-rate quality and always managing to offer engaging live performances permeated with a unique energy of its kind. On January 28, 2022 the band will release “The Zealot Gene” via InsideOut Music, the first album of original tracks in the last 18 years. 12 tracks that Ian Anderson’s Tulls have been working on since 2017, whose release was conditioned by the Covid pandemic, presents lyrics permeated with Biblical references that the frontman describes as follows:

While I have a spot of genuine fondness for the pomp and fairytale story-telling of the Holy Book, I still feel the need to question and draw sometimes unholy parallels from the text. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly rear their heads throughout, but are punctuated with elements of love, respect, and tenderness.

Looking back on the earth-shaking disruption of the Coronavirus pandemic, which ultimately ended the band’s touring plans and hopes of a 2020 release for ‘The Zealot Gene’, Anderson shares, “It was so sudden. Amidst the concerns and warnings of the scientific community and a few more enlightened politicians, we all retreated in disbelief to our homes to wait out the storm.

We are fortunate to be able to review this new chapter in the history of the band, which opens with “Mrs. Tibbets” who immerses us in the atmosphere of the record with a fine mix of flute and guitar. The keyboards in the background give a symphonic touch to the track, which develops with the entry of Ian’s warm and expressive voice. The rhythmic session is engaging and the sounds of the band gently rock us for almost 6 minutes, with Prog mold changes and the Maestro’s thrilling flute inserts. In the central part the band offers the first instrumental section of the album with a guitar solo, and then returns to the main theme that guides us to the end. “Jacob’s Tales” is the shortest of the album, an intertwining of acoustic guitar and harmonica arpeggios and Anderson’s sweet voice offer us this passage with Folk tones, intense and pleasant. Piano and flute on which an intended vowel is inserted open “Mine Is the Mountain,” enriched by sudden tempo changes that increase its intensity. The classic style of Tull is expressed here at the highest levels, with references to classical music to Prog and Rock with a superfine technique, a real pleasure to be able to listen to songs like this. In the central part a pompous symphonic section dominates the scene, so the cantato returns for the last stanzas and the track closes with a succession of emotions. Massive riffs of guitar intertwined with flute and keyboards characterize the title track “The Zealot Gene” where the band returns to its classic sounds. A powerful piece with a solid rhythm session and Anderson’s flute in evidence in the central part, with that Folk Prog touch that has made us thrilled for 50 years. “Shoshana Sleeping” was also offered as a single with video, featuring scratchy guitar riffs and flute guiding the melodies. Right from a first listen when it came out as a preview of the album this track made me think that the band is in excellent shape and that they have managed to maintain the brilliance of the golden times. Those who love their sounds will find in this track a pleasant proposal that best summarizes the musical concept of the band. The other single previewed from the album “Sad City Sisters” was also proposed as an official video, softer and more delicate than the previous ones. It shows the softer and more folk facet of the band, very intense and with intertwining between the acoustic guitar and the traditional instruments of which they are masters. A very intense and emotional passage with excellent ideas, with the vocal that cradles us for the entire duration, with lyrics full of meaning. “Barren Beth, Wild Desert John” begins with a dreamy flute, and then with the entry of the vocal give life to an elaborate track full of tempo changes. The guitar riffs give energy to the piece, the rhythm session is solid and the singing alternates solo and other choral parts. The flute offers valuable inserts and the guitar a short and intense solo, harder parts and others more symphonic alternate bringing us back to the magical 70s. A powerful drum and flute open “The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde,” to which other instruments are soon added, creating a more Rock-oriented sound. The band is skilled in making each composition personal and unique and this song proves it, with the guitar offering a heavier solo in the central part, where the intensity increases. The vocal returns and with the last phrasing between piano and flute it closes with the main theme in crescendo. “Where Did Saturday Go?” it is a softer track, with melodic hues and intricate and very deep passages. The singing is very warm and the composition is very refined and full of pathos, where the flute is in evidence in the melodies and in the solo part. “Three Loves, Three” follows the soft atmospheres of the previous one with a more Folk touch, with Ian’s flute always at the center of the sound and and high-level intertwining.. “In Brief Visitation” connects to the previous one and continues its musical discourse with delicacy and positive and dreamy sounds. The band is also able in a softer section of the album to arouse emotions and keep the intensity high, without the need to play with power but with sweetness. This full-length ends with “The Fisherman of Ephesus” which returns to the more powerful sounds proposed in the central pieces, with softer sections and more aggressive ones that alternate. Anderson’s unmistakable style on flute and vocals and their hard Prog Rock softened by Folk conclude the record with a flourish, leaving us the desire to listen to it again soon. 18 years of waiting are a lot, but today we can say that we have listened to an excellent album, where the compositions are of a high level and refinement. When it comes to Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull the expectations are always very high, but they have all been confirmed by showing an excellent state of form. The imprint of the band is felt in each song, managing to bring the classic sounds of the band into a modern context, with originality and freshness. Lovers of Jethro Tull will appreciate this work, which still sees them after more than 50 years as protagonists of the world Rock scene. A recommended listen to all Proggers and Rockers, congratulations to Ian Anderson and companions for giving us another pearl in their discography, the star of Tull continues to shine in the firmament of music.

Tracklist

1. Mrs. Tibbets (5:54)
2. Jacob’s Tales (2:13)
3. Mine Is the Mountain (5:40)
4. The Zealot Gene (3:54)
5. Shoshana Sleeping (3:41)
6. Sad City Sisters (3:40)
7. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John (3:37)
8. The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde (4:06)
9. Where Did Saturday Go? (3:53)
10. Three Loves, Three (3:30)
11. In Brief Visitation (3:00)
12. The Fisherman of Ephesus (3:41)

Lineup

 Ian Anderson / Flute, Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandolin, Harmonica, Vocals
Joe Parrish / Guitars
John O’Hara / Orchestral Conductor, Piano, Keyboards, Accordion
Scott Hammond / Drums & Percussion
David Goodier / Bass & Double Bass

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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