on 22 September 2007
I hadn't planned on writing a review of this title, but when I saw there had yet to be any, I thought I'd add a brief note.
To the point, this remaster doesn't add much to the overall sound of this one. It already sounded pretty good, and the audio improvement - if indeed there is one - is minor. With no bonus tracks, one might wonder why anyone should bother.
But I did. I was on a roll through the Tull remasters, and this one went into the sales basket just because it was there. What more can I say?
It's not as though I even rated this CD. I'd always thought of it as lesser Tull, with greater titles surrounding it in the discography. However, one thing these reissues allowed me to do was to re-evaluate this and other Tull titles.
You know what, I really do rate this one now. I suppose timing is everything, and first time around I must have had my head elsewhere. The flute work is terrific, the Eastern influences and high and prominent, and there are a lot of uptempo stuff here. More importantly though, it's the interweaving of instruments - classic Tull layers - that set this one above other titles. There are even jazz breaks, some fine organ work on something that sounds remotely like an old Hammond, and of course, the guitar work is great.
But yes, it's the multiple layers that really set this CD alive. Take the time to listen to each track - pick out an instrument (any will do), and follow its path through the song - you'll soon see what I mean. The quality of the CD helps you do that well enough.
I'm not sure why I didn't like this one very much a few years back, but I'm making up for lost time now. This gets more spins that other, undeniably more "classic" Tull titles at my home.
Give it a go.
on 15 June 2001
Well, a bit of both really. 'Roots to Branches' see's Tull move away from the more out-and-out rock stylings of previous albums,(Catfish Rising/Rock Island/Crest of a Knave), and return slightly more to their folk/rock roots, while throwing in a handful of far eastern promise for good measure - and it works for the most part beautifully. Stand out tracks include the title track, the eastern tinged 'Rare and Precious Chain' is particularly memorable, as is the wonderful 'Valley' which manages to make a song about racial and religious intolerance,(Bosnia,Croatia??), get it's message across without resorting to preaching. The pace changes within this song are particularly effective. Although the album does fade out rather for the last couple of tracks, (particularly the Dire Straits-esque 'Another Harry's Bar'), this really is a bit of a return to form for Tull, with a polite nod toward their earlier works, while still moving forward,(all be it slowly!).Established fans should find plenty to like here, while for new-comers it offers an accessible taster for the enormus Tull back catalogue spanning the last 30 years, and with the recentley released 'Dot-com' album, they show no signs of stopping just yet!
Nobody ever made themselves popular in the world of music criticism by "coming out" as a Jethro Tull fan. But then, if you're reading this page, you're probably not averse to a riff of hard rock guitar, a bit with a flute, some nasally folk-inflected singing and the obligatory mandolin. In fact, you're probably a Tull fan already and what you really want to know is "Is this as good as their classic '70s stuff?".
The surprising answer is "Yes". Yes it is as good as their '70s stuff. It's certainly a whole lot better than the hard rock cul-de-sac they went down in the '80s. Ian Anderson seems creatively reinvigorated, both through a flirtation with World Music motifs and a return to a classic Tull theme: God, or the lack of Him. This musical Big Concept makes the album similar in style to the '70s big-hitters like Aqualung (grumpy at God) or Heavy Horses (incorporating English folk instrumentation and melodies). All of which is definitely Good News for the seasoned Tull afficionado.
The Bad News is that the album's just not consistent enough. While the best material here could pass for a Thick As a Brick outtake or (even better) suggests a brand new Arabesque direction for Anderson's compositions, there's a fair amount of Tull-by-numbers here too. Okay, none of it as banal as the worst stuff on Catfish Rising or Rock Island but the thing about their great '70s albums was that they just didn't _do_ filler back then.
The opening title track swirls in ominously with Anderson's flutes hinting at desert oases and belly dancers. The lyrics sparkle with sharp, mordant reflections on the world's big faiths. "True disciples carrying the message," he observes, "colour it just a little with their personal touch". Frankly, you don't get that many rock songs satirizing the apostolic creed and after dallying with cod-rock nonsense about Kissing Willies on previous albums, this song is a clear statement of intent: Ian Anderson is back and he has something to say.
The religio-cultural theme is picked up again on Valley. This is another one of those Big Long Songs that Tull traditionally lodge in each album - like My God, Heavy Horses or Flying Dutchman back in the day. There's a nice acoustic lead in, lurching into Martin Barre's trademark crunchy guitar for the angry bits. The lyrics trace the discontents of two river-valley tribes competing for resources, but it's all a cute little metaphor for today's sectarian squabbles in the Middle East (and elsewhere).
The spiritual sister to this song is the epic Beside Myself, a song boasting the same byzantine musical structure as Budapest, back in their Grammy-winning days. This song accurately diagnoses the frustration of the bleeding-heart liberal confronted with the endemic poverty and injustice in some Third World megapolis.
All of this represents Tull doing what they do best: ingenious songs with thought-provoking language, linked to rousing choruses and guitar-hero heavy riffage from Barre. Not everything is carried off so successfully, however. Anderson's dirty-old-man persona makes an incongruous and unwelcome return in Dangerous Veils, where he speculates pruriently about what Muslim women are hiding behind their burqas. Not very nice. Other songs like Rare And Precious Chain or This Free Will thunder and bounce most satisfactorily but behind the world music dressing these are conventional tales of erotic encounters in sweaty foreign climes - a topic that seems to fascinate Anderson in his middle age but leaves all but the most voyeuristic of listeners perplexed (at best) or (at worst) slightly nauseated.
A couple of unusual tracks restore the musical balance. Out Of The Noise joins that respectable Tull roster of Animal Themed Songs. In this case, the beast is a street dog in an Asian city, dodging rickshaws and scavenging for dinner, but wary of ending up the succulent ingredient in some tourist's chow mein. As with Dangerous Veils, Anderson's reactionary stereotyping of Johnny Foreigner is grating, but the music is springy, complex and energetic in the style of Tull in their glory days. The same can be said for Wounded Old And Treacherous, a song which lyrically ticks the thematic boxes (religion = bad) but remains cheerfully obscure, allowing the listener to concentrate on the music, which is a delight. This song channels the ghost of early This Was era Tull, with its jazzy opener and percussive breaks, and Martin Barre's Wagnerian guitar solos looming like a stormhead. Marvellous.
A scattering of songs remain that don't carry any Third World or God Bashing baggage. Of these one, a track called At Last Forever, is simply sublime and probably the most beautiful thing Anderson has written in twenty years. The others, some doggerel about Harry's Bar and being Stuck in Autumn Rain, are forgettable pieces of late-Tull lounge-rock.
So, it's a mixed bag with compositions of real charm and inspiration set against other pieces that veer from the anodyne to the outright embarassing. Typical late-Tull then, except that the strong songs carry the day, the production is warm and enveloping and Anderson is singing crisply and wittily to melodies that fit his now-faltering vocal range.
Overall, the best Tull album since The Broadsword and the Beast, with stand-out moments that can take their place among some of the best songs the band has ever done. Definitely one for the fans - but if you're new to Tull (and you made it this far!) then go try their accessible '70s stuff first, Heavy Horses is as good a start as any.
Jethro Tull have produced some great albums over the years, and embraced a wide variety of styles. I have all the albums, from the jazzy blues of `This Was', through the prog era of `Aqualung', the folk of the mighty Songs from the Wood, the electronica of Under Wraps and the rock of Crest of a Knave. And I love them all, but there is one album that for some reason I nearly always reach for when I want to listen to a bit of Tull - `Roots To Branches'.
Following from Catfish Rising in that it manages to successfully merge together Tull's earlier blues/folk sound with their later rock leanings, and throws some new Eastern influences into the mix. This is jam packed with memorable tracks. The highlight of the album are the last four tracks - `Wounded Old and Treacherous', `At Last, Forever', `Stuck In The August Rain' and my all time favourite `Another Harry's Bar'. Between them they show Tull at their best - great playing from the band, especially Martin Barre's guitars and Anderson's flute, Anderson's voice in fine form, great catchy tunes and Anderson's usual wry, witty and meaningful lyrics. He has to be one of the best songwriters I can think of. The final track, `Another Harry's Bar', is, in my humble opinion, a match for `Aqualung' or `Budapest'.
A great album.
on 16 April 2012
After receiving such a great album as "J-Tull Dot Com", cruelly underrated among the Tull faithful, I had to step back to the previous album "Roots to Branches" that is receiving accolades as one of the best from Tull. Being a faithful Tullite myself it did not take long for me to appreciate how great "Roots to Branches" is. One can compare this to the best that Tull produced in the 70s and the band are in fine form and consistently excellent.
It begins with the memorable title track with a haunting flute melody, Anderson comes in with some serious vocals and it breaks into an instrumental jam that showcases the warbling flute and some fantastic guitar work from Martin Barre. The rhythm changes constantly even going into a dislocated brief jazz syncopation. Anderson's flute playing is dynamic and the melody entrances.
This album has an Elizabethan flavour that Tull would maintain for the next album in some places. The flute of course sets the scene and surely Anderson must be the greatest flute player in prog history. He is faultless on this album as much as he was on the masterpieces "Thick as a Brick" and "Aqualung". Some of the tracks on this are excellent such as the powerful flute frenzy of 'Dangerous Veils', and the indispensable 'Roots to Branches'. The prog elements are present throughout and Barre's guitar is blazing strong. Anderson sounds fresh on characteristic storyteller vocals but it is his flute that does most of the talking. The music is empowered with a sense of drive and purpose, maintaining a strong melodic line and thematic material.
A lot of the content is speaking out against organised religion but really the music is the drawcard here rather than the lyrics. Having said that occasionally the lyrics make an impression such as the melancholy sadness of 'Another Harry's Bar'; "Got the scent of stale beer hanging, hanging round my head. Old dog in the corner sleeping like he could be dead, A book of matches and a full ashtray, Cigarette left smoking its life away, Another Harry's bar or that's the tale they tell, But Harry's long gone now, and the customers as well, Me and the dog and the ghost of Harry will make this world turn right." The sound of this song is similar to Dire Straits in many respects down to the vocal style.
There are many highlights such as 'Rare And Precious Chain', 'Out Of The Noise' and 'Valley'. The consistency of the album is a far cry from some of the inconsistent 80s, albums and in reality this is a much more mature Tull devoid of the whimsy of yesteryear and over indulgence in instrumental breaks. 'Beside Myself' is a fun song but my favourite here is the lengthy 'Wounded, Old And Treacherous' with a very progressive feel and tons of flute and guitar trade offs. Another nice break from lunacy is found in the sombre heartfelt beauty of 'Stuck In The August Rain'.
Overall "Roots to Branches" is certainly one of the better Tull albums of recent years. It was to be followed up by the excellent "J-Tull Dot Com" before the band became a compilation touring band. This is definitely a great album deserving of all the acolytes in reviews; the band were a force to be reckoned with when they were this inspired.
on 9 October 2011
All Tull albums need several spins before their real, deeper qualities surface. In the course of the years, as new albums came out, i learned to be patient and to hold my judgment until the music started to grow on me. This is not unlike listening to classical music. The greatest thing about Jethro Tull is that for each new record you knew you'd be in for a surprise. Never repeating themselves, never content to do the same thing twice in a row, always risking everything. They surely lost many fans with every album. But to many listeners Tull was extremely addictive in that respect. You just knew it wasn't going to be like anything you'd ever heard from them, and if there were any resemblances, you knew these were only superficial and that the new songs would only slowly release their inner depth and beauty.
Roots to Branches, to me, is one of the finest records they've ever made. Along with Benefit, Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play, Broadsword and the Beast. Sure, i love all their work, but Roots is really in the top league. There is not one weak song there. The playing is magnificent throughout, and even as i'm writing this review and i haven't heard the album in a long time, just remembering the guitar and flute duel at the end if Wounded, Old and Treacherous is enough to send shivers down my spine.
The sound of the recording is just awesome, every player sounds his best, the flute playing is absolutely splendid..
I could go on and on. But what makes this recording really stand out is the emotion. These songs sound so true, so human, so
heartfelt, honest and convincing they move me deeply. The connection between the superior lyrics, the superb playing, the choice of sound colour and atmosphere is simply astounding.
What an album like Heavy Horses was lacking because it sounded too detached and sterile, this one has in abundance. It has a live feel to it that makes it sound true, like an incredibly inspired concert performance.
Jethro Tull have always inspired me deeply. I am a classical musician, and i think Tull played a very big part in my deciding to go
for the music profession. It often happens, as i drive to some concert, that i listen to Tull in the car and it never fails to really put me in the mood to play my best.
Roots to Branches is one of the all-time greatest rock albums. Actually i always think if it as their last record, and with it they went out with a bang. (The Dot.Com album was one record too many, but they seem to have realised that themselves).
Five stars out of five, but i'd gladly give them ten for this one. I'm very grateful to Ian and his group for this wonderful, wonderful music.
Although Roots To Branches rarely touches the heights of inspired brilliance Tull evinced on Songs From The Wood or its `companion` album Heavy Horses, this is an often superb late effort, with a strong lyrical edge, as befits its rustic title.
I`ve loved Jethro Tull since their first few classic LPs, and off & on Ian Anderson and his shifting line-up of ne`er-do-wells have pulled off some intriguing feats of mildly eccentric rock bravado. Occasionally they`ve plumbed the depths, though not too often, and once or twice a well-meaning effort hasn`t quite come off.
This is a good `un, with no dud tracks, merely one or two that meander a little and in which not quite enough happens to capture the interest.
The whole album has a lush, expansive, thoughtful feel to it, Anderson`s flute very much to the fore. What a gleaming sound it makes, too. His singing on these eleven songs sounds like a man who`s happy & proud in his work, as he should be. He`s always been a fine songwriter, can pen a lyric that Roy Harper might be proud of, and with a melodic gift that has made Tull a more tuneful band than some of their fellow contemporaries from the late 60s/70s.
I wouldn`t say there are standout tracks, this being simply a Tull album that`s great to have around, to play when in that "I must hear some English pastoral rock" mood, with a consistent high standard throughout.
Not their very best perhaps, but recommended.
I'm a YOUNG (in comparison!) Tull-ite, who came to them long after their peak and maybe that helps because, like many other reviewers, I really do love Roots To Branches. The last four tracks, starting with 'Besides Myself' and ending with 'Harry's Bar' segue together seemlessly, like a folk-rock DJ at the top of his game might create, and I always switch to a more comfortable "me" when I hear the first few flute notes of Beside Myself.
Generally a slightly softer Tull album but an extremely accomplished one and one full of interesting and colourful, almost jazzy instrumentation. There's no snarled vocals or propulsed guitars of early classics. If 'easy listening' wasn't such a dirty word in proper music circles, I'd verge on using it, except this isn't banal bilge, with trite lyrics, but eas-IER Tull. Like 'grown-up gracefully', or 'mature'. A natural progression for Ian Anderson to take as Tull was now (then, 2006) in its 38th year!
As my subject lines states, a couple of friends of mine who were around buying records when Tull were born, perhaps can't place this album. Maybe it sits awkwardly in the band's chequered history or it's too "lounge" for them. But, I've had more enthusiasm from a deflated balloon than from them when I lent them my copy.
on 19 January 2008
To me this is the finest Jetnro Tull album, it mixes all the musical styles they are best at, just listen to Another Harry's Bar and you can see where they are coming from, or Rare and Precious Chain and hear the complexities they are capable of, if you like English Folk or English Music Buy This Album
on 15 June 2014
recommend this to any tull or non tull fans,
tull sounding great with anderson and barre on great form,brilliant.