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Who else sounds this good after 35 years?
on 5 September 2003
In a recent interview, Ian Anderson said that one of the things that kept him going, after 35 years in the music business, was the determination to show that his best work was not behind him. Well, for those of us whose musical education began with such stellar albums as 'Thick as a Brick' and 'Passion Play' in the 1970s, these albums set a standard of musical literacy and sophistication that will always be impossible to match. And there have been times, over the years, when Anderson's artistic muse seemed to have deserted him.
But then suddenly in the mid-1990s, he produced two astonishing records - 'Divinities' and 'Roots to Branches' - that possessed all the virtues of the best Tull music from the past. Ian's next solo effort, 'Secret Language of Birds', continued in the same vein, and also contained some of his loveliest acoustic songwriting.
His latest album, 'Rupi's Dance', should silence the critics once and for all. The whole album finds Anderson at the peak of his creative and artistic powers, both as a songwriter and as a musician. The overall sound of the album is dominated by the infinitely subtle, clever, and varied inter-weaving of flute and acoustic guitar, with a string quartet and accordian thrown in for good measure. Each song is packed with melodic inventiveness and variety, and the melodies on some of the songs, such as 'My old black cat' and 'Lost in crowds', are particularly haunting and reminiscent of Ian's best songwriting from the 1970s.
Anderson's music defies all attempts at categorisation. It has been described as a blend of blues, jazz and celtic/english folk music, but this implies that it is a hybrid whereas it is really much more than that. Ian certainly draws on these and other influences, but he transforms them into something completely distinctive and original. Quite how he manages to do this has always been a mystery to me, but I suppose that is the nature of musical genius - it is innate and not dependent on outside influences. It's truly a blessing that he has given us so much great music over the years. That he should still be doing so after three and a half decades in the business is simply amazing.