on April 17, 2014
Kind of two reviews in one here as I really cannot review "Homo Erraticus" without also mentioning "Thick As A Brick 2"
Homo Erraticus (The Wondering Man) is simply put a good rock album! Ian Anderson, at age 67 has lost little except his hair. (And this reviewer can relate to that.) His voice shows a little weakness, or maybe better put "mellowing" but to me is still quite strong for 67, and if anything, his musicianship on all instruments has only become better and more sophisticated. While I do not perceive HE as a concept album I do see it as a themed album. It is divided into three themes: Chronicles, Prophesies, and Revelations; with the songs contained therein pertaining to each of the themes. Ian once again relies on his alter ego Gerald Bostock to pen songs about occurrences in British history and musings towards the future. Some song titles are near impossible to pronounce and the words often cryptic. As we often come expect from Gerald!
Mr. Anderson definitely shows maturity but he does not show mundaneness. So many maturing performers of the 70's and 80's turn their maturity into boredom; thinking now is the time for ballads and reflection when their fan base does not feel the same way. Yeah, we still wanna rock, at least a little! Ian Anderson is not guilty of this on HE. As holds true on every Ian Anderson album, and Jethro Tull album, since the beginning, HE has a nice mixture of both acoustic and full band electric numbers. Many numbers flip back and forth between acoustic and electric. The electric songs dominate.
Tempo wise, it is the same "Thick as a Brick 2", which is likewise a decent album. I would definitely put these albums in the same vein as "Songs From the Wood" and "Heavy Horses". While not rockers, per say, they are what I would call "listeners albums". A bit sophisticated, you probably wouldn't want to play them at a party, but listening to them will definitely not lull you to sleep. Cranking up the volume is good! There is a theme and a sound that is Celtic, acoustic, and rock; leaning much more towards rock. While no songs jump out as radio play singles all the songs are very good and most do not spare the use of the full rock ensemble. If any radio stations still played "new music by old rockers", or if it was still the late '70s the song "The Browning of the Green" may have seen some light of day. It is a typical Jethro Tull sounding rock song. The new band is stellar, the same as on "Thick As A Brick 2", and Florian Opahle is simply incredible on electric guitar. It is a larger band with six members including Ian Anderson. Added since TAAB2 is Ryan O'Donnell credited for vocals and "stage antics"! (As this band will tour, Ian may be getting a bit old to "flitter about" as he used to!)
So after all this praise why only 4 stars? Well, 4 stars sure ain't bad and still means buy it. (I was tempted at one time to give it a 3.5, and did initially, but it really is better than that.) We fan boys, who pose as reviewers (knowledgeable or not), must be careful. Our artist can poop in the woods and we will approach it and swear it smells like a newly opened rose on a warm summer's day. That is not objective is it? While each of these albums is definitely NOT poop, they may not qualify as roses either. Ian definitely has his roses. Yours would be obvious, to you. Considering Ian Anderson's tremendous body of work and longevity,I must choose my roses carefully and objectively. So yes, to me HE and TAAB2 are good albums, and recommended; but don't get the impression you are getting an "Aqualung" or "Minstrel in the Gallery" or even a "Heavy Horses". You are getting a good album to be ranked accordingly, by you. Not me. I compared both HE and TAAB2 to "Stormwatch", the last album by the classic Jethro Tull lineup, and they are on par with that.
If you have not obtained TAAB2 yet I highly recommend getting both. Assuming you own "Thick As A Brick" these would round out the "Gerald Bostock trilogy". Ian Anderson is too young to die AND NOT too old to rock and roll!
This is a review of the CD/DVD package of 'Homo Erraticus'; most of the review content still applies to the April 2014 CD-only release ASIN: B00IIZ2732 and the vinyl & download/autorip formats.
In his 67th year, Ian Anderson stubbornly refuses to rest on his laurels and bask in past glories. `Homo Erraticus' is a remarkable piece of work: original, lyrical, thoughtful, musically sophisticated with excellent sound and production values, a storyboard weaving together many narrative strands to entertain and delight.
The first impression you'll receive from the CD/DVD package is that a great deal of thought and care has gone into this project: a quality, classy product greets you which respects the audience's intelligence and likely aesthetic sensibilities. The 32-page insert containing explanatory essays and all the song lyrics artistically laid out in sequence is a minor literary masterpiece on its own, and takes a good hour to read through and digest. The album tells a themed story of human colonization of the British Isles (which began, according to archaeological records, 800,000 years ago). Anderson begins in `Doggerland' with the continental land bridge at the end of the last ice age; the narrative then skips over the bronze and iron ages to `Enter the Uninvited' which quickly runs through all the influences which came in from outside:
"Angles, Saxons, Danes and Normans
On the whole a curve of learning,
...Willie Conker, work cut out, in Domesday pages marks our number...
Sheep and pigs amongst the hundreds,
Fat tithes and taxes to encumber"
All the way to:
"Bubble gum and google-bum, Facebook-frenzied social network
Apple mac and i-Phone App, Gibson,
Fender sonic fretwork..."
The music underpinning this poetic lyrical narrative is as unique and engaging as we have come to expect from Anderson in his more mature years. Supported by the capable professional musical talents of John O'Hara, David Goodier, Florian Opahle, Ryan O'Donnell and Scott Hammond, mixed by Jakko Jakszyk and produced by Anderson himself the result is a seamless amalgam of catchy melodies, syncopated jazz rhythms, driving rock sections and odd time-signatures interwoven with trad English folk-idioms and references to other world-music styles. The result however is much greater than the parts, a unified style like no other: this is music for thinking people.
Anderson's lyrical writing has always been good but now occupies a territory rare in popular music: it stands as poetry which may be simply read aloud, communicates complex ideas with great economy of language, is clever and witty. Delivered over the music, the result is a rewarding and satisfying experience, joyous in a way that only good art can be.
The DVD includes the whole album accompanied by imagery and poetic lyrical insets; the music in 24/48 stereo and in DTS 5.1 Surround; and a thoughtful filmed interview with Anderson on the making of the album where he reveals:
"Writing songs for me is a terror...rather than waiting for the muse to turn up, you sometimes have to go out on a blind date and meet it halfway..."
"What the album is all about is people going places, learning from the experience, evaluating something that you didn't know about before and benefiting - hopefully - as a consequence"
Exploring the possibility of imminent environmental catastrophe ("The Browning of the Green"), `Homo Erraticus' is ultimately optimistic about the ability of we humans to find a way out, to avert disaster, maybe even discover a new Eden.
This is such a refreshing change from the pap which passes for popular music these days; the maturity and intelligence of `Homo Erraticus' may outlast even the best of Jethro Tull's glory years. If you like your music to be crafted for thinking people, give it a listen - or two. Chance is you'll get to like it.
on June 20, 2014
This will be a controversial pronouncement, but I stand by it: In my opinion, Homo Erraticus is the best Ian Anderson album ever, the best Tull album since Songs From The Wood, and the most fully realized progressive-rock "concept album" in the entire Tull/Anderson repertoire.
I'm so glad that Ian Anderson has finally made peace with an idea that I embraced years ago: that Anderson is Tull is Anderson. By finally accepting this, Ian Anderson has been freed from the apparent need to somehow distinguish his "solo" work from his "band" work, and the music is all the stronger for it. Being "Mr Tull" isn't such a bad thing after all.
With TAAB2, there was a conscious decision to use the "same palette and same instrumental colors" as on the original TAAB: Gibson guitar, Fender bass, drums, keyboard and flute. This philosophy is continued on Homo Erraticus to great effect. This album simply sounds like a Jethro Tull record--from before the age of synthesizers and Indian themes. It is as familiar and comfortable as an old suit newly cleaned and pressed.
Thick As A Brick--a masterpiece that I absolutely adore--was never meant to be a serious prog-rock concept album. As Ian Anderson has said many times over the years, it was really more of a parody of the form (but which ended up virtually defining it!). A Passion Play was hastily thrown together after the Chateau d'Isaster sessions and it shows; the album has its moments, but it never reaches the quality of TAAB. TAAB2 is a brilliant follow-up to TAAB, but the songs are mostly fragments with a few odd bits that Ian had lying around (e.g. "Pebbles Instrumental" & "A Change of Horses"). It's fun to revisit some of the motifs from TAAB, but it pales in comparison to the original.
Homo Erraticus hangs together as a narrative better than Aqualung (which features the title character in only two songs) and even Too Old To Rock To Rock 'N' Roll Too Young To Die, which I consider a very uneven album. Minstrel In The Gallery, Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses and Stormwatch might be described as concept albums, but none of these is as musically, lyrically or thematically cohesive as Homo Erraticus. And I should probably point out that Heavy Horses was my first (and probably still my sentimental favorite) Tull album. I also love SFTW and MITG, although I'm a little lukewarm on Stormwatch.
You can really tell that this album was conceived from the ground up as its own entity with its own internal logic and consistency. For example, the opening track "Doggerland" is echoed musically in "The Browning of the Green" and lyrically in "Cold Dead Reckoning." "Heavy Metals" reappears as "In for a Pound." And "The Browning of the Green" repurposes "The Turnpike Inn" for its verses.
But I also hear echoes of earlier Tull/Anderson songs throughout this album: "Enter the Uninvited" seems to evoke "Hot Mango Flush" and even "Taxi Grab." "The Pax Britannica" cribs heavily from "Mayhem, Maybe." Sections of "Tripudium Ad Bellum" remind me of "Living in the Past" and side two of Thick As A Brick. "After These Wars" feels like a companion to "Wootten Bassett Town." "The Browning of the Green" contains a guitar riff straight out of "Hunting Girl." And the reverb effect on the phrase "breeding like rabbits" in "Per Errationes Ad Astra" reminds me of the spoken opening of "Dun Ringill." A veritable feast for any fan!
So here's to Messrs Anderson, Tull and Bostock--whoever you are. Thanks for a great album!
on April 15, 2014
I've listened the the album straight through 4 times now. The two tracks that will clearly be my favorites (for now) - Puer Ferox Adventus and The Browning of the Green - have been replayed several more times. Almost have the words down for the former (thank you Sir Ian Anderson for including the lyrics in the insert).
You've probably figured out that I'm liking this CD. It feels at once fresh and familiar. The rich, perfectly structured chaos of sound, lyrics witty and pointy, and the mischievous energy - everything I hoped and expected!!
I'm a fan and I love it. My coworkers (who say "the Aqualung guy?") are enjoying it today as well.
on May 29, 2014
Homo Erraticus contains musical elements drawn from the entirety of Mr. Anderson's career-- perhaps excluding "This Was." If you enjoy Jethro Tull, you should enjoy this recording. Much has been said about the absence of Martin Barre, but Florian Ophale plays very well and his phrasing is a little more free and organic than Barre's. I have enjoyed all of the Tull line-ups because of the continued evolution of the Tull vibe they have provided. If you miss Martin Barre, check out his recent and excellent solo release. If you are a Tull fan, this is an excellent "twilight" effort.
I am a longtime Tull and Ian Anderson fan ... the fusion of Prog, Rock, Folk and Pop with interwoven electric and acoustic instrumentation drew me in and has kept me interested since the early 70's ...
It was hard to know what to expect from this outing since this is yet another new lineup of musicians supporting the creative genius behind Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson. However, this one is most definitely a winner. The lyrics alone are a complex, cerebral masterpiece. The music is a conglomeration of classic Tull (think Thick as a Brick), latter day Tull, and Ian solo works. Lyrically, this is an ambitious piece of work; musically, it complements the concept and moves seamlessly from track to track. You will hear some obvious and intended nods to particular sections of other Tull concept albums (which I find charming). As for instrumentation, certainly, there is the signature stellar flute and acoustic guitar ... but there is also a balanced complement of "throw back" (or should I say "timeless") sounds with B3 organ and crunchy electric guitars. A very capable supporting cast that Ian has assembled.
This is a serious composition ... not a thrown-together-depend-on-your-past-reputation kind of offering. I applaud Ian for the hard work and courage to give it another go, full bore. I have listened through about 4 times now and the test has been passed: each listen gets more enjoyable and new discoveries are made in the lyrical treasury of the songs.
If you are a Tull or Ian fan, it would be hard to imagine that Homo Erraticus would disappoint. For me the expectations have been exceeded and I am certain to be spinning this repeatedly over time.
Highly recommended. (excuse me whilst I queue it up once again ... I really don't mind if you sit this one out; but you will)
on June 28, 2014
Ian Anderson's Home Erraticus is a certain kind of music and composer. One I have liked for over 40 years. For much of that time Ian Anderosn and Jethro Tull were releasing gold record at the rate of one every year. What a treat as a kid growing up and going to the record store and always checking the Jethro Tull bin and sometimes finding new, and even sometimes old offerings at such a rate. Today there is less energy and passion in the music, but there is far more intelligence, and technique. The playing is as tight as any music could be, almost classical in its precision, yet with that Tull rawness and energy that energizes the listener from the bottom bass up.
No longer so prolific, Homo Erraticus is the first album in quite a while now, and quite a while before that. I wish there was more, but I am glad there is what there is.
There is so much to these songs, there is a kind of unity to melody and chord structure and even rhythm that is reminiscent of Thick As A Brick from 1972, much more so to me than even the last album Thick As A Brick 2 ... which was the only JT/IA album that I did not play over and over and over ... it just did not appeal to me that much ... not that it was bad.
But now that it has been a few months - I still have Homo Erraticus themes going through my head, lines and riffs that I find myself humming or singing for days. I really like this album, and there is even a lot to think about. It's not overtly political, but it is historical. You find out some Latin names for old English Town from when "Bold" Londinium was part of the Roman Empire. Some of the themes are well worn, such as the comparison of overpopulation to being compared to being tight as canned sardine ... ( not sardines )
I really love it ... and mostly I am glad and relieved that my favorite band, or composer anyway has not gotten Too Old To Rock and Roll ... at least if it is Progressive Rock and Roll. Always looking forward to new music from this master and thankful for the past many many tunes that have enriched my life.
Ian Anderson / Home Erraticus 5/5
on April 18, 2014
First the good news. Fans of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull rejoice! Another album of new music in a relatively short time. "Homo Erraticus". And how lucky are we to witness Ian Anderson partnering with the hardest working man in progressive music--Steven Wilson and his Kscope family. (With Jacko Jakszyk doing the 5:1 knob turning this time around). We are seeing a rejuvenation and a new spotlight on Anderson. And he is in a recording frenzy. The muse is alive and well.
And the Kscope's influence is evident in the packaging, graphic design, photography and promotion. It all looks fantastic. I got the limited edition 4 disc set presented in a 60 page hardback book. Well worth the price. This infusion of new young blood is what the doctor ordered for Anderson.
For those that liked the "TAAB 2" project then this will be your third cup of tea. This could be called "TAAB 3". Why? Again we are presented with a prog rock concept album featuring Gerald Bostock. The band personnel, instrumentation and recording facility has not changed, so the sound is identical. Anderson's approach to the songs are the same--heavily poetic wordplay set against the sounds and style of "TAAB 2"-- which can be traced back to the recent Ian Anderson solo albums. Again, short songs that make up a whole story, this time about key events in English history. You can delve into the back-story of Gerald Bostock, Ernest "Teddy" Parritt and even L. Ron Hubbard, as another level of whimsy. Or they can be discarded and one can still delight in the kind of music that is still the hallmark of an Ian Anderson project.
Some of the songs sound identical to "TAAB 2". "The Turnpike Inn" sounds like "Kismet In Suburbia" and is repeated again in "The Browning Of The Green" mixed with a little of The Stranglers keyboard sound.
But as much as I wanted to love this music I find that I just like it. The music seems a little thin. Anderson does a good job of constraining his voice, using spoken word and utilizing Ryan O'Donnell again. Even though it follows Anderson's past schedule for producing finished albums it feels a bit rushed, like it could have stayed in the oven longer.
I would have liked the instrumental "Tripudium Ad Bellum" to stretch out and take us all through the paces. But it sort of meanders along with a few nods to jazz then ends all too soon.
Anderson never met an adjective that he didn't like. And he can pen some cringe-worthy lyrics. "You got cappuccino lip on a small skirt day"... "Gristle-burger, frazzled fries." This time around we hear about "exponential family planning" ..."Imbecile fecundity"...."in the cosmic crash of fiery fusion". And two mentions of zombies and walking dead. A nepotistic shout-out to his actor son-in-law. Some of the songs lyrics are various lists put to music. A had a flash back to "Hot Mango Flush." (Yikes!)
In the overall scheme of things, these are quibbles to what is a fine, solid outing by Anderson. No one expects that he will ever return to the high creative period of "TAAB 1", "A Passion Play", "Chateau D'isaster" and "War Child". Even Hitchcock wasn't Hitchcock towards the end of his career.
But if Anderson could channel that high creative period even a little... well, that would be a bit of Prog Nirvana. Ian Anderson is a musical genius and he has enriched my life with his life's work. I'm sure there is still a major opus left in him. In the meantime I will treasure this new outing, "Homo Erraticus". I'm sure I will hear new things as time goes by.
We should stop pining for Tull past. It ain't going to happen. For whatever reason Martin Barre is gone. And Anderson admits that he never liked the name Jethro Tull anyway. So he wants to make Ian Anderson music now. And he deserves that. But I don't buy the argument that Anderson tires of playing Tull music because they attract a rowdy crowd of "beer drinking buddies." The average age of a Tull fan has to be well over 55. Concert patrons are much more behaved in their advancing age I've observed. But Ian himself propagates the return to those nostalgic, reckless days by continuing to play "Aqualung", "Locomotive Breath" and "Living In The Past". Please retire these songs and just focus on the new work. We can take it...we will adjust.
So to stay current and gain new listeners, (the ones that listen to Steven Wilson/ Porcupine Tree, Phideaux, Echolyn, Beardfish, Big Big Train, NAO) then one would hope Anderson would follow his new K-Scope family. Even Steven Wilson produced the great "The Raven Who Refused To Sing" in the States with an outside producer. (Alan Parsons) How about some guest artists? Some new instrumentation? A change of locale? A change of horses?
Your patient humble listener.
on April 23, 2014
I'm not going to go into the depth that other reviewers have, but I'll just say I love this album. In the first half, I hear some melodies that harken back to Thick As A Brick 2, but the disc evolves with each song. You may become aware of the second singer, who sings most noticeably in a pure tenor and some falsetto, but I enjoy having the younger man help Ian to keep from straining for the higher notes. The flute playing is exquisite, but so are the other players. The guitar player shreds with a style more fluid than Martin Barre. Enjoy.
on June 3, 2014
Mr. Anderson's first two "solo" albums (The Secret Language of Birds & Rupi's Dance) are among my personal favorites. So I was quite excited to see he had released another, and this was on top of an interview I had recently read about "Jethro Tull" being over and done with.
I loaded the new CD into my vehicle's player with great anticipation. And then I was shocked. I thanked myself for not forking over the additional $40 or so for the deluxe version of this - because I was very very disappointed. This was not at all what I was expecting based on his earlier "solo" works and I cursed myself for not listening to the previews before my purchase. I left the CD in my truck and happened to listen to it several more times over the next weeks and it really started to grow on me. This "Tull is dead" idea is not true at all. Homo Erraticus is VINTAGE Tull! Once I let go of my frustration that this was not another effort in line with his earlier solo works, I was free to appreciate this CD for what it is....and what it is is the best Tull to be produced in the last 30 years (or is it 40 since Aqualung was released?).