on January 5, 2003
As Ian Anderson intended to convey by the title of this album, "this was" the sort of music Tull were making in 1968.
Having reshuffled a few times (and changed names a few times, too) from the "John Evan Band," Tull at this time consisted of Ian Anderson, guitarist Mick Abrahams (later of Blodwyn Pig), bassist Glenn Cornick (who remained with the band through _Stand Up_ and _Benefit_), and drummer/percussionist Clive Bunker (who stuck around through _Aqualung_). Anderson, who to this day describes himself as a frustrated guitarist, had recently switched to the flute, an instrument on which he figured (correctly) Clapton wasn't likely to outclass him anytime soon. (He had also invented a wee beastie called the "claghorn," a flutelike instrument with a mouthpiece like a saxophone. Jeffrey Hammond made it, and Anderson plays it on "Dharma for One".)
People who know only the later Tull may be surprised by this album. It's mostly blues; Anderson swaps off on harmonica and shares both vocals and cowriting credits with Abrahams (a fine blues guitarist who wrote "Move On Alone" by himself and is credited with the arrangement of the traditional "Cat's Squirrel"). There's also a cover of Roland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (which Anderson says is the first song he ever learned to play on the flute) and the aforementioned "Dharma for One" (a live version of which appeared on _Living in the Past_ a few years later). Most famous, perhaps, is "A Song for Jeffrey," since a song involving Jeffrey Hammond appeared on each of the first three Tull LPs. (Hammond wasn't yet a member of the band; he replaced Cornick as of _Aqualung_.)
Good stuff, at any rate, and this recent remastering is well done. The bonus tracks are good too -- a short "tribute" piece (by Abrahams) to John Gee (manager of the Marquee Club), plus two songs that longtime Tull listeners will recognize from _Living in the Past_. The sound quality is excellent throughout.
As of _Stand Up_, Anderson started moving away from blues-based material and toward the stuff we now know as classic Tull. After this album was released, Abrahams departed and was replaced (briefly) by Tony Iommi (later of Black Sabbath), then (permanently, thank God) by Martin Barre. As of _Benefit_, Anderson's writing had taken a darker and somewhat more cynical turn, John Evan had (re)joined them, and Barre had begun to establish his own guitar style. After that, of course, were _Aqualung_ and history.
But _This Was_ isn't just a glimpse at the beginnings of a great band; it's also in its own right a successful album of British blues. Add it to your Tull collection if it's not there already.
on May 28, 2002
This Was - one can only imagine that the title was the roduct of typical Anderson dry ironic wit - 'This Was' Tull's first album - and perhaps they imagined at the time, their last. It was not to be. Tull keep pumping them out thirty five years on.
This Was tends to be overlooked in the rush to celebrate discs like Aqualung, Thick as a Brick et al - but wait. Don't dismiss the embryonic Tull. For one it is the only album to feature Mick Abrams, later of Blodwyn Pig, one of the most under-rated guitarists Britain has ever produced. Whereas Tull's subsequent work bore the unmistakable stamp of singer/flautist/songwriter Ian Anderson, This Was is a fusion between the Anderson vision and Abrams'. The result is a raw, woody fusion of rock, jazz and blues. Abrams' skill is undoubted, Anderson's flute style is in its infancy and has yet to reach its technical heights - but in common with so many first albums This Was is propelled by the self evident energy and enthusiasm of a group of musicians in the studio for their first real attemt at recording (odd singles projects etc aside). It is that energy that makes This Was so exciting. Long before Tull became a stadium regular and their creativity became a little coloured by success - they were genuinely leading edge. Anderson's stage antics and their raw sound got the pop scene of 1968 really excited. It was a time of unrest and revolution and in their own curious way (they never manned the barricades) Tull Mk I capture that. After Stand Up, This Was is my favourite Tull album. Tull for me are about joi de vivre rather than progressive cleverness - and that is as evident here as at any stage of their career.
on August 17, 2004
Some debut albums obviously suggest what's going to come from a band, while others don't (this doesn't make them any better or worse than the other). Pink Floyd's debut "The Piper At the Gates of Dawn" contained little if nothing at all that suggested this was the band that would later record the scathing "Animals" and "The Wall." The Who's first album "My Generation" was full of cheeky insolence but it certainly didn't give a preview to such great works as "Quadrophenia." Then again, other debuts make their mark and reveal exactly what a band or artist will sound like at their peak; Led Zeppelin's self-titled debut had enough heavy metal crunch to affirm that they would become the ultimate arena vikings of the 70s; Bruce Springsteen's "Greetings From Asbury Park N.J." was an obvious pointer at the anthems-for-the-downtrodden-blue-collar-class that made him famous.
And then there's Jethro Tull's auspicious first round "This Was." At the time, there had rarely been such gutsy performances from a group making their debut, even in the progressive rock scene. Prog pioneers King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" was still a short while away, and "This Was" was a landmark recording that gave definite clues as to the uncharted territories that the progressive movements would take listeners to, despite the fact that Tull was obviously heavy into blues roots. But the interpretations of blues and jazz influences here are brave and often challenging, with such standout cuts as `Serenade to a Cuckoo,' `Someday the Sun Won't Shine For You,' and the bizarre, unintelligible `A Song For Jeffrey.' Ian Anderson was asserting himself as an intriguing frontman, and the contributions of the line-up of Mick Abrahams, Clive Bunker, and Glenn Cornick defined this particular era of Jethro Tull, even if they weren't as worldly successful as the next line-ups.
"This Was" is a fascinating debut album, full of promise and originality from a band dabbling heavily in blues and jazz roots while giving the music a brand new sound at the same time.
When I first discovered Jethro Tull about 20 years ago, I began to buy anything and everything I could get my hands on that the band put out. But I always heard two things regarding Tull, buy "Passion Play" but only after you have developed a serious ear for Tull, and "This Was" was not really a Tull album because it sounded so different from everything else they have done. On "Passion Play" I would agree, I wouldn't make getting that disk a priority, but I have to say "This Was" was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed this debut album even if it was slightly different from the rest of Tull catalog. But there are some true Tull classics here, "My Sunday Feeling" and "Song for Jeffrey" are still played in concert today by the current Tull line up. Mick's bluesy guitar work is phenominal, (If you haven't picked up Bloodwyn Pig's A Head Rings Out CD Do So!) and culminates in the fantastic, rocking "Cat's Squirrel" instrumental. Ian Anderson plays a really mean flute on "This Was" as well. Overall, I would say if you are a fan of Tull you have to own "This Was" if for no other reason than to hear how the band sounded at it's beginning. "This Was" is a great foundation for one of the best bands of all time.
on September 21, 1999
A rarity - a blues album with a sense of humour. From the end of the great British blues boom of the mid '60's, its the perfect counterpoint to the studious blues cover bands like John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac that were popular then.
At the time people were questioning whether white middle class Englishmen had any right to be even playing the blues ( or as The Bonzo Dog Dooda Band put it: "Can Blue Men Sing the Whites" ). Ian Anderson was certainly no purist - for a start he played flute - and this album is suffused with his sardonic humour. When combined with the considerable talents of Abrahams, Bunker and Cornick the result was a little uncut gem of an album.
Highlights include My Sunday Feeling - a jazz inflected rocker about the morning after,complete with anguished moans and groans. A minor Tull classic; Someday the Sun Wont Shine For You - an upbeat blues with a surprise ending; Beggars Farm - a wierd slow bluesy rocker, another minor classic; Serenade to a Cuckoo - a Rashaan Roland Kirk flute instrumental; The sarcastically titled Dharma for One, a drum driven eastern thing and Song for Jeffrey, one for the ubiquitous Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, Andersons old school mate.
After This Was, Abrahams split to form Blodwyn Pig and fans should check out the Getting To This and Ahead Rings Out albums. For Tull, of course,fame and fortune was just around the corner. This Was how they sounded then, but things have certainly changed, havn't they?
on April 29, 2002
Many Tull fans are more into the 70's progressive/conceptual material Tull put forth on Aqualung and beyond. I prefer the early period(This Was, Stand Up,Benefit)which showcases a more blues and jazz roots based sound, and the later 70's folky acoustic stuff(Songs From The Wood,Heavy Horses, Stormwatch) as well. This Was is very different from all the other Tull albums, mostly due to the prescence of original guitarist Mick Abrahams (only Tull album he appeared on). Abrahams even gets to sing a lead vocal on one cut,something no other member would do after Ian Anderson took total control (Abrahams was the original co-leader and more of a blues purist). In essence,the title may be the most appropriate in retrospect,Tull was never exactly the same again.And what about that claghorn!!!
on September 27, 1999
Winterland 1968. Tull opens for Credence. It's packed with Coors cowboys waiting for Born On the Bayou. I came to see Tull, this had been out for a few months and I was stoked. Anderson comes out playing a flute standing on one leg in pinkish tights. The cowboys are not amused. One song in and the hoots and boos begin. I become uncomfortable with the "vibes". Will they finish the set I came so far to see. "Dharma For One" is launched, Clive's drum solo is incredible, really energized. The cowboys are stunned into reluctant applause. Credence can't touch them on a musical level but they aren't wearing tights..Yes, the set was finshed and some converts were made. I'll never forget it. This album has everything on it. A slice of history to be sure. 4 stars plus one for the sentiment of that evening.
on March 22, 2000
I have listened to and owned every Tull album up through Heavy Horses--20 years ago I listened to virtually nothing but Tull--and this one is still, to me, absolutely the best, by far the most creative, rawest, and searching of anything Anderson's done. All my old vinyl was destroyed in a fire 15 years ago--by then I was listening to mostly pre-70's jazz, international, country, and the Dead, and the only Tull I bothered to replace, until a recent purchase of Stand Up, was This Was. As much as I respect much of the later work, I still find that This Was gets right at the heart of blues, country and jazz to produce some of the most both unaffected and creative music around. The guitar rings and bounces, the flute is pure Anderson, all the laziness, mystery, and artistry one could want. It romps and cloys, makes bitter fun and flutters. And by the way, I like Martin Barre, but Mick Abrahams was special.
on February 19, 2002
This, the first album by the newly formed group named Jethro Tull was first issued in 1968 (around Sept.), and clearly shows that there are two forces at work here within the band.
On the one hand there is Mick Abrahams being the blues personality who turns in very respectful outings in the song titles of 'Cat's Squirrel' and 'Some day the sun won't shine for you', a shared vocal outing with Ian on the song 'It's breaking me up' and even turns in an adequate vocal with 'Move on alone'.
On the other hand you have the band leader we all know and love in Ian Anderson providing the band with the necessary artistic stylings and outlets to make the band achieve the potential that they would. Songs like 'My Sunday feeling', 'A song for Jeffery' and 'Dharma for one' showcase the band ability to play beyond the confines of the current "Blues Revival" that gained momentum during the time of this release. The remaining songs on the album 'Serenade for a Cuckoo' and 'Round' show the inflection of jazz that would be a continuing influence, albeit a lessening one, during the bands career. Even the included "bonus" tracks like ' One for John Gee', which is not available elsewhere, show the strong jazz influence that would llift the band from the blues positioning that would have kept the band to a modicum of success as a local club favorite.
One often overlooked facet of the band during this period was of course the rhythm section of Clive Bunker-drums and Glen Cornick-bass which would only last for two more albums before the latter left the band and the always clever Bunker would only last until the often heralded 'Aqualung' album.
Whether you like Jethro Tull in its early or later configurations This Was Jethro Tull, and by all accounts this album fits nicely within their catalog.
The digital remastering only adds to the glory of this album, I for one would recommend this current release over the past straight analog to digital transfer offered in years past. And as for the money, this is a steal for only $x.
on June 13, 2005
Anyone familiar with the signature Tull sound is in for a surprise with this album. "This Was" occupies a unique place in the band's discography, as it is their only true blues-rock record. Much of this is to be credited to the influence of Mick Abrahams (guitar), who always leaned towards this style. But it's also true that there were dozens of British bands exploring the blues field at that time. Your attitude towards blues-rock perfectly defines whether you'll like this album, or not, as the material itself is quite good.
I find it surprising that the level of the songs on "This Was" is so unexpectedly high for a debut album of a band that was almost constantly shifting its line-up in its early phase of existence. There are many impressive tracks on the album, but I'd like to mention "Some Day The Sun Won't Shine For You", and "It's Breaking Me Up". An instrumental "Serenade To A Cuckoo" is noteworthy, as it was written by a jazz flutist Roland Kirk, whose style of playing influenced Ian Anderson much. It's also known as the first flute tune that Anderson learned to play. "This Was" gives Ian's soon-to-be-famous flute a lot of playing time, while Mick Abrahams' bluesy guitar provides a good counterpoint. You can feel these two men rivalling for the band leadership, the battle that Ian won, and Mick lost, and left Tull for a band called Blodwyn Pig. His departure was mainly the reason for Jethro Tull losing their bluesy edge and leaning more towards folk music on future albums.
Surely, the album is not without its flaws, the completely unnecessary drum solo on "Dharma For One" being the most painful of them. But to any Tull fan this album comes highly recommended, as it shows the little known nature of this band, the one that doesn't show itself on any other JT album. And the sound quality is surprisingly good, too!