Jethro Tull : Stormwatch
(Chrysalis - 1979)
Category : underrated
There are more Tull albums that didn't get the proper respect ('A' and 'The Broadswoard and the Beast' for example) but 'Stormwatch' may well be their most criticised albums, because it was the first album with a radically different line-up, and also the first one that sees a shift in style. There's less Folk on it and more Prog. The production is slicker as well. But that's just what I like about it.
'Stormwatch' was the first Tull album I ever heard and for me it was a revelation and one of the stepping stones towards a better understanding and appreciation of the Progressive Rock genre. The typical elements that make Tull's sound are there: Ian Anderson's nasal vocals and his virtuoso flute playing, but it's the fact that it's also an album where the band again wholeheartedly chose for a Progressive approach which makes it such an interesting listen. It's ambitious (not as ambitious as 'A Passion Play' or 'Thick as a Brick', but still), smart, varied and expressive. The song 'Dark Ages' is all that even in 9 minutes, as it goes from "Soft Prog" over some sort of Symphonic Rock to straight ahead Hard Rock. Most impressive. But it's not the only great song present. In fact, only the two shorter tracks 'Warm Sporran' and 'Elegy' didn't manage to captivate me.
Don't listen to critics who claim Tull was running out of inspiration. After the merely adequate albums 'Too old to Rock'n'Roll', 'Songs from the Woods' and 'Heavy Horses' (that all got a better reception than 'Stormwatch'), to me it's just the opposite, really. I think 'Stormwatch' is equalled only by 'Thick as a Brick' and surpassed only by their masterpiece 'Aqualung', making 'Stormwatch' a classic in its own right.