Every fan had their first Jethro Tull purchase. Mine was 20 years ago, with their newly released Very Best of Jethro Tull. Why not? I was working at the Record Store when a used-but-mint copy dropped in my lap for only $8 (staff discount). It was only right of me to ensure it got a good home.
Unlike some “hits” compilations, this one didn’t strike with clusters of songs I wanted to focus on in the future. Other compilations can do that. For example I decided to hone in on the Brian Robertson Motorhead album immediately after hearing a double best-of. With The Very Best of Jethro Tull, I liked it all equally. I just wanted to get them all, with no particular priority. It all sounded great to me.
The album is non-chronological and contains some edit versions. “Thick As A Brick” is cut down from 44 minutes to just three — makes sense. They chose the first three minutes, which are ojectively the best known. Other edits are the single versions of “Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die” and “Minstrel in the Gallery”, while “Heavy Horses” gets a new edit bringing it from nine minutes to a more single-like three. The songs span the 1968 debut This Was to 1995’s Roots to Branches. Several albums are not represented at all, such as Benefit, A Passion Play, A, Stormwatch, Under Wraps, Rock Island, Catfish Rising, and J-Tull.com. Justifiable? That’s up to personal taste. Several non-album singles are included instead, such as the well known “Living In the Past” and the wicked string-laden “Sweet Dream”.
The album has an excellent flow, only interrupted with the synth-y “Steel Monkey” from 1987’s Grammy-winning Crest of a Knave. Preceded by the savage “Locomotive Breath” and followed by the tender picking of “Thick as a Brick”, it doesn’t fit in except as a speedbump. If I may be so bold, I believe “Steel Monkey” was included simply because it would be odd not to include something off that controversial Grammy winner.
While I enjoyed all the songs, the one that stood out particularly strong was “Bourée”. I never heard Bach swing like that before! The diversity of this CD, spanning all styles of rock from progressive to blues to folksy. Yes, the flute can rock and Ian Anderson is the Eddie Van Halen of the instrument.