Minstrel in the Gallery: 40th Anniversary: La Grande Edition
by David Chiu
Jethro Tull’s eighth album, 1975’s Minstrel in the Gallery, doesn’t often get mentioned about (except perhaps within fan circles), as it’s overshadowed by the more popular Aqualung, Living in the Past, and Thick as a Brick. Still, Minstrel in the Gallery is one Tull’s finest, if underrated works, and somewhat stronger than its predecessors A Passion Play and WarChild. With its deft blend of progressive rock and (especially) Elizabethan folk, Minstrel in the Gallery is a focused record that contrasts with Tull’s previous over-the-top aspects of its music. The album’s title song sets the tone for the entire record as it transitions from traditional folk to stomping hard rock. The sonic variety on Minstrel in the Gallery offers a seamless flow of uptempo rockers from “Cold Wind to Valhalla” (accented by stirring slide guitar) and the elaborate “Black Satin Dancer”; to the elegant folk of “Requiem” and “One White Duck/0=Nothing at All”;” Baker Street Muse” is almost a sidelong piece in the the vein of “Thick as a Brick” in which folk and rock sounds collide with David Palmer’s beautiful orchestral arrangements. This special deluxe edition, which was mixed by Steve Wilson, includes bonus tracks including the B-side “Summerday Sands,” alternate versions of some of the album’s songs, and BBC performances of “Minstrel in the Gallery” and the classic “Aqualung,” rendered in a more relaxed tempo compared to the original. The other bonus disc is a live concert at Paris’ Palais des Sports in the summer of 1975 (mixed by Jakko Jakszyk) in which the band performed material from the the-then new album along with favorites such as “Bungle in the Jungle,” “My God,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” and an epic, improvisatory rendition of “Locomotive Breath”—the live work represents Tull at its prime. Both the original album and live concert are remixed in 5.1 DTS on the DVDs accompanied by a lavish 80-page booklet with liner notes, lyrics, and track-by-track annotations by Anderson. It’s interesting to note that Minstrel in the Gallery was the last album featuring the durable lineup of Anderson, Martin Barre, Barriemore Barlow, Jeffrey Hammond and John Evan, so this chapter of Tull’s history ended on a high note with one of the band’s best efforts.