It's a rare and beautiful thing when you get virtuoso musicians from different genres crossing over to create a piece of work that is fully cohesive. Ian Anderson has teamed up with the Carducci Quartet to re-imagine the greatest hits of Jethro Tull in a classical style and the result never ceases to be a compelling listen.
For quite some time Ian and fellow Tull musician, John O' Hara had discussed the idea of rearranging and recording some of the back catalogue for string quartet. Amazed at the fluidity and cohesion of the Carducci Quartet, Ian enlisted them to help with the recordings of some of Jethro Tull's most beloved work.
Hardened Tull aficionado's will already be aware that this move is not such a sharp jump away from the original material. Ian and John are no strangers to collaborating with orchestras and working with classical arrangements. Ian has worked with quartets and orchestras before on Thick As A Brick, Minstrel In The Gallery and other notable Tull recordings. This is music that naturally and effortlessly lends itself to being reborn for a string arrangement. It's not like somebody covering Metallica in a classical fashion (which of course was tackled in the S&M recording with The San Fransicso Symphony Orchestra to mixed reception.)
The tracks have been re-titled to distinguish them from the originals and the vocals are largely absent. Whilst some tracks like In The Past (Living In The Past) have a very clear translation, other like Bungle (Bungle In The Jungle) and Farm, The Fourway (Farm On The Freeway) are noticeably rearranged with the odd phrase and melody creeping in as a reminder of the tracks' musical lineage.
The resulting effects on the String Quartets alternate between the dynamics of classical music and the broad cinematic sound of a full score. Even the pizzicato from the strings indicates that the music has a more progressive feel than just being firmly rooted in the classical genre. This could easily be music that you'd find playing at a concert hall or a folk establishment. Even without Ian Anderson's iconic flute riding over the top of the tracks, the Carducci Quartet produce a superior resonance and emotive sound that allows them to easily rank alongside the likes of The Endellion String Quartet as one of the most accomplished quartets in the country.
The absence of other instrumentation that you may be used to are easily filled in by the sound space created by the reworking of the tracks. The 'musical gaps' are just as inviting and enthralling as when they are infused with drums and guitar.
Far from leaving their progressive roots behind, Ian Anderson has continued to do just what made Jethro Tull such a profound player in the genre and continues to push the boundaries forward for prog in a way that is seamless and endlessly absorbing.
Groupie Rating 5/5