Different from their other releases, yet very much in character, this is a beautifully complementary release that any Tull fan should enjoy.

Label: BMG
Time: 12tracks / 48 mins.

This one gets off to a great start: “Living in the Past” normally begins with a simple bass riff. So plucking that on cello is no big change – and straightaway any Tull fan feels at home.

The truth is that this release is not as different a venture as the name suggests. Yes, there are the strings of the Carducci Quartet playing a selection of Jethro Tull tracks from across their career, but Ian Anderson is here too, not only playing flute (a natural bridge between the regular catalogue and this) but even singing on a few tracks. “We Used to Bach” – a blend of “We Used to Know” with Bach’s “Prelude in C Major“ – also features significant amounts of piano.

Only one track (“Velvet Gold” – a strings version of "Velvet Green”) is a pure quartet with no additional instrumentation, and it makes a difference. The theme is recognisably there, but the way the variations play through it makes it feels far more like a classical quartet piece.

The band’s catalogue has produced a fine selection of melodies over the years and tunes like “We Used to Know” (allegedly the inspiration for The Eagles’ “Hotel California”), “Reasons for Waiting,” and “Bungle in the Jungle” flourish in this setting. The latter is strong enough to give the violin plenty of room to elaborate over the top, like a guitar soloing.

Three tracks are medleys, which enables arranger John O’Hara to play around with them all the more.

Several of these tracks, such as “Sossity Waiting (Sossity, You’re a Woman / Reasons for Waiting)” and “Only the Giving (Wondrin’ Aloud)”, are safe selections too, because they originally featured strings anyway.

Anderson’s voice is no longer as strong as it once was, so his occasional singing is somewhat subdued. On a project like this it is hard to see vocals as something essential – but it does not really detract, other than on “Aquafugue,” the new version of “Aqualung,” where the vocals are halfway between singing and talking.

If you draw a line from the rock of Aqualung and A Passion Play through the rural rootsiness of Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses, this is where that line might naturally end up. It fits. While this should appeal to long-time Tull fans, it may also spread its reach to those who appreciate a range of acoustic/classical music.  

Derek Walker