Chances are, most of you have long since forgotten the notion of Elizabethan boogie as an art form. Well, it’s revived here on Minstrel in the Gallery, Jethro Tull’s latest concept-as-after-thought entry in the fall record sweepstakes. The fact that Ian Anderson and the lads have once again plundered the British secular music tradition signifies little and delivers less.
Anderson, still holding to a self-consciously bizarre musical stance, has difficulty maintaining the center of attention with his mannered vocals, irrepressible flute and acoustic guitar. And although, accompanied only by his guitar, he introduces each hauntingly familiar refrain as a ballad — aided by intimate spoken intros and incidental studio background noises — the tunes are soon deluged by a wash of lugubrious string passages and the anachronisms of Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond’s mechanical bass lines and Martin Barre’s hysterical electric guitar montages. In addition, contrary to the LP’s basic concept, the lyrics are instantly forgettable.
In keeping with the times, Tull does get points for technical competence. Still, despite the diligence with which these gents execute the often clichéd arrangements, the most soulful moment on the album is a line from “Baker St. Muse,” sung in passing by Anderson as he leaves the studio. Finding the door locked, he screams: “I can’t get out!” That’s roughly the same feeling that this listener got about midway through side one.