After Jethro Tull released Stormwatch (1979), their lead singer Ian Anderson intended to record a solo album. He asked keyboardist and violinist Eddie Jobson - former member of Curved Air, Roxy Music and U.K. - to help him out on this project. However, their record label Chrysalis asked them to credit the album to the group in order to help the label getting through the overall low record sales. The album entitled A, was eventually released as Jethro Tull's 13th studio album. The album's title is to be explained by the fact that the tapes were marked 'A' for 'Anderson'. So, it was not until 1983 that Mr. Anderson released his first solo album Walk Into Light. In many respects this album is a duo-album since Anderson worked closely with Peter-John Vettese, then the keyboardist in Jethro Tull. The second solo album Divinities: Twelve Dances With God was released in 1995. Focusing on the flute, this time Ian Anderson committed himself for the first time to record instrumental and orchestral - almost classical - music. The twelve tracks have been influenced by different ethnical musical traditions like Celtic (In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff), Spanish (In The Pay Of Spain), African (En Afrique), Indian (In the Times Of India) and so on.
In 2000, Anderson recorded his third solo album called T The Secret Language Of Birds. This album got a re-release in 2010. As far as I know this is the first re-issue of a solo album by Ian Anderson. The album was named after the natural sound of birds heard at dawn, most noticeable in springtime. This is very distinct on the title track on which the sound of several birds can be heard throughout the piece. Listening to the album you certainly hear strong influences of Jethro Tull due to Anderson's voice and his flute playing. However, the rock side of Jethro Tull is hardly present on this release. All songs are very mellow, sounding relaxed with a very acoustic feel and therefore very suitable for relaxing moments. For a great part, the album was recorded with Andrew Giddings on keyboards, percussion, bass and accordion, who was at the time Tull's keyboard player. Just like on Walk Into Light Anderson asked his current keyboard player to support him musically on the album. However, the almost acoustic The Secret Language Of Birds is, as far as the musical style is concerned, the opposite of the electronic sounding Walk Into Light. Other Tull-members that contributed on Birds are Gerry Conway (drums) and Martin Barre (electric guitar). In the booklet, Ian Anderson tells in his own words what the songs are all about.
In 2003, Anderson recorded a kind of follow-up to The Secret Language Of Birds named Rupi's Dance. The album was released almost simultaneously with Martin Barre's new solo album Stage Left. It also preceded The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Anderson used Birthday Card At Christmas from this release as a bonus track for Rupi's Dance that was also re-issued in 2010. Again the booklet has some fine liner notes about all recorded songs. Here we can learn that Rupi was at the time of the recordings a fourteen-week old kitten. Old Black Cat is inspired by another cat of Anderson's that died at the age of twelve. It's an open secret that Anderson is fond of cats and especially wild cats. He's a protagonist for protecting these animals. Unlike The Secret Language Of Birds, a number of tracks on Rupi's Dance are more up-tempo such as A Hand Of Thumbs, Pigeon Flying Over Berlin and Eurology. However, we can't call this release a rock album either. It's more influenced by folk music, which means that the electric guitar has no leading role. This role again has been reserved for the flute. The man who introduced the flute into rock music plays this instrument very melodic throughout the album. Rupi's Dance can be seen as another fine unwinding album that you can best play near a camp fire with no worries on your mind.
Two years after Rupi's Dance, Mr. Anderson recorded Ian Anderson Plays The Orchestral Jethro Tull, which is of course very much inspired by the music of Jethro Tull. The album and DVD feature the Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt, conducted by John O'Hara. The DVD was recorded at the Rosengarten in Mannheim, December 8th, 2004. The concert was part of a series with the same name. Anderson, O'Hara and the orchestra toured through Europe and the United States in 2004 and 2006.
Ian's first solo album Walk Into Light will have a re-release early 2011. I'm already looking forward to it, because this album certainly has some fine musical moments just as I heard on the reviewed re-issues. I'm glad that I finally could listen to these albums that I didn't know before. They certainly show a rather different side of the musician Ian Anderson, a side that was a bit under-exposed in the music of Jethro Tull. I really enjoyed these albums and I'm sure that fans of Jethro Tull will enjoy them too, but I think that most Jethro Tull aficionados already possess these albums.
*** / *** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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