Meanwhile Back In The Year One

Preparing to skate away on the ice of a new Winter’s day

Looking for a sign that the universal mind has written you into the Passion Play.

I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

Certain songs say Christmas to the music of our heart. “I Believe in Father Christmas” is one of those songs. The song is accented by the fine guitar playing and stellar voice of Greg Lake.

Recently Greg Lake was asked in Facebook, What inspired you to write this song and what did it mean to you back when you wrote it? and What does it mean to you today and what do you want people to come away with from hearing this song?

Here is his response:

“I Believe in Father Christmas” was written by myself together with Pete Sinfield. It started out with this little guitar riff which I had buzzing round in my head for weeks but no matter how I tried I just couldn’t seem to develop it into a song. It actually started to drive me crazy and one day I found myself humming the tune to Jingle Bells over the riff. This is the sort if thing that happens to writers when they get a few steps away from total insanity.

Anyway I told Pete about hearing this melody in my head and he said maybe it could be a Christmas song. I really don’t like most of those good time Christmas party songs but after a while I began to reflect on what Christmas really meant to me as a kid and how this had somehow got lost in the commercial feeding frenzy that has taken priority in more recent years.

Pete and I started to think about this and after a while we began to identify the core belief that children have about Christmas that really encapsulates the magic and benevolent spirit of Christmas.

Basically it was the belief that all children have in Father Christmas and in a more general sense about how the story of the nativity represents the concept of peace on earth good will to all men.

I honestly can’t remember whether it was Pete or myself who came out with the actual line but it was something we pretty much realised simultaneously. It was the magic key which unlocked the door to the song. I Believe in Father Christmas.

Merry Christmas to Everyone. Greg.

I found this beautiful collaboration filmed live in 2006 at St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, in the City of London. Greg Lake performs his 1975 classic “I Believe in Father Christmas” with Jethro Tull’ s Ian Anderson on flute, David Arch on keyboards, Florian Opahle on acoustic guitar and the church choir.

Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (40th Anniversary Special Edition)

We recently saw Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull perform Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 at Mohegan Sun. I noticed that Thick As A Brick is being reissued on remastered CD and vinyl as a 40th anniversary edition.

I am interested in owning, listening to and reading about Thick As A Brick after experiencing the recording performed live in its entirety in concert. What motivates me even more is that Steven Wilson has engineered the remix with Ian Anderson’s help and direction. Steven Wilson is playing a pivotal role in the renaissance of progressive rock from both a historical as well as a participant level basis.

The 40th Anniversary Edition features a new 5.1 stereo mix, mixed by Steven Wilson, plus a DVD containing DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, high quality stereos 96/24 (new mix and 1972 flat transfer), the original newspaper over 40 pages, an article by Classic Rock s Dom Lawson, rare photos from photographers Didi Zill and Robert Ellis, recording and touring mementos and much more, all contained in 104 page 7 ½ x 5 ½ hardback book.

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Plays Thick As A Brick 1 & 2

We were invited by the Mohegan Sun Player’s Club to attend  Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Plays Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 concert at the Mohegan Sun Casino Arena free. This was the third “free” concert we have attended at Mohegan Sun this year. We witnessed Kenny Loggins in a secret show on July 18. We also go to see the Summerland Tour (90’s Hitmakers) on July 29 featuring Everclear, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Lit, and Marcy Playground.

I have been a fan of Jethro Tull since their first album This Was in 1968. This was my sixth Tull concert. If I count the two Ian Anderson Rubbing Elbows concerts that would make eight Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson concerts in 43 years.

The concert this night proved to be unique compared to past Jethro Tull concerts. I have seen the Stand Up, Benefit, Aqualung, and A Passion Play tours. I have also seen Jethro Tull in concert where they play a cross-section of their discography.

Thick as a Brick Live in 2012

I liked the idea that Jethro Tull would do Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 in their entirety. It was a different band than I was accustomed to seeing. The past five times I have witnessed Jethro Tull the guitarist was Martin Barre. He is not a member of Jethro Tull now so the lead guitar was handled by Florian Opahle. I missed Martin Barre not being in the band but I soon adjusted to Florian Opahle in that role.

The first segment of the show began with several people with cashmere overcoats and caps milling about in a warehouse. We soon learned this was the band as they removed their coats and were joined by Ian Anderson at the microphone, flute in hand. The years have ravaged Ian Anderson’s vocal range and he struggled to reach some of the upper register notes in “Thick As A Brick”. I credit Ian Anderson with the idea of adding vocalist, mime Ryan O’Donnell who serves as Gerald Bostock in the show. For the unitiated Gerald Bostock is the central fictional character of Thick As A Brick 1 & 2.

Ian Anderson is still very much the knave as he pranced about flute in hand, playing on one leg, knee bent and leg/foot dangling. His flute musicianship is superb. He grounds the group in his legendary central role which was heartfelt to see. He brought back many memories whilst he performed. All in all, Act 1, Thick As A Brick came across well and set the stage for the second act.

Thick As A Brick 2 is the new recording released this year. It is better engineered for Iam Anderson’s revised vocal range. The band that performs with Ian Anderson recorded Thick As A Brick 2 with him so the co-operation is much tighter than Thick As A Brick. I was enchanted by the theatrics in Thick As A Brick 2, such as the multimedia use of various videos and graphics on the large screen behind the group. There was always something going on to keep the audience engaged and focused.

I liked the group’s cohesiveness. Thick As A Brick 2 unfolded nicely in a concert setting. I found myself intrigued by the new songs and the further story of Gerald Bostock growing up to become an adult. It was crafty of Ian Anderson to revisit the Thick As A Brick concept recording to shed more light on the character and what befalls him next.

My favorite songs on Thick As A Brick 2 are “Wootton Bassett Town” and “Banker Bets, Banker Wins”.

Jethro Tull encored with an instrumental “Aqualung” followed by “Locomotive Breath“. It was the icing on the cake of a rewarding and entertaining evening.

Benefit – Jethro Tull

My favorite Jethro Tull recording which never gets old for me is their third album, Benefit. I consider this collection of songs their greatest studio recording. My rationale is based upon the diversity of the mix of music, the recording techniques chosen at the time (speeding up the tape on “Play In Time” for example) and the addition of John Evan on keyboards.

I saw the Benefit tour in 1970 at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY. I liked the nucleus of musicians and how at ease they all seemed that evening. Little did I realize that the bass player Glenn Cornick was growing disenchanted with the group and would leave by years end to form his own band, Wild Turkey.

Musicians on Benefit were:

Ian Anderson – flute, acoustic and electric guitars, vocals
Martin Barre – electric and acoustic guitars
Clive Bunker – percussion
Glenn Cornick – bass guitar
John Evan – piano, Hammond organ

Thick As A Brick2 – Ian Anderson Plus New Developments

Lo and behold Ian Anderson has composed and recorded Thick as a Brick2 (TAAB2). It drops on April 3rd, 2012 in the United States.

TAAB2 is the 40 year update about Gerald Bostock, the fictional author of the poem used as the lyrics for the 1972 Jethro Tull album Thick as a Brick.

In 1972, Ian Anderson wrote and recorded the Jethro Tull Progressive Rock classic album `Thick As A Brick’. The lyrics were credited at the time to the fictitious child character, Gerald Bostock, whose parents supposedly lied about his age. The record instantly became a number one Billboard Chart album and enjoyed considerable success in many countries of the world.

So, forty years on, what would Gerald Bostock – aged fifty in 2012 – be doing today? What might have befallen him? The anniversary “part two” album will examine the possible different paths that the precocious young schoolboy, Gerald Bostock, might have taken later in life through alter-ego characters with song-section identities illustrating the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity. Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time.

It’s an exciting and inquisitive time for Jethro Tull fans. I have been a Jethro Tull fan since 1968. I just plugged back in to check up on what the latest happenings are with Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. I was excited to see that Ian Anderson has decided to capitalize on the 40th anniversary of Thick as a Brick in 2012. I will buy the USA Special Edition and give TAAB2 a healthy listen. I will also buy a remastered edition of Thick as a Brick as a logical companion item.

I can see from the Jethro Tull Web site that Ian Anderson is having great fun with TAAB2. There is a St. Cleve newspaper Web site, a Gerald Bostock Facebook Page and a Gerald Bostock Twitter account. My favorite tongue in cheek twist from Ian Anderson is the TAAB2 album review that has the byline by Adrian Stone-Mason (I and many other’s believe this is Ian Anderson’s written review…).

I was surprised to learn that Martin Barre, the lead guitarist of Jethro Tull has left the band (for now). All indications are is that Martin Barre’s departure was an amicable split with Ian Anderson. Martin Barre was the lead guitarist from 1969 to 2011, 42 years. Martin Barre is leading a band called New Day which is playing Jethro Tull music and songs written by Martin Barre. From what I can best gather, Martin Barre would like to play Jethro Tull songs from his frame of reference instead of the same Jethro Tull setlist night after night with Jethro Tull. I wish Martin Barre the best with his choice and look forward to seeing him perform with New Day when US tour dates are established (hoping he does a NY or Connecticut concert date).

MARTIN BARRE’S NEW DAY features the music of Jethro Tull.

The band will be :

Martin Barre – guitar
Pat O’May – guitar/vocals
John Mitchell – vocals/guitar
John Noyce – bass
Frank Mead – flute/sax./harmonica/vocals
Geoff Dunn – drums

A recent interview question asked of Martin Barre by Nancy Dunham of  Ultimate Classic Rock reveals what songs can we expect?

I will certainly play the biggies — ‘Locomotive Breathe,’ ‘Aqualung,’ ‘Cry you a Song,’ ‘Teacher,’ ‘Nothing to Say,’ ‘Home,’ ‘Minstrel in the Gallery.’ I’m throwing a few things in and there will be a lot of things that Jethro Tull hasn’t played for a long, long time. They will be played with two guitars and a sax and it’s really good. There is a huge catalog and I’m looking at songs like that, things people haven’t heard for many many years.

There will also be some of my solo stuff. I’m writing some new instrumentals so hopefully there will be two new ones. It won’t be just Jethro Tull songs (there will also be songs from some of the other musicians in this band). We’ll possibly have something from Bach but it won’t be [the Jethro Tull standard] ‘Bouree.’ I have a very difficult [flute] piece if I get the nerve.

It’s ironic that this amicable split between Martin Barre and Ian Anderson is followed by the Thick as a Brick world tour. When I read Martin Barre’s interview he is very clear in stating that the Jethro Tull concerts he was performing in were not deviating from a prescribed Jethro Tull set list. Ian Anderson and troupe will perform Thick as a Brick and TAAB2, which is a distinct shift away from the set list concern Martin Barre has expressed. Ian Anderson’s band is made up of the musicians that have accompanied him on the Rubbing Elbows tours. The new guitarist is Florian Opahle who has played with Ian Anderson since 2003.

Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY Plans Triumphant 2012 Return, Part I

The concert venue that started me on my journey to attend live music events for 42 years is the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY. It was a haven of great music in the early 1970s. I attended 12 concerts there from 1970 through 1974. I am elated to learn The Capitol Theatre will resume its preeminent role as a concert venue in our market in 2012.

The New York Times music section featured an informative article yesterday about The Capitol Theatre titled, “Live Music to Return to a Storied Theater” by C.J. Hughes. (See Related Articles link below).

The gist of the article is that Peter Shapiro who owns the Brooklyn Bowl plans to produce 100 performances a year there. The Capitol will undergo a two million dollar, four-month renovation project. This could translate into a late spring/early summer grand re-opening. Peter Shapiro is also the publisher of Relix magazine, which provides excellent coverage of the jam band scene.

I’ve never been to the Brooklyn Bowl but my son has and he really likes the venue. I am a long time reader of Relix. The magazine does a fine job of covering the alternative and rock music scene. Peter Shapiro is very well-connected in the music industry and this bodes well for us concert goers. The addition of The Capitol to the New York/Connecticut market sharpens the competition for the concert dollar. I think this may cause a couple of existing promoters to be more price competitive now.

The proximity of The Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY was beneficial for Fairfield County Connecticut residents. The lower drinking age of 18 just across the state line made it attractive to see shows there. Portchester was more adjacent than The Fillmore East in the East Village of New York City. I find it amazing that Howard Stein was able to book so many premium top rock acts at The Capitol in lieu of New York City and Bill Graham’s organization. It’s going to get interesting with Connecticut having so many venues in 2011, such as the casinos, The Ridgefield Playhouse, The Klein and The Fairfield Theatre and Infinity Hall. My concert dance card will be full later on in the 2012 season. 🙂

The NY Times Capitol Theatre article motivated me to finally write this music blog post. In order to do the topic justice, I will break the blog post in two parts. As a faithful progressive music listener, I would heard The Capitol Theater radio advertisements on WNEW-FM 102.7. My second concert at The Capitol was Traffic, Silver Metre and Swallow on June 27, 1970. We attended the 8 p.m. early show. I was fortunate to be able to buy tickets in those days at a local head shop in Norwalk, Ct. The shop owner always offered us seventh-row center seating.

The English Rock Groups at The Capitol Theatre

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Traffic and Jethro Tull were my favorite two bands in 1970. I recall that Steve Winwood wore a long sleeve white t-shirt that was covered in silver stars. It was a shirt I would later buy at the same head shop that sold me tickets and wear it the next time we saw Traffic, much to Steve Winwood’s chagrin. (He kept looking over at me puzzled where I got the shirt I was guessing…) Traffic consisted of Steve Winwood on Hammond B3 organ, guitar and vocals, Chris Wood on saxophone and flute and Jim Capaldi drums and vocals.

Notice on the bootleg cover that Steve Winwood is wearing the shirt I mentioned in the picture from that night. The two songs I remember the most from Traffic’s set were “40,000 Headmen” with Chris Wood playing the flute and “Pearly Queen”, which featured Steve Winwood performing a riveting guitar solo.

Our third concert was Jethro Tull, McKendree Spring and Livingston Taylor which again was an early show. Jethro Tull featured their third album Benefit that night. It was my second time seeing Jethro Tull (the first time was at The Fillmore East in July of 1969). It was our first Livingston Taylor concert. Little did we realize we would see Liv nine more times in later years. We bought his first record on Capricorn Records the following day as we fell in love with his music and charming wit.

I am going to go out of chronological order here to collect the acts we saw at The Capitol Theatre under the proper headings. We saw Traffic again on Halloween night, 10/31/70.  By then Traffic was increasing strongly in popularity due to FM airplay and the chart success of John Barleycorn Must Die. We noticed that the audience was more enthusiastic the second time we saw Traffic. It felt like a band I had treasured for my listening pleasure was beginning to move out of my reach. But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work in music industry circles.

We experienced this again six months later with Jethro Tull on 4/27/71 at the late show. Aqualung was receiving lots of accolades from the music critics and was getting heavy airplay on FM stations like WNEW-FM and WPLJ-FM out of New York City. My request to interview Ian Anderson and the band for our local college radio station was turned down the day of the concert by their publicist. She felt we were too small a radio station and market for the fast rising Jethro Tull. The audience was ravenous for Tull that night and I could feel the band being swept along by the success of Aqualung. Having been a loyal fan of Jethro Tull for three years I should have been psyched for their greater acceptance instead of feeling like others were tearing them away from our midst.

It proved monumental that The Capitol Theatre served as the launchpad for the fueling rocket success of Traffic and Jethro Tull in America.

Part II of my music blog about The Capitol Theatre early concert years will be posted tomorrow. It will cover the San Francisco era with such bands as Santana, The Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and Big Brother and the Holding Company.