Saturday, September 6, 2014

Jethro Tull - Under Wraps

Tomorrow (September 7th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Under Wraps, the fifteenth studio album from the British rock band Jethro Tull. This 1984 release spent twelve weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 76. It also hit number 43 in Sweden, number 18 in the UK, number 15 in Germany, and number 9 in Switzerland.

Performing on the record was Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, drum programming, and Fairlight CMI), Martin Barre (guitars), Dave Pegg (electric and acoustic bass), and Peter-John Vettese (keyboards and percussion). Anderson, who produced the album, conceived the record from his love of espionage novels. The tracks fit into an overall narrative theme.

Side one opens with “Lap of Luxury”. As the sole single, it peaked at number 70 in the UK. The prominent element on this song is the very 80’s programmed drumbeat, however Anderson’s flute recalls the classic Jethro Tull sound.

“Under Wraps #1” keeps the up-tempo beats going.

“European Legacy” brings in the flourishes of an acoustic guitar, giving the song an exotic aura.

Next up is “Later, That Same Evening”, a slower transitional song. It is one of those tracks that stands stronger in relationship with the rest of the album.

“Saboteur” attempts to bring back the dramatic tension; it succeeds for the most part.

The side ends with “Radio Free Moscow”, a look at life on the other side of the Cold War.

Side two begins with “Nobody’s Car”, a narrative about someone paranoid that he is being followed wherever he goes.

“Heat” keeps the rhythms on a steady, simmering burn. There are a lot of elements layered into the production on this one, making for a rich composition. At just over five and a half minutes, it is the longest track on the record.

“Under Wraps #2” takes the title track down an acoustic road with very favorable results.

“Paparazzi” touches upon that darker element of fame that has become a main staple in modern times, thanks to folks like TMZ and more.

The original vinyl release closes with “Apogee”, the appropriate named climaxing finale.

The later CD addition includes four tracks: “Astronomy” which was the very danceable B-side to the first single, the cold and impersonal “Tundra”, the industrial rhythms of “Automotive Engineering” and the quirky and funky “General Crossing”. These four appeared on the cassette version of the album as well, with the first three also appearing on the 12 inch single release of “Lap of Luxury”.

This was my first listen to Under Wraps and I liked it well enough Jethro Tull went down a similar road to update their sound for the 80’s as did Yes on 1983’s 90125 (click here for that review). I don’t feel Tull was as successful as their fellow progressive rock brothers though, and the lack of any memorable hits meant the album would fall away with the sands of time. Had I heard this one back in the day, I likely would have picked it up. It really fits in well with the 80’s British new-wave sound that I enjoy.

No comments: