Entering their 55th year in existence, Jethro Tull are an evergreen presence in British rock music. It is quite phenomenal when considering the amount this band have produced over the decades with their truly unique style, ranging from prog to blues to folk to jazz to rock, all mixed up with the creative genius that is Ian Anderson.
Jethro Tull – The Zealot Gene (Inside Out Music)
Release Date: 28 January 2022
Words: Sid Kissinger
Even now, there is no known rock band that have incorporated the flute into their line-up like Tull. Jethro Tull are, well, Jethro Tull! There is no other way of putting it.
The Zealot Gene is Tull’s 22nd studio album, five years in the making, and is what any music fan craves – a well thought through concept album, with the time taken to perfect the details and recorded superbly.
Arguably, not many bands have such a luxury, but thankfully Tull does and have used all that experience and creative freedom to write this tantalising album. The clarity and attention to detail in the recording and mastering is perfect without being overbearing.
The songs were, for most parts, recorded live together in the studio as a band. This allows the songs to breathe and feel very natural and smooth, as you might expect when seeing the band perform live. Musicians and bands with this much knowledge often produce better as they go on, much like an excellent vintage wine.
However, being Tull, this wine is no doubt a quirky Blackberry wine, to be sipped outside in the long grass on a British summer’s evening.
Tull are known for their folk influences, which is perhaps where the lyrical storytelling style is from. This album is no different, with the theme being tales and interpretations from the Bible. Careful, this is not some kind of religious enlightenment moment that Anderson has had over the past years, but a more questioning and examining approach of both positive and negative aspects of the stories and characters.
As Anderson himself says, “some Christian fanatics will feel I have tweaked their tails. The secular and the unbelieving will think I am reborn as an irksome proselytiser of the faith. And some will, hopefully, just enjoy the music and not scrutinise too closely.”
From the artwork cover to the lyrics, the theme of ‘black and white’ and how modern society is increasingly split emanates in the messages here as well. Not least in the title track, The Zealot Game, which includes lyrics that bridge the ancient stories of the Bible with our modern situations – “The black and white, the stereotype, the polarising pitch at play while some of us sit in between, interminable shades of grey.”
Anderson himself admits to being a professional fence-sitter, and further in the same song, sings, “The populist with dark appeal, the pandering to hate which xenophobic scaremongers deliver on a plate to tame the pangs of hunger and satisfy the lust. Slave to ideology, moderation bites the dust.”
Enjoying the music without scrutinising the lyrics too closely is definitely possible, but for many, these strong messages and stories will no doubt provide a rich contribution to enjoying this album, even if the occasional line can cause a smile at the playfulness amongst the serious messages, such as “a wasp right up the bum.”
Returning to the music itself, it is pure Tull brilliance. Anderson’s flute flutters over those crunching guitars, which have that distinct Tull sound to them no matter who is playing them.
Many of the sounds will be tastily familiar, yet there are elements that show off how versatile the band are and their ability to create new soundscapes. For example, the rich and wonderful mouth organ sound at the forefront of Jacob’s Tale, the haunting piano in Mine Is The Mountain or the jovial accordion in Sad City Sisters.
“Sad City Sisters throws up memories of a Saturday night in Cardiff, Wales,” Ian Anderson said, “when I was on my way home from our concert in St David’s Hall some years ago. It could equally well have been any town in the UK, I suppose, or even most cities of the Western World.
“What possesses hell-bent and vulnerable young people to slip so easily into that tragic loss of dignity and end up sprawling drunk in a wet and windy street at midnight?”
Overall the album leans towards the more progressive rockier side to Tull’s repertoire and will be cherished by fans both old and new.
The original Jethro Tull was known for his creations, contributing towards the agricultural progress in Britain. This Jethro Tull are no different in their continued contribution to this wonderful music world.
The Zealot Gene is available in following formats:
Special Edition Digipak CD
Limited 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook
Limited Deluxe 3LP+2CD+Blu-ray Artbook
The Deluxe 3LP+2CD+Blu-ray Artbook comes on white vinyl and includes a 3rd LP with the rough demos. It also includes a slipmat and a numbered art print. The blu-ray includes a 5.1 surround sound mix by Jakko Jakszyk (King Crimson).
For more details, visit jethrotullband.lnk.to/TheZealotGene
The Zealot Gene
1. Mrs. Tibbets (5:54)
2. Jacob’s Tales (2:13)
3. Mine Is The Mountain (5:40)
4. The Zealot Gene (3:54)
5. Shoshana Sleeping (3:41)
6. Sad City Sisters (3:40)
7. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John (3:37)
8. The Betrayal Of Joshua Kynde (4:06)
9. Where Did Saturday Go? (3:53)
10. Three Loves, Three (3:30)
11. In Brief Visitation (3:00)
12. The Fisherman Of Ephesus (3:41)