Jethro Tull – Rökflöte (2023)


Oops, I'm venturing on slippery ice now, I realize that. Jethro Tull is one of the great names in the history of prog rock. Ian Anderson is an icon and has contributed greatly to the acceptance of the flute in rock music. In particular, the contrast with the excellent rock guitar parts of Martin Barre led to a lot of exiting tunes. But that version of Tull no longer exists. Aqualung has long been a thing of the past, but it's still my favourite album from the early days. Later the album A was added, very different but also good. Crest of a Knave and Broadsword and the Beast are very nice albums too.

Now you could argue that Jethro Tull has always been Anderson and the rest and I must say that I can relate to that. As a singer, flutist, guitarist and above all inimitable frontman he belongs to the top and that deserves respect without any form of reserve. Of course there were a lot of very capable musicians in Tull through the years but Tull is Anderson.

Why this elaborate intro?

Past performances are no guarantee for success in the present. Can you feel where I am going?

Let me start by saying that I find it amazing that a man of respectable age, he was born in 1947!, still sounds so fresh and enthusiastic and releases new music. On Rökflöte, the band's 23rd album, there are 12 relatively short tracks that all bear the clear signature of Anderson and can therefore be labelled as real Tull songs. Is it prog? Hard to say but for me it lacks too much to pass for prog but that's another discussion. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but it does colour my judgment quite a bit because I'm a rusty old man and not very open-minded. (when it comes to music at least)

The overall theme is Norse Paganism, so you could speak of a kind of concept album, but it doesn't feel that way. Especially the lyrics at the beginning, Voluspo, and end, Ithavoll, of the album are clear markings and are a sort of poems in an ancient northern language.

Does Anderson still play and sing well? Yes, his unmistakable voice is still fine and the flute still sounds good.

Are the rest of the musicians any good? Yes, they are all excellent musicians. The line-up is David Goodier on bass, John O'Hara on keyboards, Scott Hammond on drums and Joe Parrish James on guitars. All great musicians.

Does the album sound good? Yes, Nick Watson's mix sounds open and transparent and there's nothing wrong with that.

So what is my problem?

The tracks don't touch me, not at all. And it's been that way for some time. Predecessor The Zealot Gene didn't impress me either.

Is this so bad then? No, because fortunately there are enough people who are very happy with Rökflöte.

Without looking at the past, I hear freely interchangeable songs without shocking melodies with predictable structure. Sorry Ian. Forward singles Ginnungagap and The Navigators are smooth rock songs that are very accessible but I just expect more in terms of variety and originality as in the ........... Oh dear, there I ‘ve done it anyway, looking at the past, and maybe I shouldn't.

Well then, listen to Rökflöte with the attitude that it is an album of a new band without history I hear you say. Good idea, but that just doesn’t work for me because Ian Anderson is just too recognizable and the music too clear Tull for that.

Please try it yourself because I definitely don't want to be an old sour plum just looking back. I still hear fantastic albums every year that touch me deeply, but sadly enough Rökflöte is not one of them.


Music 40

Cover 70