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100 Albums: "M.U. - The Best Of Jethro Tull" by Jethro Tull

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: M.U. - The Best Of Jethro Tull
Released: 1976
Genre: classic prog

What do you do when you're a working band in England in the 60s and are so bad that you can't get booked at a club more than once? Obviously, you keep changing your name, and that's exactly what Ian Anderson's band did. Names were supplied by staffers at the band's booking agency, and when they finally got asked to come back, they were playing under the name Jethro Tull, after the famous 18th-century agriculturalist who perfected the horse-drawn seed drill.

Music. It's glamorous, yo.

For most of its history, Tull was mostly Anderson, who would play the flute while standing on one leg and wearing a codpiece, although Martin Barre was the guitarist for the entire period covered by this album. M.U. was the first proper greatest hits album for the band, containing only one new song called Rainbow Blues (embedded above). Honestly... it has their best songs on it, despite the fact that they were still playing and recording new music into 2012.

I stole this tape from my dad and it's incredibly bizarre and I love it. I love the unnecessarily long piano-jazz intro to Locomotive Breath. I love Barre's extended guitar solo on Aqualung. I love the long crescendo of Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day and the five-count measures of Living In The Past. The album includes an excerpt from Thick As A Brick, Tull's 1972 album made up of a single 32-minute song in--two parts because it wouldn't all fit on one side of a record (the opening line, hilariously, is "I really don't mind if you sit this one out"). The reason I included this retrospective instead of a proper studio album is because this is the only place you find Rainbow Blues, which is one of my favorite songs of theirs. And it opens with Teacher, which is one of their best songs, but not nearly as well-known as things like Aqualung.

Jethro Tull is a delightfully strange band and this collection is a snapshot of their best work.