hether or not he fronts the ‘best heavy metal band‘, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has proven repeatedly that his heart is in the write place. No; it’s not a typo, it’s just that some of us can put words to paper (or pixel) but very few can put their heart into those words.
More famous for their enthusiastic rock tunes, it’s the seemingly endless stream of quieter works which keep me captivated after all these years. Very few of Anderson’s acoustic compositions receive the ubuquitous airplay of “Aqualung” or “Locomotive Breath” but it’s those songs which are a truer picture of the man. I had the opportunity see Ian in a very small private venue, and during the show he talked about how those tunes were written. I had asked him if, when recording “Wond’ring Aloud“, he was already planning “Wond’ring Again” from “Living in the Past” as a sequel. His answer was, “An excellent question; one, in fact, which I have never been asked before. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the answer is.”
He did discuss the little acoustic works in general. Frequently arriving at the studio long before his bandmates, he would start by recording the vocals and acoustic guitar for a song he was writing, and then decide that it sounded fine just like that. Since their agreement stated that only those performers actually included in a recording got paid for it, he realized it was financially lucrative to record on his own if he got the chance. The rest of the band, of course, would have preferred to be involved (and to get paid) and when the rest of “Wond’ring Aloud” was finally recorded, it was as a group, not a solo.
Tull’s second album “Stand Up“, released in 1969, is a trove of lost gems. Besides such classics as “Bouree”, “New Day Yesterday”, and “Nothing Is Easy”, there are at least three heart-wrenching quiet numbers which deserve infinitely more attention than they’ve received. I’ll be addressing only one, with a promise to return to the others as soon as I can.
“Look Into The Sun” closes what used the be called the first side of the album. Although the electric guitar plays a role in the tune’s sound, it has a very strong acoustic feeling, and was engineering in a way that maintains it. Opening with both guitars, but leaning heavily on the acoustic, Ian’s voice provides the primary melody, making it seem vital to really listen to the words; words telling us that, no matter how much one person loves, it takes two people to be in love.
I had waited for time to change her. The only change that came was over me.
It's not easy singing sad songs when you can sing the song to make me glad.
Like Jude Cole, Anderson has been happily married for a very long time, but his lyrics make it clear that he fully understands the anguish of love lost, or perhaps, love never found.