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and the Beast - Ian's Reflections
The new tools of the trade which had emerged at the beginning of the 80’s were there to be tried and tested – just as we had tried the world’s first production synthesizer back in 1972 on the Thick As A Brick album – and fiddly little buttons, gobbledygook instruction manuals and the strange new world of floppy discs, bits, bytes and sample rates had to be navigated.
But underlying all this were the less-than machine-like, humanly played drums, bass and guitar lines along with flute, mandolin and the other acoustic sounds familiar to Tull fans.
Long-admired ex-Cat Stevens drumster Gerry Conway joined for the protracted sessions during 1981 and 1982 where we demoed many songs and tunes – some of which are to be found as bonus tracks on this re-mastered CD – and Dave Pegg, ex Fairport Convention bassist recorded with Tull for the second time. Not having a keyboard player at that point, I acquired an almost Rick Wakemanesque array of analogue synthesizers and gadgets which took up half the rehearsal studio at my home in Buckinghamshire. Using these to write some of the material gave an interesting twist to the woodsy and folksy elements in the songs. Later, Peter John Vettese was to join for most of the recording at Maison Rouge studios in Fulham, London, which I was to sell at the end of these sessions as a profitable studio business. Some of the songs have my original keyboard tracks still there but Peter brought his consummate pianistic skills to bear on most of the work. The new team worked in good spirit with Gerry’s rock-solid and lyrical drumming sharply contrasting the highly arranged and detailed work of his predecessors, Mark Craney and Barrie Barlow.
The title track Broadsword was a prime example of the less-is-more economy of style which led me to Gerry in the first place and the sweeping keyboards of Peter V. gave a broad and mysterious dimension to the brooding vision of longships and Viking invaders – my ancestors – bent on pillage and battle; slap and tickle.
Vocoder and sequencer combine with mandolins and flute on The Clasp, another favourite live and recorded track from this record.
But, in the wake of Punk and the dawning of the mannered art-school pop of the new wave of British bands, Broadsword did not fare too well in the USA. It was, however our fastest-selling and biggest album in Germany and did well throughout Europe.
The ho-hum response in the US was a mystery. Radio formats had changed and we were not getting the plays expected for new material. The overly-elaborate stage show looked and felt anachronistic. The pirate ship and stage cozzies were well over the top as we swashed our buckles and mainbraces were hoisted, only to collapse in a shower of tangled rigging as I cut through the ropes with a giant sword at the show’s finale. Errol Flynn with tights and a flute couldn’t have looked sillier.
But the music was some of our best and synths and gadgets aside, the brilliant guitar work of Monsieur Le Barre and my trusty acoustic additions saved the day. The bonus tracks are from these same groups of sessions and, of course, could never have fitted with the temporal limitations of vinyl.
Dedicated to the then new boys, Peter and Gerry – here is the re-mastered Broadsword replete with original and restored sonic detail. And minus the bloody pirate ship…….
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