I’ve long held a special place in my heart for British hard/prog/folk rockers Jethro Tull. Charismatic frontman Ian Anderson was as theatrical and over-the-top as any of his peers (in the best possible way, of course) and their best albums — “Benefit,” “Aqualung,” “Thick as a Brick,” “Minstrel in the Gallery,” “Songs From the Wood” — have held up remarkably well over the past 40-plus years.
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of 1976 release “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: To Young to Die,” an incredibly ambitious — if ultimately so-so — undertaking initially envisioned as a stage musical about an aging rocker. In anticipation of the milestone, Parlophone has issued a mammoth 2-CD/2-DVD set that should be catnip for hardcore Jethro Tull fans.
The CDs the original album and a previously unreleased re-recorded version made especially for a 1976 British television special, as well as a handful of songs earmarked for the unfinished album, and associated recordings never before available on CD. The title track is the centerpiece of the album — and one of my favorite Tull songs of all time — and the lads also score with “Quiz Kid,” “Crazed Institution,” “From a Dead Beat to an Old Geezer” and “The Chequered Flag (Dead or Alive).” Among the new tunes, “Salamander’s Rag Time,” “Commerical Traveller” and “Strip Cartoon” are the ones you’ll remember.
The DVDs feature the British TV special in its wonderfully pretentious entirety. Anderson & Co. over-emote their way through the 43-minute set, with the rudimentary production values of the era adding to the unintentional comedy. There also are audio-only tracks on the DVDs that figure to appeal to serious audiophiles only. If you enjoy Jethro Tull, theis deluxe version “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die” is worth the upgrade. (Jeffrey Sisk)