The Zealot Gene by Jethro Tull

Release date: January 28, 2022
Label: InsideOut Music

Ten years ago something wonderful had happened to me. I was in my late ‘20s when I went to see the legendary Ian Anderson at the Bayou Music Center (formerly known as the Verizon Wireless Theater) performing both Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and his fifth solo album, TAAB2 in its entirety. It was in honour of Tull’s fifth studio album which marked the 40th anniversary of the album’s release by parodying the concept album genre.

The show was filled with music, humour, imagery, and fun. The audience had the night of their lives. And it was a moment they’ll never forget. Back in 2003, the band released their 21st studio album entitled, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. It was the last to feature Martin Barre, Andrew Giddings, Jonathan Noyce, and Doane Perry. And then we didn’t hear much after that.

It was almost as if they had left us on a cliffhanger, not knowing where the next chapter in Tull’s history will take us. Until now. The 22nd release on the InsideOut label called The Zealot Gene is a welcoming return for Jethro Tull. The 12 songs on this album are taken from the passages of the Old Testament.

This isn’t the first time the band had tackled themes of religion. The second side of Aqualung which contained three tracks from the album; ‘My God’, ‘Hymn 43’, and ‘Wind-Up’ deal with the issues of reflection while the 1973 controversial masterpiece A Passion Play, explores this spiritual journey about living in the afterlife from the mind of Ronnie Pilgrim.

 

Here on The Zealot Gene, Ian has come full circle to bring the religious themes once more to a swift sunrise. The opening ‘Mrs. Tibbets’ is Enola Gay Tibbets, mother of Paul Tibbets who was known as the aircraft captain who flew the B-29 super fortress when it dropped a little boy, one of the first two atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

Tackling the issue of killing, you hear these soaring organs from John O’Hara flowing through the sky as Ophale’s pumping guitar lines come at you with an exhilarating solo work, followed by the dramatic scenery and ambient synths coming at you unexpectedly. What I loved Ian’s flute improvisation on this song, he does this little nod to the Canadian animated series from the late ‘80s of the end credits to Babar.

‘Jacob’s Tale’ is about this angry competition between two siblings to see who can make it to the finish line. Singing and playing the acoustic guitar and mandolin, it’s great to see Tull returning both to the late ‘70s Folk-Rock trilogy and the blues harmonica roots on their This Was-era in 1968 as ‘Mine is the Mountain’ continues where ‘My God’ had left off.

With its cavernous vocals, waltz midsection, and the brutal humour and soaring arrangements, Ian lets listeners know that God is someone you don’t want to piss off, big time. The militant guitar riff intro on the title-track, becomes a sing-along song for Ian to become Long John Silver, searching for the hidden treasure. Flying synthesisers make it sound like you’re on the highway, not knowing what is going to happen next before you head back to sea and walking on this dangerous tightrope that await you.

I would like to talk about ‘The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde’ and drummer Scott Hammond. When you hear his introduction on the song, I felt a little tug to the opening of Billy Squier’s ‘The Stroke’ for a couple of seconds before returning to the brutal piano work and heavy guitar chords from O’Hara and Ophale.

The clock begins ticking as it deals with a trustworthy person who think is honourable, has an entire dark side they don’t want you to know. And then in a nano second, they can stab you in the back right in front of your eyes by bringing corruption, greed, and violence to their entire city like there’s no tomorrow.

Sung in the style of ‘Cheap Day Return’, ‘Where Did Saturday Go?’ is almost a nod the lyrical title ‘Where did my Spring Go?’ by Ray Davies from the sessions of The Kinks’ magnum opus, The Village Green Preservation Society as the eerie flute / guitar melody of ‘Shoshana Sleeping’ takes you into a world of….well, listen to the song and you can tell what the song is really about.

The Zealot Gene is the right album at the right time to be released during the pandemic. And while it took the band four years to bring this album to life, it is an astonishing release from Jethro Tull. I had no idea what to expect when I put my earphones on and listened to this album from start to finish. But after my journey with The Zealot Gene, this here is an adventure you need to take.

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