Jethro Tull – The Zealot Gene

Posted: 4.2.2022

Review Erik Neuteboom

Wikipedia info. The album originated in January 2017, when vocalist and flautist Ian Anderson started to write new songs and how a new album would take shape. Early into the process, he decided that it was to be a Jethro Tull album because the line-up of the group at that time had become the longest lasting in its history, but had not been involved on a studio recording under its name. It was a productive time, and seven tracks were recorded in March of that year. Further work on the album was put on hold in order for Anderson and the band to finish touring commitments in 2018 and 2019, and Anderson felt it would have been unfair to have the group back in the studio during the small amounts of down time. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, in early 2021 Anderson "gave up hope" and decided to put down his parts to the remaining five songs alone at his home studio. These last five songs are acoustic based and without drums, partly because Hammond was unable to record at home. The band recorded their individual parts in a similar manner, leaving Anderson to assemble the various tracks to form a complete song. By July 2021, the album was complete and delivered to Inside Out.

The Zealot Gene is the first Jethro Tull studio album to feature an entirely new line-up (other than Anderson), with guitarist Florian Opahle (who left the band between its recording and release), bassist David Goodier, keyboardist John O'Hara, and drummer Scott Hammond replacing four-fifths of The Jethro Tull Christmas Album lineup–Martin Barre, Jonathan Noyce, Andrew Giddings and Doane Perry respectively. It is also the first album since This Was (1968) not to involve Barre in any capacity, as he was not asked to return when Anderson reformed Jethro Tull.

 After a few listening sessions I conclude that the first song entitled Mrs Tibbets is not only the longest one (close to 6 minutes) but also the most dynamic and captivating song. First Sparkling flute traverse work and the distinctive voice of Ian Anderson, in a tight beat with soaring keyboards. Halfway an accellaration and a powerful flute solo, fuelled by rock guitar riffs. Finally a blistering guitar solo with wah wah, wow, from folky to heavy rock!

 So if the first song is by far the best, how about the other 11 tracks. Well, most deliver mellow atmospheres featuring Ian Anderson his pleasant voice and omnipresent flute traverse play, embellished with a pleasant variation in instruments: from acoustic rhythm guitar, mouth organ and tin-whistle to mandolin and accordion. Some compositions feature fat rock guitar riffs or heavy guitar soli, the melodic rock side of Jethro Tull. But in general it’s more folky oriented, a kind of troubadour music, with rock and prog tendencies.