ROUND TABLE REVIEW
Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus
PART ONE: CHRONICLES - Doggerland (4:20), Heavy Metals (1:29), Enter The Uninvited (4:12), Puer Ferox Adventus (7:11), Meliora Sequamur (3:32), The Turnpike Inn (3:08), The Engineer (3:12), The Pax Britannica (3:05)
PART TWO: PROPHECIES - Tripudium Ad Bellum (2:48), After These Wars (4:28), New Blood, Old Veins (2:31)
PART THREE: REVELATIONS - In For A Pound (0:36), The Browning Of The Green (4:05), Per Errationes Ad Astra (1:33), Cold Dead Reckoning (5:28)
Ian Anderson / vocals, flute, acoustic guitar
John O'Hara / Hammond organ, piano, keyboards
David Goodier / bass guitar, glockenspiel
Florian Opahle / electric guitar
Scott Hammond / drums, percussion
Ryan O'Donnell / vocals
James Turner's Review
I have been a huge Jethro Tull fan ever since I discovered the delights of Aqualung, and my favourite era of Tull music has always been the purple period that Ian Anderson hit with Too Old to Rock and Roll and the trilogy of Heavy Horses, Songs from the Wood and Stormwatch. However until the release of Thick as Brick 2 back in 2012, everything had been very quiet on the Anderson/Tull front. Luckily it seems like Ian Anderson has the bit between his teeth again since renewing his collaboration with Gerald Bostock. Homo Erraticus, the second Ian Anderson album in 2 years, is the sound of classic Tull updated and refined, launching straight into some fantastic musical performances and lyrical tour de forces from Anderson.
Rockier than the last couple of Tull outings and mixing all kinds of influences topped off with Anderson's unique vocals, opener Doggerland is reminiscent of the work done on the underrated Stormwatch album with some great vocals and lyrics. Enter the Uninvited is another stand out track, with its driving rock sound and spoken word listing, almost a rap piece, discussing contemporary culture. In a piece of tongue in cheek wordplay Anderson even manages to name check his son-in-law Andrew Lincoln's character from The Walking Dead. The Turnpike Inn is another superb track with some great musical work and vocals from Anderson.
Anderson's voice has matured nicely over the years, and his wit and observational way of writing has also been honed which is all distilled nicely into these 15 tracks that cover human history in all its forms. With superb instrumental pieces like the funky, folky, flute driven Tripudium Ad Bellum which leads into the reflective and rather beautiful piano driven ballad After These Wars with its sharp lyrics and moving vocals making it a musical tour de force and probably the best song Anderson has written in the last 20 years. He returns to the subjects of Zombies on the electronic and percussion driven Cold Dead Reckoning (which could easily have dropped off Broadsword and the Beast), its power and drive comes from the lyrical images which name check the opening track and the musical performances, finishing the album on a high.
The musical accompaniment throughout this album is fantastic, and the sympathetic production brings out the best in the material. With its mix of folk rock, classic prog and wonderfully observed lyrics and imagery throughout, there truly is something for everyone here, and it reminds you, if you needed reminding, as to how important a songwriter Ian Anderson is and the impact he has had on the music scene. Homo Erraticus is the sound of a musical master at work. Listen, enjoy and hope you can get tickets to see Ian Anderson on tour!
Owen Davies' Review
Ian Anderson arranged a blind date with the muse on 1st January 2013. As a result, Homo Erraticus, Anderson's latest musical offspring, was conceived. The results of this initial encounter were apparently healthy and successful. Over the course of the next few months the pas de deux was repeated and a lengthy period of gestation followed. The quickening occurred as both the concept and tunes were honed and refined towards their natural resolution and technical birth. The final result, Homo Erraticus is slated for delivery on the 14th April where it will join a welcoming family of six albums released in some form under the Ian Anderson moniker.
Incidentally, Homo... is a close sibling of Thick As A Brick 2 as it involves the same musicians who in 2011 performed and delivered that album. That release was packaged as "Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson" and was the follow up to 1972's Magnum Opus Thick As A Brick. This latest work is explicitly packaged as an Ian Anderson release however, unsurprisingly, Homo Erraticus is inseparably linked in its overall style to the larger extended family of albums that were begat and conceived by Anderson as part of his relationship with Jethro Tull.
The concept of Homo Erraticus concerns the writings of a fictional character, Ernest T. Parritt (1865-1928), who in an unpublished manuscript examines key and future events of British history. The manuscript, entitled "Homo Erraticus", was apparently discovered by one Gerald Bostock, the renowned lyricist of Thick as a Brick. Gerald was captivated by the documents, testimonies and prophecies, viewing them as metaphor for modern life, and felt compelled to write lyrics to interpret their meaning and reflect upon humanity's propensity for migration. Apparently, Anderson created the music to accompany and embellish this weighty concept. The results of this spoof assignation are now unleashed on an unsuspecting worldwide audience.
The project is divided into three parts; Part 1 deals with the past, Part 2 relates to Paritt's prophecies and the final part, entitled Revelations, offers listeners an insight into the future. The question is - does the final result do justice to the concept, one that is concerned with an extravagant reflection on the migration of the wandering man, Homo Erraticus, through past, present and beyond?
Anderson's flute - spitting, snarling, and trilling - dances upon a rock-based landscape providing structured moments and melodies of delicate beauty. In contrast, unfurled and unfettered the flute exultantly detonates in short inspired bursts. These provide frequent moments of pure excitement and exhilarating flute rock.
For those who appreciate the music of Jethro Tull or Ian Anderson, Homo Erraticus provides much to enjoy. It is dominated by the characteristics associated with Tull releases through the ages, in particular Roots to Branches, J-Tull Dot Com and the more successful aspects of TAAB 2 are brought to mind. Nevertheless, there is enough within Homo... that is fresh and innovative.
An example is the opening track, Doggerland, reminiscent in its chorus of Roots to Branches rather than classic '70s Tull. It is led by a driving flute rock rhythm that is contrasted with attractive melodic vocal and keyboard parts. The highlight though, without doubt, is the instrumental section. This part is archetypal in both its structure and execution, but nonetheless has sufficient originality to satisfy. The passage begins with a repeated flute riff, Florian Opahle is given an opportunity to dispel any doubters as his superbly implemented guitar solo reaches parts only imagined by others. This fretted spell is broken all too soon as John O'Hara's classic Hammond sounds take over. Opahle's playing, often low in the mix, tastefully embellishes the majority of the compositions. For example, he offers a wonderfully constructed and emotive solo in the powerful ballad After These Wars. The music and performance of the ensemble throughout is tightly coiled and arranged and the quality of the playing is impressive. Consequently, I longed for instrumental passages such as this to spring free, develop further and last significantly longer. The tune resumes, and then falls back once again into a chorus and verse structure, before ending with a flute fadeout.
The bright acoustic track Heavy Metals follows. Anderson has always had a penchant for creating short effective interlude tunes and this one does not disappoint. Heavy Metals is firmly embedded in the style and instrumentation of the shorter pieces on TAAB 2 such as Upper Sixth Loan Shark and Give Till It Hurts, but is far more effective. Subtle influences of church music permeate the piece. Backing vocals cleverly produce the rhythm of a forge and create a contemplative effect.
Homo Erraticus contains two other satisfyingly impressive acoustically based tracks of which the delightful Meliora Sequamur has become a favourite. In this, the influence of church music is even more explicit. Ryan O'Donnell's warm tenor voice in partnership with Anderson is particularly effective. This vocal approach creates an Olde English sound somewhat similar to Amazing Blondel's Spring Season from Evensong. Anderson's total mastery of his craft is apparent in the short but unforgettable In For a Pound. At just 37 seconds long it proudly takes over the mantle from The Minstrel in The Gallery's Grace, as Anderson's shortest but sweetest song.
One of the most intriguing tracks on offer is Enter The Uninvited. Certainly, it is a track which despite repeated plays has yet to fully offer up all of its facets. It has a hauntingly sparse instrumental prelude. This ranks in quality and atmosphere alongside the memorable beginning of Strange Avenues from Rock Island. The dominant recurring instrumental theme of Enter the Uninvited is never less than captivating. In this track Anderson explores some of the vocal spoken phrasings that were used in Hot Mango Flush in Tull's 1999 Dot Com release. For some, Mango... was a low point of Tull's recording career, an approach hopefully never to be repeated. However, within Enter The Uninvited the style works well and contrasts interestingly with the other vocal parts.
In the longest piece, Puer Ferox Adventus, John O'Hara's subtle keyboard work excels. It also contains some of the most evocative and effective lyrics of the album, Anderson clearly enunciating events surrounding the emergence of faith in the British Isles.
Throughout Homo Erraticus, Anderson's vocal performance is more than adequate. Nevertheless, listeners might find that his now limited vocal range ensures that some of the vocal parts sound uncannily similar. It is possible that vocal limitations have hindered and limited the tonal range which Anderson feels that he can use within his compositions. Given this, some may feel, that there is a disproportionate use of vocals. The wordy nature of many of the compositions has the potential to bring about listener fatigue and Homo Erraticus is certainly loquacious and lyrically expansive. Anderson's delivery of the lyrics can appear to be awkward. On occasion the words sung do not seem to match the music. Arguably, this has been a feature of aspects of his songwriting since Rupis Dance.
No such concerns surround Tripudium Ad Bellum. Tightly spun, this is a stunning instrumental piece that shifts, growls and bounces along in an exceptional manner. As such, it is an undeniable highlight.
In the final analysis, it may be that Anderson's blind date with the muse was not such an innovative and creative encounter as one may have wished for. Blind dates can of course be unsuccessful. Chance, unplanned encounters based upon mysterious chemistry might, in the long run, have proved to be more truly inspirational, ground breaking and rewarding for Anderson for although entertaining and compelling, Homo Erraticus is not, it seems, as individually unique as might be imagined or hoped for.
Upon detailed analysis, a number of the tracks contain intentional, or unintentional, references to earlier works. For example, The Pax Brittanica has references to the middle bit of Thick As a Brick. It also appears to contain an amalgam of aspects of Mayhem Maybe from the Broadsword... sessions and Last Man at the Party from the Christmas Album. For me at least , this uneasy alliance between the new and the old just does not work. Despite its attractive hook and David Goodier's fine bass harmonics, it is a piece that I have frequently skipped. In a similar manner, the satisfying rock tune Turnpike Inn bears a passing resemblance to Kismet from TAAB 2. If that was not enough to make one consider the cogency of Anderson's pas de deux with the muse, the thoroughly enjoyable New Blood, Old Veins contains some similarities to Two Short Planks from Rupis Dance.
Notwithstanding this, Homo Erraticus is a more than welcome addition to the canon of Anderson works. It is on occasion a very impressive album and is altogether more satisfying than TAAB 2. Although I thoroughly enjoyed it, Homo Erraticus is in many ways anomalous and idiosyncratic. This is summed up by the beautiful instrumental passage that ends the album which is unconnected by what has preceded it. The passage stands alone, a beacon of creative musical brilliance shining towards the future. If Homo... was judged by its concept alone then this might well be considered a classic progressive rock release. Musically though, more rock than prog, it has an eclectic and endearing quality that straddles it somewhat precariously between the solo works of Ian Anderson and the larger family of Tull. In this context I hope that it does not falter or fall, weighed down by the expectations of past achievements, unnoticed into the pit of indifference. I look forward expectantly to see how Homo Erraticus is transferred to a live setting. It was initially created with live performances in mind. The piece was then organically refined in the studio as an entity to grow and develop further on the stage.
Now ready to take on this role, I am confident that it will not disappoint, and, as Bostock might say, 'I really don't think you should sit this one out'.
Marcel Hartenberg's Review
Ian Anderson is back! And not just Ian. Alongside him we once again find the renowned Gerald Bostock, who since reappearing on Thick As A Brick 2, now joins forces for a third time with Ian. This time, Gerald set out to put historic texts by the, may I say, sadly deceased historian Ernest T. Parritt into lyrics. Joining Ian Anderson in what sounds as Tull as ever, are the band that Ian toured with on the TAAB 2 tour, John O'Hara on keyboards, David Goodier on bass, Scott Hammond on drums and Florian Opahle on guitars, the maestro himself again responsible for duties on vocals, flute, mandolin, acoustic guitar, bouzouki and harmonica.
In Doggerland the band open on steam with Ian's voice in good shape, the instrumental duelling halfway through the song between flute and guitar and then keys make the song very playful and somewhat heavy. Yet to these ears, it truly sounds like, ehm, music. Never before has a song been so misleading in title as Heavy Metals as it has nothing to do with riffs or shredding guitar, the song tells about the Iron Age and is set in a medieval context, beautifully so, rather than using any thrash, speed, doom or whatever setting.
The whole of the album deals with British history and goes even beyond as it holds some events to take place in the future. Even though Ian Anderson may be known for his sometimes tongue in cheek lyrics, there are serious points stated here as well. Nature being overthrown for the mass production of food is but one of these notions, in The Browning Of The Green. Anderson has Parritt featured as a critical viewer of how the British have undergone these developments and remains critical of things yet to come. The way the album is built, 15 songs about British history and beyond, make this an inspiring concept. That's enough about the background of the album, what of the music? Like I said in the first lines, this is labelled as an Ian Anderson solo album, several spins after the first one though I can only say this sounds as much Tull as they ever did in their heyday. Think way back to Minstrel In The Gallery, Songs From The Wood, even Heavy Horses comes to mind. The album has a warm and authentic sound which, to these ears, summons the resemblance. It's the feel, the production that makes this wandering man, as we may translate Homo Erraticus, a long lost friend once more passing by. Yes, bring on the wine, raise your glasses and let this band of merry men do what they do best; be the minstrel, the inspired critic to life as it was, is and might be.
Although most of the tracks do not surpass the 4 minute mark, the way the songs are arranged, within this particular concept, makes for an album that is more than just 15 songs. Ian has once again succeeded in writing an album that has the ability to draw you in. Not only is there the history you might want to follow, Britain through Bostock's eyes and words, there is plenty of variety in the songs. We know that Tull's forté is the interplay between the instruments often in balance with Ian's vocal lines, and there is plenty of that throughout the album. But there is more; Puer Ferox Adventus (Wild child coming) opens quite solemnly and the song remains at that pace until around the 3 minute mark when the song turns heavier and pulls out all the stops when the instruments take the lead even a bit further. At 7:11 this is the longest song on the album and a genuine Tull classic in the making. Meliora Sequamur (Let us follow better things) gets you in a medieval mood, not unlike Blackmore's Night and even reminds, in a way, of Trans Siberian Orchestra. The Turnpike Inn holds another likeness to Blackmore's Night and shows that the band really enjoy what they do. What else to say? Hear the enthusiasm in Ian's voice and listen to the interplay between the merry men. It shows, it's audible: Ian Anderson is back! Mind you, good Sir, Jethro Tull are back!
As far as I am concerned, I cannot but give this album a sincere recommendation. On my behalf I dare say a high mark.
Ian Butler's Review
One of progressive rock's original pioneers and protagonists is back in the spotlight. After Thick as Brick 2, Ian Anderson is releasing the new album Homo Erraticus. It's a concept album based upon a manuscript by Ernest T. Parrit which describes the history of Britain, so expect the material to reflect the historical theme.
It appears like a similar-ish theme to Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick (TAAB) and Ian Anderson's TAAB2 (TAAB was based on a poem by Gerald Bostock, TAAB2 explored the different paths that Gerald's life could have taken. The Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson) website will give you the full story).
My initial impressions were frustrating. Listening to this album overlapped with Transatlantic's new album, Kaleidoscope, which is akin to someone dropping a match in a firework distribution depot. Perhaps this caused me to be initially disappointed with Homo Erraticus? As a Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson fan, was I myself 'thick as a brick' for not getting it? I am not sure, but revisiting this album over 3 weeks at different stages warmed me again to the unique music that only Ian Anderson can produce.
Given the historical link for the album it doesn't surprise me that the sound and music on the album is more Jethro Tull than solo Ian Anderson, but to me the musical boundaries are blurred (even information about this Ian Anderson album is on the Jethro Tull website). The album incorporates many classic traits of the Jethro Tull sound over the years. The usual combinations of heavier guitar riffing meeting folky accordion and rasping flute. It means that you don't have to be familiar with Ian Anderson's solo works like Walk Into Light and The Secret Language of Birds to enjoy this album, but perhaps at least aware of TAAB.
Here are my highlights of the album. From the off, the first track Doggerland could have been from a new Jethro Tull album. The combination of chuggy guitar riffs, flute and references to "all things natural things", land, ice and snow, moors and Scapa Flow could all fit in thematically with the tracks like Tull's Jack in the Green etc. The riffing and phrasing also reminded me a little of Tull's track The Clasp. The ironically titled Heavy Metals follows next, which is a delicate short acoustic guitar piece, a small ditty if you will. I guess this may be describing the Iron Age period of British history (before the Romans permanently arrived in the British Isles in 43AD after Julius Ceasar's exploratory events of 55 and 54 BC. There you are, some British history for you, but I digress).
Not unsuprisingly due to the theme of the album there are 'periodic' melodies galore. Gregorian chants, medieval harpsichords, traditional folky guitar and accordion phrases. I am guessing that probably the heavier guitar sound can represent the later British Industrial Revolution. Enter the Uninvited follows and verbally introduces the Romans and Anglo Saxons to the British Isles and references modern day culture too. The Pax Brittanica brings more flute and guitar riffing followed by some TAAB/'jester in the court' piano pomp. If Ian Anderson had to take a song to the 'Last Night of the Proms', this might be it.
For me the stand out track must be Tripudium Ad Bellum. It's a lovely number which slides effortlessly into a gorgeous jazzy rhythm that sails as perilously close as possible to a blatant new version of Tull's Living in the Past (but that's OK, right?). It's pretty much sumptuous classic Jethro Tull, but officially it isn't! I am sure in concert this is an opportunity to expand this number and rock out! This got me right back into the album.
As you would expect, all the music is finely executed by Ian and his band. Guitarist Florian Opahle, bassist David Goodier, keyboardist and accordionist John O'Hara, drummer Scott Hammond and Ryan O'Donnell on 'vocals and stage antics. It's a very slick, polished and mature sounding album, but personally I wanted a bit more edgy sound. Although that could have been to do with the production, or more likely the inanely dull nature of the audio files delivered to DPRP to assess this album. Perhaps the combination of these two fooled me in my first assessments?
After these Wars is slow and builds up to allow the more than capable Florian Ophale to pull out some sweet creamy bluesy rock solos. Nothing revolutionary here, but quite fitting. If Ian Anderson sacked the current Jethro Tull line-up and replaced them with these guys and called it Tull, would it be a Tull album? Probably. Ian Anderson can make a Jethro Tull album a bit like David Gilmour can make a Pink Floyd album I suppose. I am sure Ian is fed up to the teeth with this kind of comment, if he had a pound for every time he heard it...
In for a Pound represents another quite typical Ian Anderson short acoustic guitar ditty, using British phrasing and sayings. Per Errationes Ad Astra is a reading delivered by Ian Anderson, as only he can place the emphasis on words.
As I said at the start, initially I was a little disappointed; nothing really grabbed me except Tripudium Ad Bellum. It really is an album to sit down and pay some attention to. Only then do the finer points and intricacies come across; effortless time signatures and the combination of fantastic melodies played on a variety instruments. It's actually too easy to overlook this record and looking back I haven't heard anything like this for a while. The quality, precision and flow of the story comes through, rather than individual track epics that knock you off your seat. The devil is in the detail as they say. It's an Ian Anderson album that uses lots of Jethro Tull moments and inspiration, but that's allowed right because he's the master and thematically it all started with TAAB. Overall the album delivers on many musical levels and there's something for all Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull fans. You can take Ian Anderson out of Tull, but you can't take Tull out of Ian Anderson.
JAMES TURNER : 9 out of 10
OWEN DAVIES : 8 out of 10
MARCEL HARTENBERG : 9 out of 10
IAN BUTLER : 7 out of 10