The great rock n’ roll minstrel known as Ian Anderson is at it again. I almost said “Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull,” but the more I hear Anderson’s most recent offering, Homo Erraticus, the less I have the urge or feel the need to mention it. I think Anderson’s previous release, Thick As A Brick 2, did a nice job of bringing out a new kind of originality and independent personification. With Homo Erraticus, Anderson has completely established himself away from the far cast shadows of Jethro Tull. Not to say that this release doesn’t have all of the greatest Tull elements, because it does; it just steps outside of the box and flies with a bit more freedom. As a matter of fact, Erraticus probably has more of Anderson’s signature flute work on it than any previous release. And, the fact that the vocals are way upfront in the mix, a sonic quality that didn’t seem as obvious with the Tull material, is a clear indication of how confident Anderson continues to be with his vocal quality.
The album kicks off with “Doggerland,” a song with heavy jamming and Anderson’s stereotypical flute riffs. It’s a song that gives the listener a great preview of what’s about to come. Oddly enough, the second track on the record, “Heavy Metals,” sounds a bit like a Christmas carol, and the third track is a real tongue-in-cheek social statement. “Enter The Uninvited” tells me that our man of the hour still has a lot to say, and a whole lot more to play. This is by far the wordiest track on the album, as it is both fun and facetious in nature. With mention of Apple and Mac, Facebook, Google, Baywatch, and a host of magazines and luthiers, it’s clear that Anderson is moving through his years with eyes wide open. He is socially conscious, with what seems to be strong opinions about current world affairs.
As the lead track (“Doggerland”) is followed by something similar to a Christmas carol (“Heavy Metals”), the rest of the album follows suit with nice sonic diversity. “Puer Ferox Adventus” is an impressive track with a big, stormy keyboard intro, great guitar work, and an intense choral explosion to give it an epic overtone. The unusual arrangement of the very wordy and vocally strong “Meliora Sequamur,” transitions into three of the strongest tracks on the album. “The Turnpike Inn” is a song with great melody and structure that starts with killer flute parts and power chords as it leads us to an accordion part that, well…. rocks! Ian Anderson was the guy who made the flute into a rock and roll tool, and now he’s done the same with the accordion. The sound continues into the hard rock of “The Engineer,” which just might be my favorite song on the record. This has a heavy groove, with a full band swinging for the fences. There is a segment where the flute, the accordion, and the guitar each take a measure to do a small solo. This “live” type of band interaction makes this tune something extra special. And for the trifecta…. We have “The Pax Brittania” bringing in a monster flute solo and all kinds of melody. The flute work continues with “Tripudium Ad Bellum,” which is an intense instrumental that is also on the heavier side. This just might be one of the heaviest records of Ian Anderson’s career. It is by no means a metal record or anything like that, but it does have a certain sort of aggression to it.
I haven’t said anything about the bass work in these songs, but it’s definitely something worth mentioning. Bassist David Goodier lays down beautiful bass lines throughout the album, with songs like “The Engineer” and “New Blood, Old Veins” being built around them. Like Florian Opahle’s heavy guitar riffing here though, much of Goodier’s bass work is back in the mix, with vocals taking center stage. I don’t always love the technique for the more guitar-driven songs, but it definitely gives the album its original sound.
The bottom half of the record turns to the folky side of things a bit more, but the power chords and heavy flute solos are still in abundance. As some songs take a lighter, more upbeat turn, I’m reminded of that unique Jethro Tull-type of delivery. “In For A Pound” revisits that spritely dance through the meadow sound that we often got from Tull. “New Blood, Old Veins” is along those same lines as well. We even get a spoken word segment (“Per Errationes Ad Astra”) that has some effects thrown behind it to make this a fairly diverse and original album.
It’s fitting that this album comes to a close with a song called “Cold Dead Reckoning.” It’s a track that has a flute, keyboard, and heavy chord intro, which turns into a fairly heavy stomper with a nice flute solo as a centerpiece. That’s really what this album is about, sonically. It’s a heavier record with Ian Anderson’s strong, distinct vocals and amazing flute parts taking center stage, while his band of merry men frolic around him. Things are just the way they should be.
For more info on Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull, and the many various formats in which you can own Homo Erraticus, visit: www.j-tull.com