RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Martin Barre – Back to Steel

Rating: B

Martin Barre spent over four decades alongside Ian Anderson as the electric half of the internationally successful band Jethro Tull.  Along the way he became famous for big riffs, such as the iconic “Aqualung” as well as softer, blues runs, snorts, licks and solos.  Now celebrating 50 years in the music biz, Barre is back with his sixth solo album titled Back to Steel.

The album allows Martin to shine on all of his unique guitar styling’s.  The soloing in “Hammer” drips Tull, as does the dreamy instrumental sequences in the song found between Martin’s classic guitar riffage.  The electricity of “Eleanor Rigby” the famous Beatles tune, takes on a new life with energy of Martin Barre and Company. “Sea of Vanity” shows Martin’s folk side while “Peach and Quiet” shows his bluesy side.

The most interesting remake, and one Jethro Tull fans are split over, is “Skating Away,” The JT classic acoustic tale.  Martin rocks it up as Dan Crisp adds vocals.  This is such an iconic Ian Anderson tune any other rendition just sounds out of place.  This one, after repeated listens, does really begin to grow on the listener, however.  Was it the right song?  Maybe not.  But they pull it off.  I would have rather hear this band do a new version of “Minstrel in the Gallery.” 

“You and I” is a pretty tune that shows Martin sounding a lot like Blackmore’s Night.  Barre’s acoustic playing on this is very English and soothing!  The instrumental tune “Calafel” features Martin on acoustic guitar and is a musical highlight of the album—though it just begs for a flute solo!

The album ends with a Tull tribute in the beautiful “Slow Marching Band.”   This is song that is wonderful in its emotional simplicity!  It’s a classy way to end the album.

Would I rather see Martin Barre in Jethro Tull with Ian Anderson?  Of course.  It appears that it is not, at least at this time, to be an option.  The next best thing then is this.  Besides, Back to Steel is a fine album with many outstanding tracks.

This writer, for one, is just glad to be hearing Martin playing guitar.  He’s one of a kind…and one of my favorites.

01. Back to Steel
02. Its Getting Better
03. Bad Man
04. Skating Away
05. Chasing Shadows
06. Hammer
07. You and I
08. Moment of Madness
09. Calafel
10. Eleanor Rigby
11. Peace and Quiet
12. Sea of Vanity
13. Smokestack
14. Without Me
15. Slow Marching Band

Line up:
Martin Barre – Guitars, Mandolin, Bouzouki, Banjo, Flute, Keyboards
Dan Crisp – Vocals, Guitar
George Lindsay – Drums, Percussion
Alan Thompson – Bass, Vocals, Slide Guitar on track 14, Hammond Organ on track 11
Alex Hart & Elani Andrea – Vocals on track 7 and Backing Vocals
Alan Bray – Bass on track 15
Partrick James Pearson – Hammond Organ on Track 1

By Jeb “Locomotive Breath” Wright