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Baker's Dozen

Gold Dust Of Our Musical Worth: Ian Anderson's Favourite Albums
Barnaby Smith , June 6th, 2013 06:47

Ahead of a one-off show at the Royal Albert Hall, the Jethro Tull man picks out his thirteen finest albums


Foreigner - Head Games
Foreigner was a band that had an anthemic sophistication about their musical approach. It was educated, well-formed, well turned-out British-American music. The primary songwriter and leader of the band [Mick Jones] was a Brit, and the vocal talents of probably rock’s finest ever tenor, Lou Gramm, fitted perfectly with their sound.

I got to know Lou many years later after his horrendous illness. When he was making his comeback to singing after brain surgery, me and some other guys played with him on a big German TV show, and we had to change the key of the song we were doing. We dropped it before he came over to Germany and then when he got there we dropped it another couple of steps. I said to him that the Lou Gramm of 20 or 30 years prior, when he was singing at the top of his range, was a pretty hard act to follow. He said that he didn’t write the songs, and just had to sing what was written, and that he could do that in the studio but it was very tough to do night after night on stage.

In a sense I have been there myself. I made records in 1982 [The Broadsword And The Beast] and 1984 [Under Wraps] where I sang really well on record, absolutely at the top of my range. I’m a baritone, and my range is usually up to an E or an occasional hasty F, and then I was singing F# and G. I was singing at the top of my range and singing consistently up there, not just the occasional high note. It was something I couldn’t keep up night after night and I lost my voice in 1984 and had to pretty much take a year off to recover. I cancelled three shows in Australia and two shows in the USA. Over the period of a month I cancelled more than 50 per cent of all the shows that I’ve cancelled in my entire 44 years in music.

I still have a soft spot for Lou because of his incredible vocal ability and the wonderful controlled quality of his voice. I do believe he is rock’s finest tenor. His diction was good, his articulation and rhythm was great, he was a truly great singer. It doesn’t mean he’s rock’s best singer or best-known singer, because the usually out of tune Rod Stewart and gymnastic Robert Plant were probably more charismatic. Lou was more mainstream, but it was nevertheless a joy to listen to someone, rather like Alfie Boe, who is in complete control of their vocal ability as the result of hard work and a huge amount of natural talent. He may not be the most exciting pop singer, but for me he is the best.