OWLS HEAD — Jethro Tull: A: A La Mode The 40th Anniversary Edition (1980, Chrysalis, 3 CDs + 3 DVDs). No one would ever call “A” a very good Jethro Tull album, as none of its songs have become classics, but the presentation in this box set is superb, especially with Steven Wilson’s stereo remix of the Nov. 12, 1980 live show at the LA Sports Arena and the 104-page book’s extensive article by Martin Webb on recording and touring the album, with contributions by band members Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and Eddie Jobson. There also is track-by-track annotation by Anderson and lyrics for the album.

In several ways, the album marked a new direction for Jethro Tull leader Anderson; in fact, it started out as a solo album, which Anderson intended to make with a new band – not that Jethro Tull had broken up, as screamed the headlines in several of the music periodicals at the time. Drummer Barrie Barlow had already quit the band and several others had their own projects they wanted to work on during the band’s hiatus.

Anderson first turned to keyboardist/violinist Jobson (Roxy Music, Frank Zappa), an American whose band UK had opened for Jethro Tull on a recent tour. Bassist Pegg had already been part of Tull’s touring band and Jobson suggested drummer Mark Craney. In the accompanying book, Anderson says he became afraid Jobson’s keyboard input would take over the project, so he decided to add some guitar and Jethro Tull’s Barre just happened to be available. Still, it was going to be a solo release until the band’s label, Chrysalis, insisted otherwise. Jobson insisted he be called a special guest, but he did agree to tour in support of the album.

The standout tracks on the album, which Wilson also remixed, are ‘Crossfire,” inspired by the S.A.S. rescue of most of the hostages from the Iranian Embassy in London in May 1980, and “Black Sunday,” inspired by touring fatigue. The first CD also includes five associated tracks, including an extended “Crossfire” and the “Slipstream” introduction. All five see their first release, as does the complete Los Angeles concert, which takes up the second and third CDs.

The live show, the last date of their North American tour (two selections, however, are from the previous night), includes seven of the 10 selections form the “A” album, including an instrumental, “The Pine Marten’s Jig,” which Anderson introduces by saying they have yet to get it done right in live performance. The show also opens with the “Slipstream” musical introduction. In concert, “Black Sunday” is explosive. Highlights from the back catalog include “Songs from the Wood,” “Heavy Horses,” “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” a 9:48 “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” As usual, there is quite a bit of soloing.

The first audio DVD includes the 2020 album remix and the five associated tracks (3 in surround) in DTS and Dolby AC3 5.1 surround and stereo 96/24 LPCM and flat transfer of the original album master in 96/24 LPCM. The second audio DVD includes Wilson’s 2020 mix of the concert in in DTS and Dolby AC3 5.1 surround and stereo 96/24 LPCM.

The third DVD is video and contains the complete “Slipstream” promotional video (57 min.), with the audio tracks remixed by Wilson in DTS and Dolby AC3 5.1 surround and stereo 48/24 LPCM. It was originally released in August 1981 and combines live material from the LA Sports Arena show with artsy videos, directed by David Mallet, with art direction by Peter Wagg. There are videos for “Stormwatch,” the new album’s “Fylingdale Flyer,” “Sweet Dreams” with a creepy vampire motif, and the band made up to be old for “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die.” From the live LA show are “Black Sunday,” “Songs from the Wood,” “Heavy Horses” with Jobson’s violin solo, “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day,” “Aqualung” and the closing “Locomotive Breath/ Instrumental/ Black Sunday (reprise).”

Additional material in the book includes drummer Craney interviewed in 1989 by Doane Perry; an interview with Wilson on his mixing of the album and the live show; Mallet discussing the filming of “Slipstream” and his career in music videos; an interview with art director/ ”Slipstream” executive producer Wagg; a recording and touring chronology; and rare photos and memorabilia. The book, which also house the discs, is similar to the previous albums’ anniversary releases, slightly larger than the usual paperback, but with a hard cover. Grade: album B, live show A-, total package A+

New Order: Education Entertainment Recreation: Live at Alexandra Palace (Warner Music UK, Blu-ray, 133 min, + 2 CDs). This London show was recorded Nov. 9, 2018. The core of New Order, which arose from the ashes of Joy Division in 1980, following the death of singer Ian Curtis, remains singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, who joined a few months later. The other original member of both groups, bassist Peter Hook, left New Order in 2007. When the band resumed performing in 2011, Tom Chapman (Bad Lieutenant) was the new bassist and has continued with the band through today. Completing the lineup here is guitarist Phil Cunningham, also formerly of Bad Lieutenant, who joined the band in 2001, initially as a replacement for Gilbert, who took a 10-year break to care for her children.

The concert film’s director is Mike Christie, who also directed the documentary “New Order: Decades.” At times, he uses split screens.

As in the early days with Hook, some of the songs, such as “Regret,” are driven by the bass as the lead instrument. “Love Vigilantes” and “Ultraviolence,” with its nice beat and throbbing drumming, follow. It may be the sound mix, but it does not appear Sumner was in top vocal form, although he seems to get better as the show goes on. Other highlights include “Your Silent Face” and “Sub-Culture,” until the hit phase of their career comes in, starting with “Bizarre Love Triangle,” with its more intense beat and brilliant melody. The song slides directly into “Vanishing Point.” Later comes the pulsating “Plastic,” “The Perfect Kiss” with its jittery beat and the danceable “True Faith” and “Blue Monday.” (“Blue Monday,” by the way, which was all the rage in the clubs when I visited Los Angeles some 37 years ago, became the best-selling 12-inch single of all time.)

During the show, they perform four Joy Division songs, the atmospheric and trance-like “Disorder” early and then the three-song encore of “Atmosphere,” “Decades” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” During the encore, the backing screen, which had been showing images throughout (I liked best when a young band onscreen was performing the same song as New Order) and some of whose images fill the hardcover book, now shows images of Curtis.

The book could have had more to it than video images, but musically, this is an excellent release with the concert watchable on the Blu-ray and listenable on the two CDs. Grade: A

Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac (BMG, Blu-ray, 147 min. + 2 CDs.). This one-off, star-studded concert was recorded Feb. 25, 2020 at the London Palladium, just one day before the country was put on lockdown due to the novel-Coronavirus. Thankfully, we were not denied this superb event. Fleetwood, the original and longstanding drummer of Fleetwood Mac, had the idea of doing this tribute concert for at least three years. Its release now on home video becomes a tribute in more than one way, as Green died last July 20 at age 73.

The core band Fleetwood assembled includes guitarist-vocalists Rick Vito (currently in Fleetwood Mac) and blues great Jonny Lang, keyboardist Ricky Peterson, bassist David Bronze, guitarist Andy Fairweather Low and himself and Zak Starkey (The Who) on drums. Vito gets to shine on “Rolling Man,” “Black Magic Woman,” and play slide on “Love That Burns” and “No Place to Go,” with Lang co-singing the latter. Lang has the lead on a couple more early-rock style numbers, “Homework” and the hot “Sandy Mary,” as well as “Need Your Love So Bad.”

The parade of guests starts with Billy Gibson of ZZ Top performing “Doctor Brown.” He would stay on for several more numbers as part of the band and latter sing “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).” On that song, the last Green wrote and recorded with Fleetwood Mac, Kirk Hammett of Metallica plays Green’s 1959 Les Paul guitar, part of Hammett’s own extensive collection.

John Mayall, whose Bluesbreakers at various times included all four of the original Fleetwood Mac members, plays keyboards and sings on “All Your Love.” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler shines on “Rattlesnake Shake,” while Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie sings and plays keyboards on “Stop Messin’ Around,” with Tyler playing harmonica. She also does the slower “Looking for Somebody” with Vito. Noel Gallagher, ex of Oasis, joins for a three-song “acoustic huddle” that includes “The World Keeps on Turning” and a very nice “Like Crying.”

After a video of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, Pete Townshend (The Who) comes out, plays a bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” stating he got the bit from “Station Man,” which he then performs with gusto, including a rougher vocal and some of his trademark windmill guitar strumming. Neil Finn (Crowded House), now a member of Fleetwood Mac, performs “Man of the World.”

Rare treats include, after Tyler and Gibson perform “Oh Well (Part 1),” Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour performing “Oh Well (Part 2),” the 1969 B-side, which had never been performed live before. It sounds very much like Pink Floyd here. An even bigger surprise is original Fleetwood Mac member Jeremy Spencer performing “Sky is Crying,” backed by former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. When the whole band backs Spencer on “I Can’t Hold Out,” it marked the first time Fleetwood and Spencer had performed together in 50 years.

Before everyone joins in the closing “Shake Your Money Maker,” Gilmour performs the instrumental “Albatross” on pedal steel. Fleetwood gives a nice story as how George Harrison of The Beatles said in a radio interview that “Albatross” inspired the sound of “Sun King.” In the CD-sized book, Fleetwood writes about Green and each performer who took part in the concert. Again, the show can be watched on the Blu-ray or heard on the two CDs. Grade: A+

Various: The Official Keith Emerson Tribute Concert: Fanfare for the Uncommon Man (Cherry Red, 2 DVDs + 2 CDs, 143 min.). This May 28, 2016 one-off show was put together by vocalist-guitarist Marc Bonilla, who had worked with Emerson and was part of the Keith Emerson Band. Emerson, who made his mark as keyboardist-composer for Emerson, Lake & Palmer, as well as part of Nice and as a film composer, died March 11 that year. The show, held at the El Rey Theater, opens with a nice photo montage of Emerson and his bands.

The performing band here is made up of Los Angeles’ “A-list” players. Pianist Kae Matsumoto begins the concert playing “Prelude to a Hope,” then the strong band rocks out on “Karn Evil 9,” Emerson’s great “welcome to the show” number. Bonilla is featured on guitar and vocal, with Jonathan Sindelman on keyboards. Toto’s Steve Porcaro plays organ on “The Barbarian,” with Rachel Flowers on piano for the impressive piece.

There is country fun with Emerson’s take on Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown,” with the three guitarists, include Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of Steely Dan, trading mini-solos. Porcaro returns for an excellent “Touch and Go,” before Bonilla performs his own ballad, “A Place to Hide.” A piano-and-cello piece is “Tribute to Keith,” then the band plays a rare, full version of “The Endless Enigma,” featuring both Flowers and Sindelman. Joe Travers performs a drum solo during “Tank,” which features Brian Auger (Brian Auger and the Trinity). Auger’s son, Karma, plays drums on the mash-up “Fanfare for the Common Blue Turkey,” which mixes together Copland and Dave Brubeck.

Emerson’s son, Aaron, plays solo piano on his own “Ride.” Familiar face Eddie Jobson (see Jethro Tull above) plays keyboards on “Bitches Crystal,” while Philippe Saisee plays piano on the fun “Nutrocker,” written by Kim Fowley. Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) takes over the keyboards for s strong version of “Tarkus,” then Jobson returns for both “Lucky Man,” on Moog, with Baxter playing pedal steel, and “Great Gates of Kiev,” the Modest Mussorgsky classical piece ELP used to perform.

The encores are both parts of Emerson’s adaptation of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” with dramatic opening percussion and use of a handful of classical musicians, and the early-rock style “Are You Ready Eddy?”

The second DVD contains an interview with Bonilla (16 min.), two tribute speeches and four photo galleries. Grade: B+

The anniversary edition of Jethro Tull “A.”