Living in the Past is a double album quasi-compilation collection by Jethro Tull, which contains album tracks, out-takes, the "Life Is a Long Song" EP, and all of their singles except for "Aeroplane", "Sunshine Day", "One for John Gee", "17" and the original United Kingdom version of "Teacher" (the United States single version was included instead). Many of the tracks only appeared as British releases before being compiled on Living in the Past for the first time in the American market.
The album was named after the single released in May 1969 and was released in an elaborate gate-fold packaging that contained a large colour photo booklet with over 50 photos of the band.
Two songs, "By Kind Permission Of" and "Dharma for One", were recorded live at Carnegie Hall. "Love Story", "Christmas Song", "Living in the Past", "Driving Song", "Sweet Dream" and "Witches' Promise" were originally released as mono singles and remixed into stereo for inclusion on the album.
In the United States, Living in the Past was the first Jethro Tull album to appear on the Chrysalis Records label; while each of the band's previous albums were marked as "a Chrysalis Production", the albums were released by Warner Bros. Records' Reprise Records subsidiary. Interestingly, early U.S. editions of Living in the Past bore both a Chrysalis catalogue number (2CH 1035) and a Reprise catalogue number (2TS 2106). This suggests that the album was scheduled to appear on Reprise Records but Chrysalis gained control of the band's USA releases in late 1972.
The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts and went gold not long after its release. The title track from the album became Tull's first top-40 hit in the United States, reaching No. 11, a full three years after it performed well in Britain. In UK, the album reached No. 13. In Norwegian charts, the album hit No. 5.
AllMusic review the collection positively, stating that: "Not only was Ian Anderson writing solid songs every time out, but the group's rhythm section was about the best in progressive rock's pop division. Along with any of the group's first five albums, this collection is seminal and essential to any Tull collection, and the only compilation by the group that is a must-own disc."
The US vinyl version has "Hymn 43" in place of "Locomotive Breath" and omits "Inside" in favour of "Alive and Well and Living in", previously unreleased in the US.
Differences in the song selections between the US and the UK editions of the album resulted in different track listings for the various CD releases. A 1994 CD reissue omits several songs in order to reduce the running time to fit the album on one disc. While "Bourée" and "Teacher" are not present on either the US or UK CD editions, both countries' versions include "Inside", which originally was only on the UK vinyl. A 1997 two-disc Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissue contains every song selected for the UK and US vinyl editions.
A few discrepancies between the tracks listed on the back cover of the U.S. album version and the tracks listed on the label on the vinyl are:
• Side 2 -- spelled "Witch's Promise" on the label, the song is spelled "Witches Promise" on the back cover of the album.
• Side 2 -- song 3 on the label is listed as "Teacher", followed by song 4 "Witch's Promise", whereas the songs listed for Side 2 on the back of the album cover show song 3 as "Witches Promise" (sic), followed by song 4 "Teacher".
• Side 2 -- song 5 on the back of the album cover is listed as "Inside", whereas song 5 on the label is listed as "Alive And Well And Living In".
• Side 4 -- spelled "For Later" on the back cover of the album, the song is spelled "From Later" on the label.