Minstrel in the Gallery

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Minstrel in the Gallery
Studio album by Jethro Tull
Released 5 September 1975 (UK)
8 September 1975 (US)
Recorded April 1975 in the Masion Rouge Mobile (Europe)
Genre Progressive rock, hard rock, folk rock
Length 44:50
Label Chrysalis
Producer Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull chronology
War Child
Minstrel in the Gallery
M.U. - The Best of Jethro Tull
Singles from
Minstrel in the Gallery
  1. "Minstrel in the Gallery"
    Released: 1975
  2. "Summerday Sands"
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Rolling Stone (unfavourable)[2]
Sounds (favourable)[3]

Minstrel in the Gallery is the eighth studio album by British band Jethro Tull, released in September 1975. Ian Anderson's lyrics and subject matter show an introspective and cynical air, possibly the byproduct of Anderson's recent divorce from first wife Jennie Franks and the pressures of touring, coupled with the frustrations of writing for and recording the album in Monte Carlo. The title refers to the use of a minstrel's gallery in the great hall of castles or manor houses. Stylistically the album is varied. The songs "Minstrel in the Gallery" and "Black Satin Dancer" are hard-rock, although "Minstrel", like another track, "Cold Wind to Valhalla", starts with several acoustic verses that are similar in structure to the main, hard rock section of the song, then break into the heavier version after an instrumental break. Five of the seven songs on the album feature intros, consisting of either speech or count-offs (the exceptions being "Black Satin Dancer" and "Grace"). Jethro Tull website said that "Minstrel in the Gallery" is arguably the quintessential 1970′s Tull album.[4]

This album was remastered with five additional bonus tracks in November 2002, including incomplete live-in-the-studio renditions of "Minstrel in the Gallery" and "Cold Wind to Valhalla", some tracks that appeared only on maxi-singles ("Pan Dance", "March the Mad Scientist") and "Summerday Sands" which was the B-side of the "Minstrel in the Gallery" single.


Ian Anderson, remembering the recording of the album stated that: "'Minstrel' is one of two albums that were made during the year we recorded abroad to avoid the U.K.'s exorbitant tax rate on performing artists. Both Minstrel and its follow up, Too Old to Rock And Roll, Too Young to Die!, were made in Monte Carlo and in the same year, although they were released in different years."[5]

The band had decamped to a studio in Monte Carlo (Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, the bassist, having ridden there from England on a motorbike which he managed to crash on the way) which is pictured on the back of the album sleeve with the five minstrels standing in its gallery. The size of the studio also made it ideal for impromptu games of badminton, while the local beach provided its own temptations.

Anderson felt that such distractions and other personal problems within the band meant that it was not functioning as a unit as it had on previous albums,[6] he also said that: "Minstrel is actually a reflective album, because a lot of the music on it was written at a time when I was looking back with some nostalgia on my life in the U.K. I'd always lived there and suddenly I was out for a year. So a lot of the songs — like 'Baker Street Muse' and the title track — are reflective of London city life The music also reflects my life as a musician since at that time I was not in a permanent relationship and living out of a suitcase, hotel rooms and rented apartments."[5]

Musical Style[edit]

The album contains acoustic music similar to tracks found on the Aqualung album, including the string-adorned romantic song "Requiem" and the closing "Grace" – more whimsical in its romanticism – clocking in at a whole thirty seven seconds. After the forty-plus minute Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play epics, Ian once again dabbled with an extended suite of music with "Baker Street Muse", a seventeen minute four-part observation of the seedier side of his then home town of London.

The acoustic guitar and strings are prominent in most of the other songs, but the likes of "Cold Wind To Valhalla" and "Black Satin Dancer" then explode into full-blown rockers, with Martin Barre's electric guitar taking the spotlight as the band thunders along behind him in an adventurous exploration of unpredictable key-changes and time-signatures. That juxtaposition of acoustic and electric has been a feature of Jethro Tull's music throughout their career, but is perhaps never better exemplified than on "Minstrel In The Gallery" which, after earlier albums' tags of 'blues' and 'prog', is unequivocally a 'rock' album, albeit with a maturity and sophistication both lyrically and harmonically which highlighted Tull's originality.

Themes and Concept[edit]

David Palmer – spoken intro: My lord and lady, we have fortuitously happened upon these, er, strolling players, who will provide you with, er, goodly tunes while you set about your prandial delights...albeit in the lamentable absence of your guests. So, my lord and lady, for your entertainment!.....[7]

From this opening comes the concept of the album, which goes around the perspective of a Minstrel looking to his audience. Not only this brings several Medieval colours to the musical style, it also contributes to the lyrics, written in an introspective and individual perspective, towards the past, the audience, and the critics – addressing this subjects in the first person, just like a minstrel "talking" with his audience. Ian Anderson' minstrel made his appearance prominently in the album, in contrast with the War Child' court jester - in a way or another, two sides of the medieval influences.

Though "Minstrel" is heavily acoustic, songs from the disc rarely appear in concert set lists in recent years. Partly, this could very well be due to "Minstrel's" rather dark, often very personal subject matter and tone for many of the acoustical tunes. Ian was just coming off a divorce and "One White Duck/0¹º = Nothing at All" addresses the end of his marriage. "One White Duck" is related to a common British concept (and even wall ornament) that a married couple have their "ducks in a row." A sole duck, hence, represents separation.[6]

Art cover[edit]

The art cover were produced in an artwork by R. Kriss and J. Garnett based on a print by famous English watercolour painter and lithographer, specialising in historical buildings Joseph Nash, taken from the book "The mansions of England in the olden time" (1839). The image contributed and cemented the whole notion of the concept of "medieval" sound and the "minstrel" daily affairs.

Critical Reception[edit]

The album received a bad review by Rolling Stone, in which: "In keeping with the times, Tull does get points for technical competence. Still, despite the diligence with which these gents execute the often clichéd arrangements, the most soulful moment on the album is a line from 'Baker St. Muse', sung in passing by Anderson as he leaves the studio. Finding the door locked, he screams: "I can't get out!" That's roughly the same feeling that this listener got about midway through side one."[8]

On the other hand, Sounds review were a lot better. It said that "Minstrel In The Gallery is such a pleasant surprise" and that "It's their best album since Thick As A Brick [...] smoothly combines the best Tull elements, wrapping them around Anderson's voice with sensitivity and understanding of the material".[9]

Also AllMusic made a good review, stating that the album is the "most artistically successful and elaborately produced album since Thick as a Brick". Analysing the music, it said: "Martin Barre's attack on the guitar is as ferocious as anything in the band's history, and John Evan's organ matches him amp for amp, while Barriemore Barlow and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond hold things together in a furious performance. Anderson's flair for drama and melody come to the fore in "Cold Wind to Valhalla," and "Requiem" is the loveliest acoustic number in Tull's repertory, featuring nothing but Anderson's singing and acoustic guitar, Hammond-Hammond's bass, and a small string orchestra backing them".[10]

In popular culture[edit]

For this album on, it became current calling the band members and especially Ian Anderson of Minstrels.

The band Acid Mothers Temple named their album Minstrel in the Galaxy after the Tull album.

Robert Berry cover Minstrel in the Gallery in the "To Cry you a song: a collection of Tull tales", a tribute album.


Minstrel in the Gallery received the Gold Certification in both United States and U.K.and is the eight best seeling Jethro Tull album.[11] The album peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard album chart, and at No. 20 in the UK Albums Chart - Songs from the Wood would sold better two years later in UK.[12] It also charts in Norway, where went No. 13, Austria, were reach also the No. 7 and in Sweden where reach the No. 50.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Ian Anderson, except as noted. Arrangements for orchestra were written by David Palmer. All credits derived from the original record pressing. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Minstrel in the Gallery" (Anderson, Martin Barre) 8:13
2. "Cold Wind to Valhalla"   4:19
3. "Black Satin Dancer"   6:52
4. "Requiem"   3:45
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "One White Duck / 010 = Nothing at All"   4:37
2. "Baker St. Muse"
  • a)  "Pig-Me and the Whore"
  • b)  "Nice Little Tune"
  • c)  "Crash Barrier Waltzer"
  • d)  "Mother England Reverie"  
3. "Grace"   0:37


Credits are adapted from Minstrel in the Gallery liner notes.[13]

Additional personnel
  • David Palmer – orchestral arrangements and conduction
    • Rita Eddowes, Elizabeth Edwards, Patrick Halling and Bridget Procter - violins
    • Katharine Tullborn - cello
  • Brian Ward - photographs
  • Ron Kriss and J.E. Garnett - front cover, based on a print by Joseph Nash
  • Robin Black - sound engineering


External links[edit]