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Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.63 | 3047 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Sometimes you just feel like a break from listening to, and reviewing, new music, or evaluating stuff for the site. You want to put your feet up, relax, put on a hoary old classic, and indulge yourself (and, hopefully, others) with a few well chosen words.

This evening is one such moment, and what better hoary old classic than this one, eh? So, let's skip back to the heady days of 1972, and consider the album that is considered by many to be THE epitome, and, indeed, the height, of this crazy genre we call progressive rock.

So many words have been written about this, it's hard to see what one could possibly add. The first thing to say, of course, is a fact that, to this day, many people really do not seem to appreciate. This album was deliberately designed as a send up of the entire genre that we all love so much.

Jethro Tull were a blues band, with some progressive sensibilities. When the awesome Aqualung was released, a great load of critics with beards (in those days, you were a bloke if you did rock reviews. Women still tended the sprogs and did the household tasks. Germaine Greer had not, at this time, changed the world) declared it to be the most important concept album of all time, indeed a tome that would rank one day alongside the Holy Book itself as influencing human philosophy.

All fine stuff, except that it was not, of course, any such thing. Anderson had, very cleverly, included an overarching theme about the nature of religion amongst some exceptional blues rock tracks, but it was absolutely not a concept album. So, rather typically for the rascal, he decided to give the critics what they wanted - an overblown, to hell with all good taste, concept album to defeat all concepts.

It came wrapped up in its own newspaper. This was almost as well produced as the vinyl itself. The "story", or concept, is based upon a poem written by Gerald Bostock, a boy. Except, of course, that there was no such boy, and the very title itself, Thick As A Brick, was rather old English slang for one of exceptionally limited intellect, an accusation that Anderson threw with glee at the majority of both the English rock press and, indeed, most of the blokes sat at the gigs and buying the records (again, not many women attended. Prog was almost exclusively a spotty blokey thing).

Of course, the whole thing took on a life of its own, and is regarded as the archetypal prog concept album, and, to be fair to Anderson, what he produced, although a parody, was, musically, virtually beyond reproach. Quite deliberately a symphonic suite, awash with swirling mellotron, other keys, complex rhythms, time signatures, and repetitive themes, it ironically became very quickly representative of an entire genre and way of producing music. Not to be seen on Top Of The Pops this, with The Sweet, Bolan, Bowie et al, this was the album to end all albums, and fans of "serious" music lapped it up.

In hindsight, I do not regard this as being Tull's finest hour. For me personally, this was still to come in the more folk orientated phase of the band's career. The pastoral representation of a fast disappearing Britain spoke volumes to me, certainly far more than a pastiche of a concept. In addition, the album at almost forty four minutes of a single track does make one lose attention somewhat, certainly at either end of the old vinyl sides and a rather unnecessary (if very good) set of drum solos. Cut down to the length of the version which appeared on the seminal Bursting Out live album, it would have been perfection.

As it is, I will rate it as being four stars, i.e. an excellent addition to any prog rock collection. In terms of the genre's history, it is absolutely essential. But I feel that Anderson, the rest of the band, and music historians, if all were to be utterly honest, would proclaim that musically and socially Tull had, and would have, better moments.

There you have it. Looking at the vast majority of reviews, I have written what most would consider to be blasphemy. Damn good, yes, but not damn perfect.

lazland | 4/5 |


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