Aqualung,released during 1971, may be Jethro Tull’s signature release but 1972’s Thick As A Brick is their most ambitious despite Ian Anderson’s protests to the contrary over the years.
Band leader Anderson has always denied that Aqualung was a concept album even if side one of the original vinyl release was a group of character sketches and side two was a series of rants against organized religion. In reaction to it all he decided to create the mother of all concept albums and in the early seventies, at least, that goal was achieved.
I was the program director of my college radio station when this album was issued and I remember not knowing what to do with it as it contained one 43 minute song. The album was structured around a poem by a make believe boy who was really Ian Anderson in disguise. Even the cover was a spoof as it was a copy of a fictitious newspaper. It may have been all in good fun but it became Tull’s first number one album in The United States.
Anderson expands his choice of instruments as acoustic guitar, violin, and trumpet join his usual expertise on the flute. Lead guitarist Martin Barre and keyboardist John Evan had settled in as perfect compliments to Anderson’s flights of fancy. The new addition was Barriemore Barlow who had taken over as the drummer.
While I would have preferred the work to have been divided into tracks or songs and it could have easily been accomplished as there are a number of transitions points which connect mood and tempo changes, it remains a brilliantly conceived and played piece of music. It is an early example of what would become known as progressive rock and as such was a ground breaking release during 1972.
It is an album which requires the listener to pay attention as the mood, structures, textures, and melodies are constantly changing. The lyrics contain wonderful imagery and a lot of hidden meanings which also require your attention. It ends up as an album you really need to be in the mood to play as it requires a commitment of time in order to feel and appreciate it full impact.
The album is a little dated today as the contemporary issues of 1972 are not so current anymore. Still the music will challenge and ultimately satisfy.Thick As A Brick may mean stupid or dull but the album is anything but.