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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.36 | 2707 ratings

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5 stars Aqualung was my first confrontation with the Tull. I got acquainted with it on a Belgian radio programme aired on Wednesday afternoons (school off time). I was then aged twelve and I felt in love with "Aqualung". Some people have been bored with the title track or "Locomotive Breath" because they have been so much heard. IMO, but they are ones of the greatest Tull songs ever. It is always a pleasure to listen to them again and again.

The album, of course, does not only features two songs, and "Cross-Eyed Mary" is a bloody good track. The fabulous flute intro that builds crescendo is incredible. Give me more of that kind, please ! Strong rock song. This reflects the hard side of the Tull which I like so much. On the contrary, the next track "Cheap Day Return" is a prog-folk accoustic ballad in which Barre excells in his guitar work (unfortunately just over one minute track). "Wond'ring Aloud" is quite similar : short and folkish but with a very nice melody and very subtle vocals from Ian. A nice moment. A bit mellow with the background orchestration (I never understood why Ian was so found of this, though).

"Mother Goose" has a very nice chorus flute tempo, which is so recognizable. Not a highlight but not a weak track either. "Up to Me" shows the electric side of the Tull mixed with the purest flute sound. Always a great combination.

With "My God" the Tull reaches again the masterpiece level : the subtle piano & accoustic intro lead to a heavy rock piece of music in the vein of "With You ..." from "Benefit". The instrumental section is just wonderful. Ian's flute job at his best, leading to a classical choir segment : what a great combination ! The structure is complex. It is amazing how the Tull switches between hard / heavy rock to the lightest acoustic part. This is the Tull trademark and this is how I love this band. One of their best song in their repertoire. It will already be featured in their 1970 tour (as soon as in March / April) way before the release of Aqualung. It will be a key track in those live sets.

"Hymn 43" is a great piece of hard rock music : heavy keys and bass, great drumming and strong vocals. Another great Tull moment. "Slipstream" is the third short track and probably somewhat weaker.

"Locomotive Breath" ... : what can I say about this one ? I saw the Tull live in 2001 and when they played it it was like I travelled in time, back some thirty years ago. A fabulous song. Slow intrumental intro (almost jamming session) , which builds up to a quite hard rock tune with a fabulous riff : just great man.

The closing number "Wind Up" is the fourth masterpiece of the album. Ian's emotional vocals are very powerful in this song : again a crescendo building. Acoustic intro (guitar and vocals) : very slow tempo. Then, the piano joins after one minute. The drum after another thirty-five seconds. Then, all of a sudden (around minute two), Barre switches from acoustic to electric guitar to offer us one of the most harmonious hard-rocking part of a Tull song. Absolutely brilliant. After 4'15", the listener is brought back again to square one. So, there is only one thing to do after such a great album : "Let's harmonize these lines", right ?

This is by far the best "side B" of a Tull album. FABULOUS.

The remastered version which I re-purchased in 2003, has lots of bonus tracks as well as excerpts of an interview (from 1996) in which Ian's explains the recording of the "Aqualung" (about 14 minutes). You may think that it is long and boring, but the very first time I listened to it, I really appreciated these anecdotes about his album. This is not History of mankind, but the history a great album that will deeply influence some of the mankind.

One will learn i.e. that Tull recorded this masterpiece sharing the studio with Led Zeppelin. There's a bit of confusion in the interview about which Led Zep album it was. The interviewer mention III, Ian answering that he doesn't remember. Actually, it is impossible that it was Led Zep III (it was released in October 1970, while the Tull entered the Island studio in December). The only option is that Led Zep were recording their fabulous Untitled album (another masterpiece, by the way). Dates correspond since both albums started in the studio in December 1970.

Although they had toured with Led Zep in 1969, there were some tension between the bands. While they could get along pretty well with Jimmy and Peter Grant (Led Zep's manager) the mood with Plant was not great. Ian even mentioned to Melody Maker that : "If he would write the lyrics and with their music, they could be a good little rock'n'roll band..." !

They recorded this masterpiece in about three or four weeks. Ian's says, that he did not feel they were producing a great album (sorry, Ian : you were wrong).

In terms of musical bonuses : "Lick Your Fingers Clean" is a great number. It should have deserved to be included on the original. It shows, again, the hard side of the band. Since I do not have the appropriate equipment, I can only say that this quad version of "Wind Up" is a good one. It is less achieved than the final track. The bass is more proeminent. Barre plays more in the background while here and there some keys are to be noticed. the quad version for "Wind Up" is very good.

It is quite a good surprise to have those bonus tracks being something esle than fillers for die-hard fans spending their money again. This will be typical of the Tull remastered albums. Great work. Bravo.

"Song for Jeffrey" is an alternate version. Quite average. "Fat Man" is also poor (I did not like the original very much either). "Bourée" 's alternate version is harder oriented than the original. Great rendition. The three tracks were recorded during a BBC show (in August 1968 for the former one, and in June 1969 for the latter ones).

Only one rating possible : five stars.

ZowieZiggy | 5/5 |


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