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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover

AQUALUNG

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.32 | 1789 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

russellk
Prog Reviewer
4 stars If you want to know what the early 1970s were like, listen to this album.

The rebellion of the late 60s had awakened a widespread social conscience, the hotbed in which progressive rock flowered. One of the cornerstones of progressive rock, therefore, was thoughtful, anti- establishment lyrics. Not all groups employed them, but JETHRO TULL'S IAN ANDERSON certainly did. From the abject subject of the title track, through a biting analysis of class and age, to the polemic against organised religion, this collection of songs - a loose concept album, whatever its author says - was aimed at the minds of listeners as much as their hearts.

The title track certainly lays it on the line. It's hard to remember how young ANDERSON was himself when he invented this character, so powerful is his insight. Such maturity! The music is schizophrenic: heavy one moment, quiet the next, bracketing the most powerful guitar solo in the history of TULL. 'Cross Eyed Mary' introduces a second abject character, but this song (and others on the album) suffers from very poor production and editing. A pity, because in this album JETHRO TULL make the transition from (admittedly good) blues-based rock to prog-folk, and the superior tunes here are worth the best production. 'Mother Goose', for example, is as good an example of the genre as you will find. Simple, beautiful. For the lovers of TULL'S progressive albums to follow, there are hints here in 'Cheap Day Return' and 'Wond'ring Aloud' of the pastoral passages to come in 'Thick as a Brick' and 'A Passion Play'. 'Up To Me' is a drop in quality; it deserved a better arrangement; handled differently it could have been a centerpeice of the album.

The 'God Songs' on Side 2 are acerbic and brilliant. In my days in the church I used to remind myself constantly of these sentiments. 'My God' is presaged by an introductory acoustic guitar, and is carried by an outstanding vocal performance, possibly ANDERSON'S best. And the central flute passage is, of course, superb, spoiled only by the abrupt transition from rough to smooth (just before the voices join in). 'Hymn 43' ought to be in every church's hymnal under the heading 'Doses of Humility'. And I'd like to see the organist play the piano part! 'Locomotive Breath' brings in a third abject character, tying the two sides together and reminding us that the God business is about real people. Yes, it has been overplayed, but when I want to remind myself how good it really is, I imagine playing it to someone who has never heard it. 'Wind Up' is a lyrical triumph - 'In your pomp and all your glory you're a poorer man than me/as you lick the boots of death born out of fear' - but suffers terribly from odd sound levels. It is so frustrating that studio problems spoiled this record.

So, why not a masterpiece? Because I feel they let themselves down in the studio. These glorious compositions are less than they could have been, than they ought to have been. If that sort of thing doesn't bother you, by all means treat this as a five-star review. For me, this doesn't quite make it, but is an essential listen nonetheless.

russellk | 4/5 |

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