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

THICK AS A BRICK

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.64 | 2288 ratings

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russellk
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Everything good you've heard about this album is true. You've either listened to this record dozens of times or you're fourteen; if the latter, grab your dad's copy now.

Why is it so good? Because it is an exemplar of what made progressive rock such an important part of music's development. Outstanding compositional values, quirky humour, intelligent anti-establishment lyrics, superior production, passion and emotion, an overarching concept, attention to detail and even great artwork are all parts of progressive sensibilties. The late 1960s and early 1970s will always be the core of progressive rock because the music was part of societal progression, both leading change and reflecting it, in a way it has not been since. Just as the 1980s was a complacent decade, the late 60s - early 70s was an experimental time: what do we do with our new-won permissiveness? How do we break down the remaining barriers? The heart of this period is captured here in JETHRO TULL'S 'Thick as a Brick'.

The title is the only unprepossessing thing about the album. Opening with an acoustic guitar and IAN ANDERSON'S distinctive voice, we are led through a complex journey of melody and rhythm as a young man seeks to explore his place in society. There is no filler here - even the jam at the 7 1/2 minute mark provides a necessary separation between mirror-image verses. Bass, drums, flute, keyboards and vocals all work together to provide a clear focus for the listener. Side 1, the stronger of the two sides (which is like saying Atlas is stronger than Hercules), comes to a most satisfying conclusion as the hero searches for a comic-book character to come to his aid amidst a blaze of swirling organ and guitar stabs.

Side 2 takes a short diversion into avant-garde, stream-of-consciousness musings, then returns with a vengeance 'in the clear white circles of morning wonder'. 'Do you believe in the day?' Stellar. Music should soar like this. I sometimes find myself wondering what sort of record this would have been had it been packaged as separate songs: I suspect nowhere near as powerful. The only awkward moment of the album comes as the band rushes to reprise the main theme, reintroduced without subtlety and in a rush (as though they realised they were runing out of vinyl).

So. Humour (check out the best album packaging in the history of music: the 12-page St Cleve Chronicle, outlining the conceit behind the record), great tunes magnificently played, and all the other elements of progressive rock put together in an unforgettable album. Had I been involved in producing something as magnificent as this, I would feel my life well spent. Yet JETHRO TULL were humble about their achievement. Witness the faux-review on Page 7 of the St Cleve Chronicle: 'a fine disc which, though possessing many faults should do well enough.'

Well enough for me, thanks.

russellk | 5/5 |

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