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Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.64 | 3665 ratings

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The Dark Elf
5 stars 'Thick as a Brick' should rate highly simply on the strength of having one of the best album covers ever designed: a fold-out newspaper complete with articles, comics, ads, crossword puzzle and a rather bawdy connect-the-dots children's game! A CD jewel case does not do justice to the album design (which is the case for many of the albums from the 60's and 70's). Furthermore, one cannot underestimate the effect 'Thick as a Brick' had on folks growing up in the 70's. It was irreverent! It was rebellious! It mentioned both blackheads and peeing oneself in the night in one line! Only in the early 70's could this album (and Tull's follow-up 'A Passion Play') be released. It had no single! It was 44 minutes of continuous music! How can we market the goddamned thing? We won't get royalties from iTunes every time someone downloads a song! Hell, there is no song to download!

The epic poem around which the music is composed was purportedly supplied by a precociously Miltonic adolescent named Gerald Bostock (an alter ego of Ian Anderson), and the lyrics, concerning the trials and travails of growing up, are slyly superb throughout. And they are very sly: according to Ian Anderson, 'Thick as a Brick' was a send-up of some of the more bloated progressive rock of the time. It is a purposely pretentious mockery, holding a jaded mirror up to Tull's pompous rock counterparts (and the band itself). Even the album cover parodies the small minds of small town journalism (including the front page which trumpets the scandal and subsequent disqualification of Gerald Bostock's poem from a literary prize). As an added layer of satire, the newspaper contains many references to the album and the album refers back to the news (Tull members were avid fans of Monty Python). The entire package succeeds magnificently. Many reviewers don't get it and take it at face value, which is even more ironic. Or moronic as the case may be.

As far as the music, it runs the prog gamut from witty folk to scathing hard rock with some of the best acoustic guitar sequences you'll hear from Ian Anderson (know more, sadly, for the flute than his exceptional guitar work). Barriemore Barlow, John Bonham's favorite drummer, sets the pace and it is often blistering, running in cadence with John Evan's masterful keys and Martin Barre's explosive electric guitar. The album is fully realized in that the concept is brilliant both lyrically and musically, and there are so few rock bands that can match the wordsmithing ability of Ian Anderson and the compositional brilliance of Tull as a band in their prime.

Thick as a Brick is one of a handful of progressive rock albums upon which all others are measured, and for good reason: it is sublime in all facets.

The Dark Elf | 5/5 |


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