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Jethro Tull - A Passion Play CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.02 | 1365 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 20

Jethro Tull is a progressive folk rock group formed in 1967, and their music is characterized by the lyrics, the vocals and the flute of Ian Anderson, which has leaded the band, since their foundation.

'A Passion Play' is one more studio concept album by Jethro Tull, after their previous concept studio album 'Thick As A Brick' released in 1972. It's their sixth studio album and was released in 1973. Once more, the album has only one long track, split across the both sides, on the vinyl LP version, interrupted on the end of the side one, by the reading of a strange but funny tale, 'The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles'. The story is about a man's spiritual journey in the afterlife and is narrated by their bass player, Jeffrey Hammond- Hammond. Unfortunately, the album had to be interrupted in the middle, as with 'Thick As A Brick'. It was a shame, but as all we know, in those times of the vinyl music, the records were unable to store more information than 30 to 35 minutes, on each side of the disc.

The line up on the album is Ian Anderson (lead vocals, flute, acoustic guitar and saxophones), Martin Barre (electric guitar), John Evan (backing vocals, piano, organ and synthesizers), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bass guitar) and Barriemore Barlow (drums and percussion).

'A Passion Play' like 'Thick As A Brick', is another very ambitious album. Lyrically, as it title suggests, it seems to be a truly passion played, depicting death, ascension to heaven and reincarnation. The lyrics are, as is to be expected of Anderson, impossible, excessive and theatrical, but, surprisingly, rarely come across as being too pretentious. Musically, we can listen on it soft acoustic guitars, playful pianos, jovial keyboards, frantic flutes and the usual passionate vocal work by Anderson. Here we have some of the Jethro Tull's greatest melodies ever made. Anderson and his band mates choose to make the tone a bit more gloomy and dark, while still maintaining their typical light heartedness, but behind this, the song writing remains largely unchanged.

'A Passion Play' received very hostile critics, attacking the album for its obscure lyrical references and excessive length. However, the album sold well enough to reach number one on the US charts, although, in UK, it reached only the number thirteen. After years of growing popularity for the band given by critics and fans, 'A Passion Play' eventually, marks a transition to Jethro Tull's musical career. It also divides opinions on Progarchives, as well as it also divided, at the time it was released, between the critics and the fans.

This is my second review of a Jethro Tull's album, after 'Thick As A Brick'. It was also my second contact with the band, in the 70's. My first contact was 'Thick As A Brick'. This is also the second time I review a controversial album on Progarchives. The first was 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' of Yes. And, once again, I'm with those who think 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' and 'A Passion Play' are two great musical works. The main critics of the album are that it has some obscure religious lyrics, is something dense and impenetrable, something boring and too lengthy to a Jethro Tull's album. Sincerely, I cannot disagree more. Although I agree that after Jethro Tull make an album like 'Thick As A Brick', their great masterpiece, it would be very hard their next studio album, might have the same quality level. However, I also agree with those who say, that 'A Passion Play' could have been a better album, if the band had only played music, like on 'Thick As A Brick', instead of introducing a story in the middle of it. It's true that it's a nice story, especially because it's narrated with a very funny English accent. Jeffrey's pompous accent is absolutely wonderful, emphasizing ever word on the story. However and in my humble opinion, it was not needed on the album.

Conclusion: 'A Passion Play' is a great album and one of the three or four best albums of the band. It's much darker than 'Thick As A Brick' is, and the sound of the saxophone played by Anderson is surprisingly enjoyable. As with their previous album, 'A Passion Play' is also, for me, one of the most progressive albums of them. However, I'm afraid that this album may be considered a shadow of 'Thick As A Brick', and for this reason be so misunderstood. I sincerely think that this is a great injustice to it. It doesn't deserve to be treated as a clone. With 'A Passion Play', Jethro Tull, very bravely, decided to devote their fans and critics with another concept album. While mainstream rock critics may have been scratching their heads over the group's motivation for recording a lyrically so oblique, but musically, they made a very dynamic album full of English humour that possibly only the band members could full appreciate. Being 'A Passion Play' a Jethro Tull album, certainly it deserves the properly attention of all fans of the progressive rock world. They should give to it, at least, one very good listening, because it's the minimum it deserves.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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