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

THICK AS A BRICK

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.64 | 2248 ratings

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daveconn
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I 'm not sure I can make heads or tales out of this brick, but I'll try anyway. That it's a concept album is clear, purported to be a collaboration between TULL and an eight-year-old poet named Gerald "Little Milton" BOSTOCK. Gerald is IAN's alter ego; whether he represents the young IAN or simply IAN's childish fancies is somewhat cloudy. A single work broken into two sides, "Thick As A Brick" is really a collection of songs (or, rather, musical themes) spliced together. I say themes because the record does utilize several melodies over again, functioning as refrains after a sort. For example, the "So your ride." segment appears toward the beginning and again at the end, "See there! A son/man is born." appears on the first and second side to introduce a new stage in the character's development, and so on.

Anyway, as for the heads and tales: the first comes into play with the opening thickness theme, delivered in a delightful reverie that expanded on the style introduced with "Aqualung"'s short acoustic pieces. That peace is soon dispelled as the lead voice (a euphemism, since where Gerald ends and Ian begins is unclear to me) travels "back down the years and the days of my youth". Here, the work becomes an Oedipal conflict between the young boy and his father, who has gone off to war. Later (and the reference to "later" in the lyric sheet is a signpost that the tale has advanced a generation), the young character is grown to adulthood and serving as a barrister it would seem. But the barrister's world is one of illusory pleasures, and his son grows up to be a man of peace. It's tempting to look at this as Ian's family tree (he being the man of peace, I suppose), but I'll merely advance the theory without lending it my full support. At the end, the dying old man (who started this story as a young boy) reflects on life and the afterlife, drawing the same cloak of invincibility around himself at the end (as in the beginning) by claiming "your wisemen don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick". From birth to death, then, the great play all played out. As for the music (oh, yeah, right), it's more organic in tone than "Aqualung", acoustic guitars and John Evan's keyboards intermingling in a fertile setting with minimal use of the electric guitar. There are still the light and dark shadings, but it all meets in a visible middle distance rather than "Aqualung"'s extreme ranges. Ian, as the liner notes explain (should you have the stamina to pore over the tiny type for tidbits of truth) "extended his virtuosity to violin, sax and trumpet" on this recording, which expands the music considerably (the sax in particular would seem to assume some of the electric guitar's original role). This album also marked the debut of Barriemore Barlow, poor thing, who outside of one devilish drum solo was left with the unenviable task of pinning a rhythm on a moving donkey.

"Thick As A Brick" remains a brilliant, ambitious record. At the time, it confounded critics, who felt Anderson had grown too big for britches. For the rest of us, tearing down the wall separating art and music is a lofty goal, which "Thick As A Brick" does as well as any album.

daveconn | 4/5 |

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