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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover

AQUALUNG

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.32 | 1767 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Are your intentions honourable?

It's debatable whether "Aqualung" or "Thick as a brick" is Jethro Tull's most popular album. For me the latter is by some way the better, but for many "Aqualung" represents their finest hour. This album predates TAAB, showing a band moving away from the pop, blues and folk influences of early albums, towards a heavier and more progressive style.

Ironically, it was the general perception by the media that this was a concept album which led to Ian Anderson creating "Thick as a brick". It is easy to see why "Aqualung" might be taken to rely upon recurring themes, but Anderson maintains that this is "just a collection of songs".

The opening bars of the title track instantly signal the menacing sounds which are to follow, with Anderson quickly introducing us to a murky and distasteful underworld. The cover picture of a Fagan like Anderson (or is it and Anderson like Fagan) comes to mind as he sings of "eying little girls with bad intent". Such lyrics may have been seen as relatively prosaic in the early 1970's, but today they would cause hands to be held up in horror the world over. Incidentally, some of the lyrics were co-written by Anderson with his first wife. The song is all but devoid of the signature flute of Anderson, the dominant instrument being lead guitar. There is no doubt that "Aqualung" (the track) is one of Tull's finest accomplishments and most memorable songs.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the album is the diversity of sounds and atmospheres. Where the title track is heavy, almost metallic, the consecutive trio of "Cheap day return", "Mother goose" and "Wond'ring aloud" are light acoustic numbers of the type which Tull would increasingly come to rely upon on later albums.

Side two opens with Tull's most progressive offering up to this point. "My God" takes us on a journey through lead guitar and flute solos, while Anderson delivers some of his most poignant lyrics ever; "The bloody Church of England in chains of history requests your earthly presence at the vicarage for tea." The heavier "Hymn 43" effectively forms part two of this 10+ minute suite, the track reverting to the "Aqualung" style riff driven mood.

"Locomotive breath" is probably the most commercial track on the album, with a strong rhythm and a memorable hook.

Where I feel this album falls short when compared to the magnificent "Thick as a brick", is in consistency. It is fair to say that most of the tracks are indeed Tull classics, or at least fine Tull songs, but there is the odd gap. "Up to me" for example is a rather nondescript affair with little focus.

Overall, while I recognise this to be one of Jethro Tull's finest albums, there remain (admittedly small) parts which remind me that the band were still developing their skills. Thankfully, the next album would see everything come together magnificently, but for now this is a flawed gem.

The 25th Anniversary edition includes 6 additional tracks including excerpts from an interview with Anderson.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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