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

THICK AS A BRICK

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.64 | 2249 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars My first experience with this epic album came in the form of a taste- all I knew of this music was the initial three minutes, a worthy but extreme truncation to fit part of this album on the compilation, The Very Best of Jethro Tull (having included the album in total would have made that title much more accurate, but would not have made it quite as marketable, I suspect). The recurring themes of this two-part epic fail to become stale, and they can easily implant themselves on the memories of their hearers. With only a few exceptions (mostly in part two), the composition flows together easily from one motif to the next. The unmistakable (and often snide) vocal technique of Ian Anderson continually breathe life into the composition, and his flute work gives the whole intricate piece that distinctive Jethro Tull flavor. The lyrics are complex and chock full of cultural references, not the least of which is the Boy Scout handbook. Even the artwork was more than art- it was a humorous satire of English life with enough content to keep one reading for quite a while. I also enjoy the irony that the lampoon of extended progressive rock music has become one of the most heralded examples of it.

"Thick as a Brick (Part One)" It all starts with that iconic acoustic guitar part, Ian Anderson's distinct voice, and his signature flute. The first three minutes are not easily forgotten, and the vocal melody bounces up and down, like rapid waves. After three minutes, though, the soft honeymoon is over, and the progressive folk textures that pervaded the beginning give way to much heavier rock. A wild organ and guitar solo are performed over a walking, nay, jumping bass line. The transition five minutes in is slightly weak, in my opinion, but the well-orchestrated music that follows more than compensates. Six minutes in, Anderson gives a fantastic vocal performance, singing one of the most important themes of this piece. Two crunchy guitars solo over each other, with flourishes of flute and organ scattered throughout, before Anderson repeats the earlier theme over a stark piano at first while the rest of Jethro Tull comes in. The organ, flute, and bass play together in a short polyphonic segment before Anderson begins singing the next part. Later, the organ is as strong as ever, occasionally giving the listener a sneak preview of the musical theme that dominates the second half of the first part. Variations of this theme occur until the acoustic guitar introduction sneaks into the composition. Soon enough, the final motif (and one of the most fun) emerges. The lyrics remain first-rate but suitably obscure, and Anderson sings them with his usual sarcastic tone. The final moments of part one consist of the jarring riff used to bridge the acoustical introduction to the rest of the song. Overall, this is far stronger than part two, and stands out as the greatest accomplishment of Jethro Tull.

"Thick as a Brick (Part Two)" The second half begins with almost a minute of noise and a muffled version of the last bit of part one. The whole band then kicks in with one of the themes from before. The drummer gets in a rapid solo that has musical interludes peppered over it. There's some odd spoken word and a few inexplicable silences before the acoustic introduction from the first part favors us with yet another appearance. Six minutes in, there's something fresh, particularly some fabulous acoustic guitar work, as well as one of the greatest vocal melodies in progressive rock music, which lingers for quite some time but never overstays its welcome. For much of the following segment, there's a jarring riff played softly and then loudly several times. While it would be tempting to say that the flute takes the role of the lead instrument throughout much of the last ten minutes or so, it would be more accurate to note that the wind instrument follows the rest of the band tightly, rarely deviating. The fun vocal section from the end of the first part finds its way into the end of this part, only the instrumentation is a tad grittier. Instead of the raucous section used to close the first part, a string section followed by a terse but lively organ solo give way to a reprise of the chorus used in the very beginning of the album. Anderson chuckles, and the forty-plus minute opus ends.

Epignosis | 5/5 |

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