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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover

AQUALUNG

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.36 | 2707 ratings

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jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Jethro Tull find their own style with this fourth album. In fact, "This Was" is unripe; "Stand Up" is an accomplished folk-blues record; "Benefit" is a transition work; and finally "Aqualung is their masterpiece, a strange mix between folk, blues and progressive rock. In fact, art rock made of single songs. This is the most beatiful standard of Jethro Tull, not the forced suite of "Thick As A Brick".

This album can be compared to "A Song For Me", released a year earlier, or to "Fearless", contemporary, both of Family. It's more art rock than progressive rock. Splendid folk acoustic guitars to draw beautiful melodies, hard rock solos of electric guitar, excellent singing, some longer songs, more eleborated, with refined arrangements (here the flute, for the Family the violin or the winds), or art rock tracks in progressive rock style. Family, especially in "Fearless", surpass Tull for the variety and sophistication of the arrangements (and for the best technique of the musicians), Jethro Tull surpass Family for the narrative unity of the album and the epicity of the longest and most beautiful songs.

The first of these songs is the mini-suite "Aqualung" (rating 8,5), which starts with a very famous hard rock guitar riff but then develops for the most part with an acoustic guitar and piano background, above which the treated voice of Ian Anderson sings. Grand finale with hard rock guitar solo and return of the initial riff. This song is in fact the manifesto of the Tull style, because it condenses all their music in less than 7 minutes, representing both the most folk and acoustic passages and the hard rock passages. Masterpiece.

"Cross-Eyed Mary" shows the flute of Anderson rise above a hard rock guitar and piano rug. Very sustained song based on rhythm and not on melody. Rating 7,5. "Cheap Day Return" is a short acoustic fragment (no rating). "Mother Goose" is an acoustic folk ballad: sound made of acoustic guitar and flute but most of all there are the lamentable vocals by Anderson. Melancholic and bucolic. Rating 7+. After the sensational beginning the quality has dropped, while remaining good. "Wondr'ig Aloud" is another acoustic fragment (two minutes) with a very good singing and arrangement. What a pity that is not developed in a whole song. Anyway, great small song. Rating 8. The last piece of side A is funny, "Up to Me", is festive; it is a disengaged song, which is perhaps the weakest point of the album (rating 7). First side that ends in falling.

The opening song of the side B, "My God" (rating 9) is in my opinion the absolute masterpiece of the album, much more than the opening track (Aqualung). With an Anderson who throws his arrows against religion, taking it with God, we see an initially acoustic song unfold which then presents an exceptional hard rock rhythm progression thanks to the guitar played by Martin Barre, protagonist of the sound of Tull as Anderson. Then we listen to a solo flute, and church choirs, which together constitute the most prog passage of the album, but what matters is that it is very musically inspired, it is not achieved by force. This piece, by itself, is worth more than the second side of "Thick As A Brick". As in the first side, the second song ("Hymn 43; rating 7+) is very rhythmic hard rock, candlesticked by the electric guitar and the flute. Then comes, even in this side, the usual acoustic fragment ("Slipstream", less than one and a half minute), but this time it is too short, not very developed, it does not reach the peaks of "Wondrig Aloud".

"Locomotive Breath" (rating 8) has a beautiful jazz pianistic start, really remarkable, then it develops too predictably and ends in a decline. Finally, the initial melody of Aqualung is shot In "Wind Up" to close the circle of the concept album. This reprise has the merit (compared to many other reprises) both to conclude the album's story from the point of view of the lyrics, and to differentiate itself markedly from the initial song, and this for me is very important, because often in many prog albums we listen to a Reprise very long, instrumental, and too much similar to the original piece of which they constitute the recovery. Here, intelligently, the Tulls can handle the same melody with enough variety on the theme, starting from Barre's solos, from piano pieces. Excellent ending that closes the circle. Rating 8,5.

Aqualung is an album unfriendly in terms of quality and arrangements, alternating short acoustic fragments to elaborate art rock songs if not prog rock songs. But from the narrative point of view it is unitary, and on the whole, the alternation of acoustic pieces with hard rock pieces is pleasant. In addition, the melodic quality of the songs is high. In my opinion, this is Jethro Tull's masterpiece, not Thick As A Brick. "Thick" as a setting for compositions is more progressive, but the musical value of "Aqualung" in my opinion is much higher. Masterpice of progressive rock music.

Medium quality of the songs: 7,89. Rating album: 9+. Five Stars.

jamesbaldwin | 5/5 |

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