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Jethro Tull - A Passion Play CD (album) cover

A PASSION PLAY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.03 | 1490 ratings

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SteveG
3 stars Six of one. A half dozen of the other.

The trouble I find with APP is not that it is a bad album but simply that's it's only half a good album. After the stunning success of Thick As A Brick, Anderson and co. decided to push the long suite album epic even further. But the first side of APP is a veritable dirge filled with verbose lyrics that narrowly fill every dragged out beat of the depressing narrative in a queasy sing song style with music supported by Anderson's sub par saxophone. A flute, a flute, my Kingdom for a flute! Why Anderson decided to focus on the sax and discard his superlative flute playing is beyond me. When the slow minor key and musically clumsy narrative verses cease, the band lunches into dramatic faux jams with loud drums and bass that never venture past punctuated staggered notes and rhythms. This would normally signify a change to some melodious music that, for whatever reason, never happens, as if Anderson is driving this musical car yelling "Left turn, right turn, left turn" while missing the road to the better more coherent music to follow. It's as if the catchy rhythms and melodies that lie just around the bend are always being bypssed. This is some of the most unappealing prog I've ever encountered but the lyrics that accompany it are no saving grace either.

Lines like "the ice cream lady wet her draws" and "and your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulder of a young horse named George", while unusual and cute, are a far cry from anything that would be considered poetry and offer no deeper meanings, metaphorical or otherwise, and are certainly not close to any type of deep theological thought or comment. No great loss really as prog was never known for great lyrics but any help that they could have given to the music would have been welcome.

The mock theatrical debacle that is The Story Of The Hare That Lost His Spectacles is so poor and appalling that least said about it, the better. An unfunny story with garish acting by sidemen Evan and Hammond-Hammond. In fact, it makes the myriad of ELP's "humorous songs" like Benny The Bouncer seem almost Shakespearian.

Luckily, good songwriting and musical sense return for the album's concluding 18 minutes. We are returned the APP narrative which now boasts deft melodies and more syncopated rhythms, particularly on the driving "Lucifer" section which boasts some very modern, for the time, sounding sythn accompaniment from Evan. This much needed bombast is too short but following suites offer beautiful near Flamenco type acoustic guitar from Anderson (or from Barre perhaps), as well as the return of his wonderful concert flute, which signals the feeling that one is back on safe and familiar Tull musical ground. Right after, Martin Barre interjects some of the most jarring and brash sounding guitar chords he's ever played (or that I've ever heard!) but the dramatic shift in the music is welcome and enjoyable until Old Ian ends this epic with slow acoustic strums and a plaintive last verse. The last 18 minutes of APP contains some of the best prog that Tull ever put on tape. But at what cost to the listener?

No one would be expected to consume a burnt entree in order to get to a fantastic dessert. The same standard holds true for music. The last half of APP is quite a musical dessert, but no one should suffer through the main course in order to get to it. 3 stars.

SteveG | 3/5 |

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