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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.36 | 2708 ratings

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3 stars Aqualung - Jethro Tull (3.21 stars) Original Release: 3/19/1971


Aqualung (4 stars) Anthemic guitar line accompanies a lyrical description of a filthy pedophile-beggar who dies in the cold. But the majority of the song's midsection features an acoustic guitar which softens the tone towards a character that the lyrics now invoke sympathy for. Also there is an upbeat section with piano and acoustic guitar that then turns into a reflective, soulful guitar solo that in turn becomes a rock solo after the first four measures. Great character sketch of one who has fallen to the absolute bottom.

Cross-Eyed Mary (3 stars) Lyrics seem to describe a Lolita-prostitute that has relative success over her poor piers. Flute and mellotron start the song quiet and like the coming of some monster theme the intro builds. Organ and guitar put a hard rock edge on the lyrical description of the song's protagonist. This song is a good compliment to Aqualung (there is even a lyrical tie-in). There is only a brief flute and guitar solo, but overall this is a good, funky hard rock song

Cheap Day Return (3 stars) Acoustic guitar passes briefly through a few melodies creating a sense of anticipation. The song is short and the lyrics capture a moment, a day, that the vocalist looks back with derision to.

Mother Goose (4 stars) Lyrical encounter with various circus-fantasy figures strolling through the city. Acoustic guitar and flute play a happy melody which draws out a sense of insanity from the lyrical events. This song stands out for me mainly in its lighter series of engaging melodies.

Wond'ring Aloud (3 stars) Vocalist seems to be recalling images of his wife/lover who makes food and love for/to him. Also there is a sense of drawing from these experiences deeper principles of life. Acoustic guitar then piano then strings instrumentally decorate this short ballad.

Up to Me (3 stars) Lyrically this song looks at the world as an extension of one's self and avoiding giving up personal responsibility. Flute and vocal laughter promise antics while the acoustic guitar plays the anthemic line. The trickster-like sense of this song is appropriate to the theme of self-awareness.

My God (3 stars) The lyrics speak of what the church has done to God, commoditized Him amongst other things. Acoustic guitar starts off warily. This song has variety of melody and an instrumental section that fills out the song's length with progressive qualities. With the guitar we finally get a good aggressive flute solo (which has been lacking somewhat from previous albums).

Hymn 43 (3 stars) The lyricists pleads to Jesus, but is sorry for how He has been abused. This song is a piano rocker right off the bat with a guitar anthem. There is definitely something of the holy roller passion in the vocals as well.

Slipstream (3 stars) Short song that seems to be a warning to the materialists in the pews. Sweet vocals, strings and acoustic guitar counter the sarcasm of the lyrics. The strings end in a vaguely chaotic dissipation created by some studio effects.

Locomotive Breath (3 stars) Return to a character sketch of desperation; this time about a man for whom everything is going wrong/spinning out of his control. A peaceful piano intro. with Chopin-esque qualities gives way to a soulful guitar and piano movement, then a 4/4 rock rhythm, still calm but sassy. Further instrumentalism includes a guitar and piano anthem. A throbbing bass pushes this rock 'n' roll train along.

Wind Up (3 stars) Bitter resentment directed at the church in the form of a flat denial of their grasp on the truth. A quiet guitar and vocals accompanies this lyrical message. This melody repeats and builds instrumentally and in volume until the final guitar anthem kicks in. The ballad then turns into hard rock. This process repeats from quiet to loud to quiet, perhaps, suggesting a winding up and down movement.

Album: This fourth Jethro Tull album is yet another collection of songs but with a more coherent sound across the whole album. The character sketches and the God-church songs represent a couple of themes on this debatable two-concept album. Certainly the guitar has found a clearer more confident voice. There is also a flirtation with the progressive rock form in a couple of the longer songs. Jethro Tull continues to rotate through different sounds turning by degrees from blues to hard rock. Some of the songs I recognize from the radio I may have already heard too many times and so their character may not impress me as much as it should (particularly "Cross-Eyed Mary" and "Locomotive Breath").

A couple of songs on this album strike me as progressive rock songs: Aqualung and My God. Other songs indicate their penchant for complex composition but they have not yet broken through into this, at the time, still emerging genre. Overall I not yet as engaged with Jethro Tull's sound on this album (rather I prefer particular songs) as I am on many of their later albums.

MP3 recommendation:

Four star songs (4 stars) 1. Aqualung (4 stars) 2. Mother Goose (4 stars)

sealchan | 3/5 |


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