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Jethro Tull - A Passion Play CD (album) cover

A PASSION PLAY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.03 | 1477 ratings

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Ludjak
3 stars This was the piece by Jethro Tull I tried to avoid for a long time. Having heard this was the album that made one of my favourite rock groups venture into years and years of musical inconsistence scared me away for a good number of years. Finally, last year I accidentally came across a bootleg tape of a Passion Play concert (Oakland, I believe), listened to the piece and was blown away. The performance was so intense that the humorous pause with the 'Hare Who Lost His Spectacles' story and film came like a perfect relief, only to prepare the listener for the cathartic finale. Roaring guitar, a stampede-like rhythm section, delicate piano playing countered with eerie organ and (surprisingly) tasteful synthesizer work, unorthodox soprano sax lines and a great (at times almost demonic) sounding bass-baritone of Ian Anderson. Compositionally speaking, this seemed to be one of the most accomplished magnum opuses of rock, with dark, hermetic lyrics almost brilliantly put to music. Without a second thought I picked up my father's copy of the record the next day.

I was... disappointed.

While I'm aware that studio recordings can't really sound as 'intense' as live ones, this wasn't the only problem with the album. The only parts that didn't sound shockingly uninspired and boring were the acoustic sections (the sole reason being that they sounded exactly like on the live tape) and the only 'upgrade' from the live version was Jethro Tull's already characteristic use of studio trickery to emphasize lyrical content (especially noticeable on Side 2, during the 'Overseer' section). The other huge problem I have with the studio recording are endless overdubs, resulting in cheesy over-arrangement (a problem which was to continue throughout the band's career). A good motif or a theme won't sound better if you have a sax (or any other instrument) playing over it in parallel intervals (as can be heard in the opening, or the irrelevant piano octaves in Critique Oblique, for example). 'The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles' is as enjoyable to hear as it is to see on film, as it is a sweet, non-pretentious fable with a simple message, narrated by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond in a ridiculously exaggerated Northern English accent. Also, it is (apart from the lyric sheet, which you will most certainly need if you are to figure out the words from the live tapes) one of the main reasons to buy the record.

This album should be viewed only as a document of a really good piece of music and isn't an essential addition to your collection. On the other hand, I strongly recommend getting a good quality bootleg from the 1973 tour to fully experience Tull's A Passion Play.

Ludjak | 3/5 |

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