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Jethro Tull - A Passion Play  CD (album) cover

A PASSION PLAY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.01 | 999 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Purely on a whim, I put this on today for the first time in an age, and, on even more of a whim, decided to write down a few thoughts. This is, more than any other, the one Tull album which divides fans of the band between exceptional and god-awful.

In truth, I think that it falls somewhere in between. It's an important part of the band's extensive canon, but, by Anderson's own admission, does not stand up as amongst the best. However, one thing that does rather amuse me is that whilst albums of the time such as Tales From Topographic Oceans are (still) regularly slated by the music press as heralding the fall from grace of prog as a commercial art form (too pretentious and all that), this album, released in the same year, never gets such a mention, something which I find somewhat strange, to say the least.

For this was Ian Anderson's "proper" concept album. By that, I mean that Thick As A Brick was deliberately conceived as a mickey take by its author, as a riposte to all those who saw the "deep meaning and concept" in Aqualung which was never there in the first place. This, however, was done in deadly earnest, and is Anderson'e extremely irreverent take on the afterlife.

Musically, it is very mixed, and, ironically, whereas Thick stood together extremely well as a concept both lyrically and musically as a whole, this one still feels as "bitty" as it did the first time I listened to it all those years ago. Of course, many of the musical themes are very similar to Thick, and I do especially love the sax to the fore, and wish it was an instrument that Anderson had allowed on more of his work. Further, this is the finest keyboard led album the band did, without a shadow of a doubt. John Evans shines here, and is very ably supported by Barriemore Barlow on drums and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond on bass. The only real disappointment is the near total absence of a meaningful contribution by Martin Barre on guitar - he makes himself heard about 19 minutes in to side two in marvellous form, almost as if someone had woken him up and asked him to do something. It is also, in my opinion, the best part of the album, the best saved until the end, so to speak.

As has been said by many reviewers before me, side one of the old LP is generally, the close apart, superior to side two, and it is on the latter side that matters fall apart for me. As with many of the albums released by classic prog bands of the time, in hindsight a bit less would have been far more. Having said that, with both sides, when it is good, it is very good.

Also, a brief word about The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles. This is, to blokes of a certain generation who worshipped and recited all things Python, brilliant nonsense. To most others, I suspect an awful amount of head scratching would be undertaken. You had to be there, I suppose.

1973 to 1976 was not my favourite Tull period. That would come later with the superlative Songs From The Wood, and this album is, for me, the start of a rather indifferent period, peppered by flashes of genius, and, of course, the work is not bad, given that Anderson and the band were simply incapable of releasing an album with that description.

However, a rating of three stars for this. Good, and certainly recommended for those who wish to complete or expand their Tull collection. It might be, though, perhaps best to start looking elsewhere first!

lazland | 3/5 |

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