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Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick CD (album) cover

THICK AS A BRICK

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.64 | 2347 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Here's an album which certainly doesn't need another five-star recommendation, after racking up more than 200 reviews to date and winning the number two spot in the Prog Archives all-time popularity poll. But hearing it end-to-end (for the umpteenth time in 30+ years) is always an experience worth repeating, so why not also repeat some of the glowing accolades as well?

Any good Jethro Tull fan will of course cling to a favorite album, but to these ears the band's fifth studio effort was their first true masterpiece. More so than even "Aqualung", by comparison now an overexposed and somewhat dated early Prog artifact still riding the slipstream of its long-standing classic rock status. After 1971 Ian Anderson could have simply rested on the laurels of his newly minted superstardom, but he chose instead to put his then sterling reputation at risk with a record almost guaranteed to drive his critics to dumbfounded apoplexy.

It was a concept album, of course, as was just about every other record released at the time. But "Thick as a Brick" was the genuine article: a concept album in both content and form, mocking the philistine attitudes of cultural complacency in a single 40+ minute "song" cycle filling the entire album (with only one break, where the original vinyl LP had to be flipped over). The whole thing was meant to represent a rock-and-roll arrangement of a controversial poem written by a fictional 8-year old prodigy at odds with middlebrow conservatism, blending equal parts theology, scatology, obscure symbolism, and ribald satire into one long tragic- comic meditation on the entire human condition, here presented in a tongue-in- cheek "newspaper" poking fun not only at the anticipated critical response to the new album, but also at the conventions of album cover art overkill.

Describing the music itself would be a fool's errand. Suffice to say the rhythm-and- blues roots of early Tull were finally exorcised here, thanks in large part to the brilliant ensemble work of maybe the best line-up ever assembled under the Jethro Tull banner. The ferocious drumming of newcomer Barriemore Barlow shines through the typically anemic mid-'70s production job; old pal John Evan was allowed his modest share of the limelight on keyboards (after laboring in a supporting role on previous Tull albums); and Martin Barre continued to prove himself one of the most overlooked and underrated electric guitarists of his generation.

But this was clearly Ian Anderson's magnum opus. Consider the first four Jethro Tull albums, from their late '60s debut "This Was" through 1971's "Aqualung". Then listen to "Thick as a Brick" again. In 1972 it represented an unexpected and daring aesthetic leap forward for the band, and over 30 years later you can judge its success by how ill-suited it still is to the pre-fab, corporate music machine of our brave new millennium.

Neu!mann | 5/5 |

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