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Ian Anderson - Thick As A Brick 2 [Aka: TAAB2] CD (album) cover


Ian Anderson


Prog Folk

3.74 | 397 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Never ming Gerald! Whatever happened to Little Milton's muse????

3,5 stars really

Well, after decades of our favourite flauter poking fun at his early masterpiece, most Tullheads had serious doubt about the drive and quality of the "sequel" to come, once he announced his intentions (then, well in course of realization) of touching to his first sacred cow. Indeed, while the idea of "whatever became of Gerald Bostock" (the main brilliant and heroic protagonist of the original concept) was cute and provided many fantasies among the Taabheads, it also caused some anxieties as to the original oeuvre's aura if the sequel plainly stunk. Furthermore, the announcement that his long-time sidekick and souffre-douleur (the whipping-post boy) Martin Barre and the now-household drummer Doane Perry wouldn't be partakers was not helping either; a lot of fans were relieved to learn that the album would come out under the mad flauter's name. Of course, this meant that the intervening musos were going to suffer unkind comparisons; but to be honest, these are partly justified, because all is too gentle, restrained and over-produced, that one might be tempted to call the new opus Slick As A Stick.

To continue on musical side-issues, if our flauter thought cleverly and kindly about a second full-sized St Cleve Chronicle issue (distributed through a specialized press magazine) for those that preferred the silicon disc instead of the petrol-derived wax disc; he also unfortunately came up one of his worst album artwork, despite the wink to the modern web publications. A tad more effort in the decorum would've been most welcome. On the same level of thought, it appears that the new paper Chronicle is also not as thoroughly-thought, lacking the totally minute but hilarious details, such as the echoing small adds. And while most of the lyrics are plainly audible and easily deciphered aurally, printing them in the booklet might have another welcomed idea. On the music format, if the whole album is a total concept, it is not a single album-long epic (however divided in two, for vinyl format reasons), but 17 sections, often grouped by two or three to form eight grander themes, themselves being grouped in the Divergence and Convergence movements; the whole "shebam" slowly depicting Little Milton's less glorious afterlife, which also happened to be Bostock's hard reality.

With an all-too-predictable but heart-warming start with the three notes that bridged the two flipsides of the vinyl album, the album launches into the direct aftermath of the poetry scandal, by plunging shyly in the meat of the musical ambiance and contents of the homaged album. We follow Gerald's banking career and ensuing personal bankruptcy (working for Barings, maybe?), his entrance into the loathed army ranks (his youthful poem showed us how much he disliked blind faith and senseless hierarchy ladders), then into a different kind of "Order", where he becomes the altarboy he should've never stopped being. Musically, while many of the themes are reminiscent of their early-70's style, the execution gives a late-70's flavour, ala HH, the whole thing heavily peppered by post-millennium production values. Indeed, the sheer lunacy and wild, brilliant ramblings of John, Martin, Jeffrey and Barrie are simply not equalled (or even approached) by the new team. This is especially true for the bass and drum, both nearing the anemic. Not that these new playmates aren't good musicians, but obviously the flauting madman does allow them more room than strict-minimum. If Ian's flute is still as brilliant (and getting a fair share of the spotlight), his voice is at its best level in about 15 years, as a result of a salutary chirurgical intervention, but clearly his legendary vocal prowess of yesteryear will forever be beyond limits. Elsewhere, there is a synth that uses and abuses of an accordion or melodica sound that's fairly irritating, because over-present throughout the album's course.

Unfortunately, Ian has the relatively ill-advised idea to have a few narratives or soliloquies that spoil a bit the album's musical progress, to allow the lyrical contents to asthmatically catch up. In doing so, one inevitably thinks of the disastrous Hare piece that ruined the APP album. Yes, obviously and inevitably the original TAAB concept shadows (and overshadows at times), but there are references to the two neighbouring works, with a mention of a Passioned Play and the (foul?) Breath of a Locomotive, both in the lyrics and in the music itself. Evidently, the unique and amazing marriage between the original music and lyrics is simply not reproduced here, and IMHO was an inaccessible (and unrealistic) goal right from the start, even though one cannot blame him for lack of trying, maybe just too hard. I guess he was never able to recapture that unstoppable and intuitive momentum that helped him create the Little Milton myth.

And if the album closes on the same gorgeous theme as its father, it is only greeted with a certain kind of relief, because it had sort of run out of steam by its second third and was relying a bit too much on former laurels, like Cozy Corner (The Hare), Shunt And Shuffle (Locomotive), then Change Of Horses (where another famous band's classic moment inspires a bit too much of the way through), and there are a few War Child hints sprawled here and there. But despite all of my little rants, the album's overall concept remains a fairly plausible one and doesn't sound too "forced", even if I will probably never indulge in Gerald's everyday adventures, like I did some 40 years ago over his written-out fantasy.

Did our mad flauter have a tiny chance to outdo his chef d'oeuvre of 40 years ago, and please old curmudgeon progheads like you and I? Of course, he didn't; but all he could do was give his best shot after throwing himself this unrealistic auto-challenge. Soooo, in a way, this Taabhead would like to think that this album is more of an APP 2, than a sequel to the holy Brick. In many ways our favourite flauter tried to be a little smart, cute and sly for his own good, making too many reference to his illustrious musical past (one that this writer will never dream of equalling, musically or not), but the least one must grant him is that this latest musical misdemeanour is his most brilliant since the classic Wood-Horses-Storm trilogy, and at least on par with Roots To Branches. Anyway, a nice try!

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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