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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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Symphonic Team
4 stars One of the better releases from Anderson paying reverant homage to his original masterpiece.

The eagerly anticipated followup up to "Thick as a Brick" finally hit the shelves and proggers and Tullites everywhere drooled over the premise of a sequel. It is a sequel in the sense that it follows the story of Gerald Bostock 50 years later, the newspaper artwork is there, the albums mentions parts of "TAAB" and of course pays reverant homage to the music of the original classic. It does not measure up to the classic and I guess it was too much to ask as that was a product of its time that seemed to come out at just the right time. It is impossible to catch lightning in a bottle but I think Anderson was more interested in continuing the story that fans loved so dearly. It is an unexpected album as it is released so many years after "TAAB". Alice Cooper did the same thing last year with his "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" which is again nowhere near the original masterpiece of the 70s. Queensryche also recently released the sequel to the incredible "Operation Mindcrime" but it was nowhere as successful. Some may ponder why bother at all releasing these inferior sequels, and I was in that boat until I actually heard the "TAAB2" album which quickly changed my mind. I have heard these tracks many times and have come to the conclusion that this is one of Ian Anderson's best releases.

"TAAB2" is an excellent album, a far cry from some of the mediocrity that Tull and Anderson have churned out over the years. Many may liken it with good reason to the sound generated on "Heavy Horses" or "Roots to Branches". It is certainly as good as those albums if not better. It is filed under an Anderson solo album which is rather frustrating as it should be a Tull album, but Martin Barre is criminally absent and therefore the sound is nowhere near as good. Florian Opahle does a comparable job on guitars but he is not a shadow of Barre. The songs on this album make up for any musical discrepancies. I love how Anderson reverently mentions references to his older albums, sometimes too blatant but there is no mistaking that the references exist. The story itself makes as little sense to me as the original "TAAB" but I have never been that interested in the story of "TAAB", it is the music that captures my interest. The 5 possible futures of Bostock are as follows; the banker, who is only after cash at the cost of others interests, the homeless man has been sexually abused, the military man is interested in valour and has a loyal persona, the preacher is power mad and lusts for money, and the shopkeeper who wants to sell things anyway even on ebay. Musically this album is one of the better efforts from Anderson, especially some of the longer tracks. There are heaps of transition tracks, as if Anderson was going to release this in two halves and then decided to break up the songs into sections. The songs segue together seamlessly overall and there is even a nice little break mid way just like on the vinyl.

"From A Pebble Thrown" begins proceedings with a narration and some atmospherics of birds and wind effects. "Pebbles Instrumental" is where the actual music comes in and it is a gradual fade up of guitar, piano and wind. The bass of David Goodier and Scott Hammond's drums keep a steady rhythm. Finally the flute is heard gently and patiently warbling as the staccato guitar stabs are heard. A prog riff pattern comes in and stops to allow Anderson to sing some melodies "white knuckle fingers on the safety bar, which way to blue skies.. dark promises of blood and gore, interventions at every turn." The song builds to a moderate tempo and some catchy guitar licks. It sounds like Tull but nothing really like the original "TAAB", though I was not expecting that in any case.

"Might-have-beens" has the flute intro we all love and it builds into the brilliant emotional flute trilling and it was nice to hear Anderson sing "thick as a brick, thick as a brick.." reminding us this is a sequel. The music is joyous and exuberant with floating flute and held back guitar distortion. I like the way the lead guitar trades off with the flute and there is a section where musicians take turns including accordion, bass, and drum. A great start to this album that harkens back to the glory days of the 70s. A narration follows, "we all must wonder.." to keep the story flowing, and Anderson is as good as any narrator, a bit cynical but vindictive in his approach.

"Upper Sixth Loan Shark" is a short transition with Anderson's vocals driving it; "interesting sugar coated bitter pills.. float aspirations nothing finer." It segues into one of the greater songs. "Banker Bets, Banker Wins" may be one of Anderson's best compositions. Certainly it shines on this album with great melodic vibe, memorable riffs and a shimmering 70s organ from John O'Hara. The flute is ferocious on this, trilling and aggressively played. The lead guitar is stronger than on other sections of the album even featuring lead guitar sweeps and high string bends. I missed Barre on this album but here I enjoyed Opahle's guitar. The lyrics are about "Big fat bonus in the offing, Draconian calls for regulation, are drowned in latte with Starbucks muffin", and "cheque's in the post, not worth the ink it's written in". The heavy and melodic approach is typical Tull and outstanding among the other tracks.

"Swing It Far" is a narrative with Anderson half singing in places telling a story of "gentle peasants.. overnight he did a runner.. I fell to pieces dropped out of classes.. market in the winter a stone's cold throw from Kentish town.. independence far from suburbia.. how's your father, not too chipper, serves the bugger flipping right." Shades of "Aqualung" are here. The quiet verses are balanced by loud choruses with some of Anderson's more aggressive vocals. Overall not a bad track that seems to grow on you.

"Adrift And Dumfounded" is an excellent song with catchy melody, acoustics, organ and Anderson's relentless storytelling vocals. The time sig is quite innovative and I like the way the guitar chips in accentuating the sound. The lyrics are interesting; "with nowhere to go no appointments to keep, he's our little man, adrift and dumbfounded, head on hard pillow waiting for sleep". The heavier approach on guitars and drum embellishments are excellent. The song gains tempo and some powerful guitar licks lead to a welcome lead break with some flute and sprinklings of piano. The vocals return with "broken societies selfish uncaring.. desperate measures desperately tearing.." It finishes with the awesome musicianship of the band and actually would have to be one of the album highlights.

"Old School Song"is a great fun rhythmic flute driven piece with tons of guitar riffs. Anderson is upbeat on vox and it has a terrific melody. The odd time sig is pleasant and you have to love that rumbling organ of O'Hara. This even sounds like old school Tull, especially with the trade offs of flute and guitar. The flute trills and lifts the song to its exuberant conclusion. A quieter song follows, with a memorable melody once heard.

"Wootton Bassett Town" begins with a lonely piano and Anderson rhythmically uses phrases in innovative rhymes. Anderson is gentler on vocals and it has a gentle melancholy feel. The lyrics speak of "My wife, my God unheard, unseen, Who never thinks to intervene, Oh, what pain and oh, what lie has called to us, from heaven on high? This cruel and harsh sweet punishment for follies acted, leaves us spent". Other imagery opens up the story even further as Anderson speaks of a "dusty scorched wind blast track", "church bells sound", "politicians", and "shoppers and tradesman stiffly stand and shed their tears for the military man." The instrumental is great flute and guitar with swathes of violin strings generating a beautiful sound. This one really grew on me especially the infectious melody.

"Power And Spirit" is another heavy track and the guitars crash in with crunching organ that wakes you up. The cynical lyrics are strong, "candles flicker in the quire.. raptures touch me, lift me, shake me, brotherhood, an ode to joy.. I sense the glory road.. follow me to serve dark master."

"Give Till It Hurts" begins with "let us pray" and then Anderson speaks of "the humbled Reverend Gerald", and finishes with "praise be to him and hallelujah". The song is an open irreverent stab wound to the tele-evangelist scam artists that cry out for money.

"Cosy Corner" is an odd thing with Anderson monologuing of familiar images such as the "slow passion play" and "locomotive breath"; "With characters by Harold Pinter, dark silences, slow Passion Play, then home to fire up model trains and shunt and shuffle wagons, locomotive breath upon his brow". The horns follow this odd banter until we get to a very cool riff segueing to the next.

"Shunt And Shuffle" has a strong melody and one of the best on the album. The guitars are Barre- like, and Anderson is in fine form on vocals and flute as usual. The lyrics mention "same old words, another take, while all the time life slips away, but slips so slowly, stretches moments into slow-burn Passion Play." The guitar and flute break that ends this is wonderful.

"A Change Of Horses" is one of the longest songs for years from Anderson clocking 8 minutes. The reference to horses may be a nod towards "Heavy Horses". The music is quite refreshing beginning with ambience on flute and some droning keys. The sparkling water effects are balanced by accordion style notes and some acoustics. This folkish intro is long and builds into very nice flute, softly played as a tempo begins with Anderson's vocals. It is akin to a ballad with some innovative moments. Lyrics include some of Anderson's most potent imagery; "Last lights wink out on this pale and sultry night, Stars signal long past two AM. I feel the lateness in the hour, and I'm fifty long years from home. A new dawn glimmers, Time for a change of horses, It's time to chart new courses and head for safer houses, No more empty towers of this unholy Babylon, Some four hundred thousand hours have come and gone." The instrumental break is terrific, guitars and flute trading off notes, and an atmosphere of mystery and mysticism abounds. Later a faster pace locks in and some inventive time sigs. This is definitely another classic song on this album.

"Confessional" continues the story of the many aspects of Gerald (the Banker, the Homeless, the Chorister, the Military Man and A Most Ordinary Man). The last section is my favourite on this track; "Sold the shop, flicked off the power switch, In silent siding, Mallard must stay, Carriages and sleek coal tender packed in boxes, sold on eBay." The musical outro is very good fast cadence flute with blasts of guitar and sporadic drumming.

"Kismet In Suburbia" has an acoustic intro with some drones, fuzzed guitar and flute embellishments. I like the heavier feel on this and the lyrics are well executed; "Fresh start, another day, another life, a quiet café, Starbuck euphoria, Count my blessings, crossword ready, Soon, pipe and slippers in the study by the telly, I seek forgiveness, I beg your pardons at number 9 Mulberry Gardens." The story follows the characteristics of Gerald and are driven by a strong melody. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Some cool flute with odd time changes and scat vocals end the song.

"What-ifs, Maybes And Might-have-beens" continues the theme carried throughout the album. It bookends with similar lyrics to the opening narration. Anderson sings the closure this time and it is very folk oriented. The melody is the same as a theme explored earlier but works as a reprise. The lyrics are appropriate especially the ending; "What-ifs, Maybes and Might-have-beens. Why-nots, Perhaps and Wait-and-sees," and it was excellent that the melody of the original "TAAB" was employed at the very end; "So, you ride yourselves over the fields, And you make all your animal deals, And your wise men don't know how it feels to be Thick As A Brick.... two".

Overall this concept album is a comparable sequel to "TAAB" and although is no masterpiece, it is not disappointing. If you compare it to the classic Tull years naturally it will not measure up but I think taken on its own merits the album delivers and a considerable effort has been put into this. It is this effort and songwriting skill that lifts "TAAB2" above the usual Anderson output of recent years. If you compare it to "Broadsword and the Beast", "Stormwatch" or "War Child" for instance, "TAAB2" is far superior on almost every level, apart from the absence of Barre. The songwriting and musicianship is as good as I have heard from Tull or Anderson. It is whimsical in places, and entertaining, with tons of short bursts of energy and narration, but still manages to pack a whallop as an overall package. I am pleased to announce that "TAAB2" is an excellent album and it is a relief because, as a followup to "TAAB", it certainly deserved to be.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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