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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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Prog Reviewer
4 stars It's a bold move to release a sequel to what is widely considered one of the best albums from the heyday of prog, and it's even bolder to do it 40 years later and without the band with which the original was recorded. But Ian Anderson is certainly not known for being meek, and so here we have "Thick as a Brick 2."

The big question on everyone's mind, of course, is "Is it as good as the original?" The answer is no. But really, who expected it to be? Despite this, the album is a complete success, in no small part due to the fact that it doesn't merely try to emulate the first TAAB or simply try to cash in on nostalgia. In fact, I would posit that TAAB 2 is a sequel in name far more than in spirit. Where the original was parodical, bombastic, and perhaps overly theatrical (brilliantly so, of course), "2" is stripped down, generally laid-back and surprisingly sincere. Where the original spanned across two epic but singular pieces of music, "2" is far more song based, with the concept based on multiple vignettes rather then one cohesive work. Even our protagonist, Gerald Bostock, is different. Where he once was a precocious child poet serving as a source of inspiration but with no real character of his own, here he is an everyman, taking on not one but multiple characters as the album explores the different paths a life can take. In short, if you are merely looking for an imitation of the original Thick as a Brick, look elsewhere. If you are willing to take the album on its own merits, however, I think you'll find that it's quite a satisfying journey in its own right.

"From a Pebble Thrown" begins the album in the same way that "Thick as a Brick, Part 2" opened, with those same punchy guitar chords quoted from the original TAAB. Lest you think that this is going to be nothing but a nostalgia trip through old melodies, however, the track quickly departs in another direction, with a melodic and lyrically brilliant introduction to the concept of the album. While I'm not terribly familiar with latter-day Tull works, I understand that there was some concern about Ian's voice, and while he may have lost a little power in the 40 years since the original, there's certainly nothing to worry about here: the same wry delivery and unique vocal style has most certainly survived.

The "Pebble Instrumental" that follows helps to serve as a kind of musical introduction to the album just as "From A Pebble Thrown" presented a lyrical introduction. There's brilliant interplay between keyboard, flute, and yes, guitar, which sounds very good despite the fact that Martin Barre does not appear on the album. "Might Have Beens" closes out the introductory trifecta of tracks, presenting a brief, poetic, spoken word intro helps tie together this first section of the album.

"Upper Sixth Loan Shark" starts off on a very sedate note, with a picked acoustic guitar part and some delicate keyboard and flute. Anderson delivers some nice, emotive vocals as well, but on the whole the track is really just an introduction of sorts for "Banker Bets Banker Wins," a track that should prove to anyone still doubting that Ian Anderson has what it takes to write very, very good songs. With a rocking guitar part that's perhaps reminiscent of Aqualung-era Tull, typically satirical lyrics and a multitude of excellent vocal melodies to match, "Banker Bets Banker Wins" is an excellently composed song with the perfect blend of lyrical cleverness and catchy music.

"Swing It Far" is another highlight, starting off with a spoken word section over some minimal keyboard before developing some of the most gorgeous melodies I've ever heard on a Tull- related project. Midway through the track a more uptempo (though no less catchy) melody is introduced, and for the rest of the song the two motifs play off of one another, which proves very successful. Prettiness is juxtaposed against rock motifs and punky lyrics with perfect balance.

"Adrift and Dumbfounded" returns to a classic sound with liberal use of classic rock organ and of course the omnipresent acoustic guitar. Crashing guitar chords assist as well, giving the track a very dramatic feel, and some great guitar and flute soloing in the second half of the track recalls (if only briefly) the instrumental hijinks of past Tull releases.

"Old School Song" starts with another pseudo-quote of the original TAAB, though like in "From a Pebble Thrown" this is quickly diverged from. "Old School Song" has a kind of tension to it, with terse, punchy playing and vocal delivery replacing the somewhat languid attitude of many of the previous tracks. Another incredibly catchy chorus adds to the track's charm, and overall it's a very winsome little track before it suddenly cuts off.

"Wooten Basset Town" comes next, bringing a haunting, melancholy air to replace the frenetic style of the previous track. A dark string part perfectly backs up some of Anderson's most emotive singing on the album, and a spare but driving guitar part gives the track a bit of extra bite. Typically excellent flute playing also appears on the track, though it's used in a decidedly supporting role that adds to the overall sound while not ever really stepping totally into the limelight.

A series of short tracks follow, with "Power and Spirit" featuring some almost classical melodies before guitar and organ rise up behind some exceptionally powerful singing to create a motif that again reminds the listener of parts of Aqualung. "Give Till it Hurts" follows, featuring some folky guitar playing and an almost country or bluegrass twang. "Cosy Corner" consists of a spoken word bit over some pastoral, courtly horn parts. "Shunt and Shuffle" closes out this quartet of songlets, and its probably the most developed of them. "Locomotive Breath"-esque riffs interspersed with flute and piano give the track a hard rocking, "classic- Tull" feel, despite the fact that this is technically an Ian Anderson solo release.

"A Change of Horses" is the longest song on the album, and quite a bit folkier than much of what appears on the album. With some incredible melodic flute playing and a pretty significant part from what sounds like an accordion, the track has a very distinctive sound, coming off as cinematic, folky, and dramatic all in one. An extended instrumental section in the middle of the track only helps to enhance this pseudo-film-score feel, and it really helps to highlight how many different styles Ian Anderson can pull off. At times it even comes off as rather jazzy. A very impressive track and another killer song on an album full of great songs.

"Confessional" starts off as many of the tracks here do, with a rather sedate, pastoral blend of guitar and vocals. However, "Confessional" builds in intensity as it continues, introducing a variety of keyboard parts as well as drums and eventually organ and guitar as well. At the end of the track there's a bit of an instrumental section that serves as a kind of interlude before "Kismet in Suburbia" begins. With very cleverly rhymed lyrics and some more riffing reminiscent of Aqualung (ironic that the sequel to TAAB should have so many sonic similarities to another classic Tull album), "Kismet?" has a very climactic tone to it and as a result it serves very well in its role as the album's penultimate track. Another short little instrumental makes an appearance towards the end of the track, setting up for the album's final track.

"What-Ifs, Maybes, and Might-Have-Beens" closes the album off quite nicely, reprising some themes from "From a Pebble Thrown" as well as various other songs from the album to give TAAB 2 a nice feeling of circularity. There's even an amusing not to the original Thick as a Brick, with a quote of the final lines of that album with a playful "2" tacked on. It's a charming little nod to the first album that reminds the listener of TAAB 2's origins as well as sets it apart from its progenitor. A fine ending for an excellent album.

So overall, I have to conclude that Thick as a Brick 2 is as good as it possibly could have been. By drastically diverging from the first instead of merely rehashing it, Ian Anderson has created an excellent album that can hold its own as a sequel to one of the greatest albums ever made or simply stand up in its own right as an excellent modern progressive rock album. I myself will admit that I certainly had reservations when this album was announced, but I am pleased to say that my fears have been allayed. Highly recommended.


VanVanVan | 4/5 |


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