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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.36 | 2707 ratings

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5 stars Jethro Tull's "zenith" for me - easily beats TAAB. Some great themes appear and reappear on here (notably tramps and religion :P). Every track is an absolute masterclass in prog folk, and there's such a distinct sound on here.

Starting off with "Aqualung", I was initially disappointed, but soon I got very much into it. The main, opening riff is really quite clever with an almost baroque vibe running through. Ian Anderson's harsh folky vocals fit it quite well, but I'm unsure with the line "feeling like a dead duck". Not too imaginative, but anyway. Great chord progressions, and that signature Anderson resolve of the A major to A minor sounds so brilliant.

"Cross-Eyed Mary" contains some of my favourite flute playing on the album in the intro, and captivates you quickly. Lovely airy trills bursting out, with a nice little chromatic descent and quiet piano to add flavour. The guitars were perhaps a little too distorted, and while on this, the production of the whole album is really a bit sketchy. Considering they had the better studio when Led Zeppelin recorded their untitled masterpiece, it goes to show how much better it could have sounded. Perhaps too much pressure on the record company to release their follow-up from "Benefit", or just spent too much time on the songs? Anyway, great lyrics (especially on the chorus) and a nice atmosphere instrumentally (as with most of the album). Great continuation on the theme of "Aqualung" the tramp.

Coming onto "Cheap Day Return", I might as well talk about the other 2 folk interludes on the album "Wond'ring Aloud" and "Slipstream". Whilst all of them are great guitar tracks to play along to, they delay the album flow in some ways, and could in some cases be better off without them (especially "Cheap Day" into the following track...)

"Mother Goose" is one of my favourites on the album. With a capo on 5th, Anderson gets a great timbre out of the guitar, playing quite open chords that really resonate and complement those excellent flute harmonies. Great lyrics again, and quite complex rhythms on the chorus for a folk song, and some excellent little rolling percussion noises (bongos perhaps??) Very consistent and probably in my top 5 Tull songs. I'd be proud to write such a great little tune!

"Up To Me" has a great riff as the guitar and flutes play in synchronicity. Not so sure about the lyrics or the verses for that matter, but still very much like it. Also, the "odd voices" by Jeffrey Hammond always added something to the warmth of the atmosphere and the tramp theme for me. Overall, a great end to side 1 but lacks something at a time when the album could have done with bit of a kick...

Side 2 begins with my all-time favourite "My God". Everything on this is simply genius and outstanding, etc., etc. The lyrics, the chords, the vocals, the intro, the verses, the atmosphere, but most of all the brilliant songwriting and musicianship of Ian Anderson. This can be heard on the middle section, with that unbelivably talented flute solo which my parents hate with a burning passion for some reason! The track also brings you into the religion theme, mainly through the strong lyrical themes, but also that little choir in the middle section which adds a certain holy/pastoral (can't think of the word :L) texture.

"Hymn 43" also continues the godly thing, but perhaps drags it on too much, and the muted strokes after "Oh, Jesus save me!" also make me cringe a little. Just a bit embarrassing for such a capable guitarist as Martin Barre but I've grown to accept it. The chord progressions, however, are very interesting and do give it something else that keeps you into it. Unfortunately, that's about all it really has to offer. At least they kept it short though.

"Locomotive Breath": an obvious favourite among fans. The piano intro (and playing throughout the song) is really quite underrated; sets the scene brilliantly. I also quite like the story about the train not being able to stop - the music really fits it, as it chugs along at a brisk pace :P I could go on about it for ages but I best keep it short.

"Wind Up" isn't really the best way to end such an album. Plods along a bit - even though it goes through a more lively stage, feels a bit like a ballad with some pretty dull lyrics about his "old headmaster" and "grooming" which I find also a bit cringeworthy. Does have a good atmosphere, and all of the instruments are in place, but it just feels like they're playing the wrong song in a finishing mood. Maybe I just don't get it though. Chords again are quite interesting but I think they missed a few tricks, and could have been much more adventurous. Maybe it lacks a strong chord change? I don't know :P

A(+) - An all-time prog classic that you really must own to call yourself a prog rock fan. Despite a few grey areas, a timeless classic with 4 or 5 absolute killer songs!

Aqualung: ***** Cross-Eyed Mary: ***** Cheap Day Return: *** Mother Goose: ***** Wond'ring Aloud: **** Up To Me: **** My God: ***** Hymn 43: **** Slipstream: **** Locomotive Breath: ***** Wind Up: ****

Xonty | 5/5 |


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