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Ian Anderson - Thick As A Brick 2: Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock? CD (album) cover

THICK AS A BRICK 2: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GERALD BOSTOCK?

Ian Anderson

Prog Folk


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Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars My first reaction to Thick As A Brick 2 otherwise known as TAAB2, was where is Martin Barre? He has been playing with Ian and Jethro Tull forever! Well Martin is busy recording a two disc solo album. I do not think he has ever missed a Jethro Tull studio album because of a session he was involved in due to solo work. There may be more to this than meets the eye and there probably is. Irregardless Anderson soldiers on to bring Gerald Bostock, the main character in the story up to date, now 40 years later at 50 years old and what his story would sound like now.

Intrigued yet? If you are a lifetime fan of the band such as I, well of course you are, if not you probably could care less, then again if you are progressive rock fan certainly your outright curiosity will get the best of you and then you must listen!

The 40th Anniversary of the original album is celebrated with Thick As A Brick 2 and a lineup that includes Ian Anderson at the helm providing all the writing, vocals, flute and his mini acoustic guitar, John O'Hara (Hammond Organ, piano, keyboards), David Goodier (bass guitar, glockenspiel), Florian Opahle (electric guitar), and Scott Hammond (drums, percussion). Some of you may recognize guitarist Ophale from Ian's solo work or his orchestral projects back in 2003. He is no newcomer to the world of recorded music and performing. Considering he received master class instruction from the legendary jazz-rock- fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, it comes as no surprise to me that he was a more than an adequate replacement for Mr. Barre. Barre is a great player and it is disappointing to see him absent from this album however you have to give credit to all the musicians involved as they did a superlative job with Ian's new incarnation of the album.

This is an excellent album offered in two formats, the one CD package and the 2 Disc Special Edition, which I received for review. This version comes in a tri-fold out CD case with the regular CD and a DVD featuring 5.1 stereo mixes, 24-bit stereo mix, video making of the album, interviews with the musicians and Ian reading the lyrics in various locations, and a booklet. If you pop the 5.1 DVD in your stereo system connected to your TV or PC each song displays the words as they move down the page to lead you. A pretty cool feature I thought. What was nice about the in studio footage was that it is a very rare occasion as Anderson never allows that to happen. So all of you JT fans can enjoy this and take advantage of the opportunity and get the special edition.

Ian Anderson is a bit eccentric and his words that make up his music and song are direct reflection of his personality and experiences. He does have a vivid imagination and is a gifted songwriter and musician. So how does this second version stand up to its forerunner? Firstly the vocals are a few notches down as they have been over the last several years but that is just fine. Ian has adapted to his lost range and brings a new found resonance and a poetic sense to his delivery. He has a defined talk-sing type of voice now that actually suits the music quite well. The energy is entirely different on this album, there are flashes of brilliant musicianship and Ian and the boys cut loose here and there but the overall atmosphere is one of reflection with an added pensiveness as Mr. Bostock makes his way through all the pitfalls of society today. It becomes obvious that this is a man living out of time and would have been better suited in old England sipping tea in the garden.

I gave TAAB2 several spins along with a listen to the 5.1 surround sound (mixed by Steven Wilson) and it all sounded crisp and clear. Anderson's voice is punctuated by well-placed instrumentation as you would expect and the story rolls along in stride with every note. This will be the kind of album that grows on you with each listen and I think many folks will agree this is some of Ian's best work in the last decade. Tull's last studio album was the 2003 The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, which was excellent I might add. And actually the last normal JT studio release was J-Tull Dot Com in 1999, the only release in their entire catalog that I did not care for.

TAAB2 offers up tasty treats such as "Upper Sixth Loan Shark" and "What-ifs, Maybes And Might-have-beens" and "Banker Bets Banker Wins," which has an extremely catching guitar riff running through it. It all sounds familiar, in a comforting way if you are a fan, and most importantly sounding like something Ian would write. He spins a yarn like no other in music today and is the true minstrel in the gallery once again.

TAAB2 will not go down as a classic like its predecessor or albums like Aqualung or Passion Play but it can be appreciated as a solid release for Jethro Tull 2012 with an entirely different lineup. Even without Martin Barre playing guitar it still sounds like a Tull album because let's face it, Ian Anderson is the man that makes it all tick. This entire album most definitely is a "Change of Horses" and it works out all very well making this a welcome addition to the Jethro Tull catalog.

Key Tracks: Upper Sixth Loan Shark, Banker Bets, Banker Wins, What-ifs, Maybes And Might-have-beens

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Send comments to Muzikman (BETA) | Report this review (#690226)
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
3 stars I've listened the full album through their Facebook page yesterday (on a promotional act by the band that streamed the whole album there), but the official release date is April 2nd, and hummm...

The album is not bad, far from that, it's an ok record. Ian Anderson and his vocals are still good as always, his flutes and acoustic guitars don't even need comments. And the new guitar player is a very good musician.

But, as usual on the records today, the album has no depth, I'll explain, I was not expecting the 70's all over again, no I wasn't, you can't turn back the clock, and it's good, but here,keybords can be hardly heard, they're in the background as if it was something. The bass player, like 99% of the new guys, uses too low sound and just follows music, no cleaver bits at all (oh how I miss Jeffrey Hammond Hammond and his pick sound). But, the main thing, the drummer, is he dead? No excitement at all, like if he was here just for the payment day.

Everything's very professional, but lack of passion that a good record requires to get you by the heels. I'm not saying that it should be the same as 70's, cause it shouldn't, but on that period there was passion for the music they were doing and I don't see it in here, maybe with exception of the guitar man.

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Send comments to ProgShine (BETA) | Report this review (#696300)
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a hard album to judge in any objective way. If you are a newcommer it may be hard to understand and yet most people who are likely to buy the album are also likely to think it should have never been made in the first place, for several different reasons.

First of all, Jethro Tull's 1972 album Thick As A Brick is a beloved classic of the genre, that doesn't really need a sequel both because it worked on its own and because it was a deliberate send up of concept albums themselves. Besides that, the story of this sequel is about the life of the fictional writer of the previous album Gerald Bostock and not the lyrics of the actual album itself. Therefore in essence, this is more of a sequel to the album's artwork or meta-narrative than its narrative, which is a weird thought.

Secondly, this album is not released under the same Jethro Tull band-name that the previous Thick As A Brick was. This situation is almost like Roger Waters releasing The Wall 2 as a solo album, which is another weird thought, and sure to cause confusion when filing. You could find yourself thinking too much about whether you file it as an Ian Anderson album, a Jethro Tull album or under a new category called `Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson.'

Another point is "why now?" It has been so long since the first one. Ian's voice has changed so much, his playing style has changed so much and the music scene has changed so much. Surely Ian would know defensive of the original everyone would be after this much time. No album will look good when it has to be compared to something that people have loved for decades.

Finally, Martin Barre, who has been on every single Jethro Tull album ever, except their debut, is absent. The album is called Thick As A Brick 2, but doesn't have Martin Barre on board. This is arguably the weirdest thought of all, but then Ian wrote so much himself that you can understand his decision, even if you don't agree with it.

With all those things stacked against it, some people will dismiss the album altogether and say that it should never have been made. However seeing as it actually HAS been made, the main question that people should be asking is how good is it?

In my opinion it is actually pretty good, but only if you allow yourself to get really objective about it. It in no way lives up to its predecessor, but then no one realistically expected it to. It doesn't much sound like the original at all, more like a mixture between Heavy Horses, Chateau D'isaster and Dot Com.

Tracks like `Shunt And Shuffle' are energetic and heavy, there is a mixture between tasteful moments (`A Change Of Horses'), humour and whimsical silliness (`Cosy Corner' and `Give Till It Hurts') and a lot of flute work, which is what I always like about most of Ian and Tull's work. Interestingly, the lyrics bring up A Passion Play and Locomotive Breath, make of that what you will.

Structurally, the album does not follow the same formula as the original album, specifically it isn't just one giant song from start to finish, although as it is still a concept album it does flow together a bit more than just a standard album would. 'Old School Song' actually sounds like the original album too and there are a few musical ques from the original; for example the album begins like the gap between sides one and two and the record ends with a completely unexpected reprise of the original albums `So You Ride Yourselves Over The Fields' bit, with the word `two' added on.

There are these few connections with the original, in addition to the lyrics and artwork but in all actuality most of the material, for example `Wooten Basset Town' and `Upper Sixth Loan Shark' are much more like the last two proper Jethro Tull Studio albums, Roots To Branches and the aforementioned Dot Com. If you stripped away all the Thick As A Brick elements, it'd still be one of the strongest albums with Ian on it in years. Basically, If you like Ian's newer talking-vocals and the big power chords and mid paced songs that pick up for the solos, then this is going to be right up your street.

If however you don't like Ian's solo albums or the sort of albums that Tull have been making since 1989′s Rock Island, then this is definitely not going to be something that you enjoy.

Overall; if just being related to Thick As A Brick isn't enough for you, then maybe give Thick As A Brick 2 a miss. However if you do like albums like Dot Com and The Secret Language Of Birds, and if you don't feel too upset about the lack of Barre and the whole name situation, then by all means give it a shot. It is actually a pretty solid album with enough enjoyable songs to keep you interested, if you are willing to forgive its flaws.

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Send comments to Gentlegiantprog (BETA) | Report this review (#704111)
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
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 ž 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!

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#704370)
Posted Monday, April 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Surprisingly released as an Ian Anderson solo record, this sequel to the forty-year old Jethro Tull classic 'Thick As A Brick' finds the flute-playing front-man in seriously ambitious mood. You probably don't need this reviewer to tell you, but the original 1972 album is, of course, one of the seminal progressive rock albums of all time, as well as being described in it's creators own words as 'The mother of all concept albums'. A follow-up album half-as-good would in itself be some achievement, and it has to be said that Mr Anderson has set himself one hell of a task here. Happily, however, and somewhat surprisingly, 'Thick As A Brick 2' manages, against the odds, to exceed the cynical expectations of both fans and critics. Of Course, it was never going to match up to it's predecessor yet that is beside the point. This is a sequel made for the 21st century, blending modern touches with the basic folk-rock sound of Tull's glorious early-seventies heyday, producing a worthy companion piece that must rank as one of the best Jethro Tull records(even though, officially speaking, it's not really a Jethro Tull record) since 1978's 'Heavy Horses'. With the original album's pseudo-creator Gerald Bostock now in his 50th year, Anderson's lyrics focus on the 'gifted child genius' life so far, the bulk of the fourteen tracks casting a whimsical and reflective shadow over proceedings. There's honourable mentions of the internet, the banking crisis, middle-age regret and so forth, all delivered in Anderson's inimitable style, whilst the actual music leans more towards a straighter, guitar-inflected prog-rock sound, eschewing the folksy meanderings that coloured so much of Jethro Tull's post 'Thick As A Brick' output. Highlights include the gutsy rocker 'Banker Bets, Banker Wins', which features some trademark flute runs from the main man and a snazzy, toe-tapping guitar solo from hired hand Florian Opahle, and the gently-lilting closer 'What Ifs, Maybes & What Might Have Beens', a melancholy piece that asks the oh-so pertinent question of just how we control the destiny of our lives in an ever-shifting and shrinking world. Finally, we beg the question: was this sequel worth the four- decade wait? The answer is, emphatically, yes.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#706495)
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I didn't think I would be saying this, but this is my favorite release of 2012 so far. I had low expectations about this album after hearing about it's premise. I felt like it was going to be a tired old attempt to capitalize on a classic. (I'm looking at you, Yes...)

But this is really good! The new guitarist is solid, if not surprisingly good. It's ambitious and it feels like I really am lead through the story of what happened to Gerald Bostock. Granted I haven't studied the lyrics, but I listened closely in the 5 or 6 spins since my first bare-naked listen.

It's a solid mix of rockin' riffs, acoustic guitar and flute.

If you like the original, I can't imagine that you would dislike this. Very, very, pleasantly surprised!

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Send comments to catsclaw (BETA) | Report this review (#707555)
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
4 stars On Jethro Tull's 1972 concept album masterpiece, Thick As A Brick, we are introduced to precocious grade-school outlier Gerald Bostock, author of the poem "Thick As A Brick," which was disqualified from a poetry contest due to some of the its "questionable" attributes.

Fast-forward 50 years. What might Gerald Bostock be doing now? That is the premise of Ian Anderson's "sequel," Thick As A Brick 2.

The first section gives us an overview of the "concept." We are then given five different "possible futures" for Gerald: as a banker, as a homeless man, as a military man, as a preacher, and as an "ordinary man" (shopkeeper). Part three gives us two different possible "ends" to those futures, and the final part is a quasi-reprise of the opening.

TAAB "purists" are likely to have knee-jerk reactions to both the lyrics and the music - which, despite being a concept album, do not "flow" as they do in TTAB, but are "individualistic" for each song. There are also fewer repeated musical "motifs," and the album is admittedly not as "consistent" as TAAB (though it is, in a way, more cohesive).

But these are actually quibbles. Having heard the album twice through, I find that it grows on you (if you allow it to...): I liked it better the second time around, and expect to like it even more next time.

The lyrics are quite topical, and far more "direct" than TAAB (which was far more esoteric). And there is a great deal of undisguised "anger" in some of them. The banker is, of course, based on current events. The homeless man was also sexually molested. The military man is all about loyalty and valor. The preacher is all about power and money. The shopkeeper is a milquetoast.

The music ranges from good to great. Interestingly, I have always preferred the first half of TAAB to the second. Here, I find my preference being for the second half.

In an interview with disc jockey Earl Bailey, Anderson noted that the recording itself was done "organically": after arranging all the parts, the band rehearsed the entire album for seven days, and then recorded it live in the studio: there are very few overdubs of any kind; even the guitar solos were ad libbed. This organic quality makes the album very "immediate" in a way that TAAB (as brilliant as it is) is not. (TAAB "sounds" like an "atmospheric" studio recording, where TAAB sounds more "real" and "human.")

Ultimately, comparisons are going to be made, and TAAB isalways likely to "come up short" in such comparisons. But taken on its own merits, it is a very worthy sequel to its predecessor, and a wonderful addition to the Tull canon.

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Send comments to maani (BETA) | Report this review (#707594)
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars I would almost call this a masterpiece, but for two things: first, Ian Anderson had the audacity to call this "Thick As A Brick 2", inviting comparisons to the original made 40 years ago. Secondly, while all the new musicians are competent, everything seems to be subdued.

Anderson insists that TAAB was a parody of progressive rock at the time it was made. Yet now it is still one of the most popular prog works of all time. It still sounds as fresh and fantastic as it did back then.

TAAB2 does not come close to that masterpiece, and is not one long track like it's predecessor. Hell, it's not even technically Jethro Tull (Martin Barre does not appear on this album !?!).

But at age 65, Ian Anderson, at the urging of Derek Shulman (yes, that guy), has revisited the character of Gerald Bostock (the child who supposedly wrote the words for TAAB), and created this album. There are more prog rock elements to this album than anything Anderson has recorded since the eighties. But is this a parody as well? It's hard to say.

Lyrically, Andserson's words are as sharp as ever, as he imagines all sorts of different paths Bostock's life could have taken. But it's the music that is important here. He weaves many phrases and riffs, mostly twisted and half hidden in the new songs. And he also seems to be revisiting musical themes and ideas from throughout his career. I hear things that remind me of the early blues Tull, the seventies prog Tull, Heavy Horses Tull, Stormwatch Tull, Crest Of A Knave Tull, and the later Catfish Rising and Roots To Brances Tull.

It's almost like this is a recap of Anderson's history.

And I love it. Parody or not.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#710181)
Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Thick As A Brick 2' - Ian Anderson (8/10)

Whenever I hear of sequels to concept albums, I'm almost always sceptic. As much as I would like a 'Part II' to some of my favourite prog rock records, it's a venture usually doomed to disappointment from the start. After all; take an album like Queensryche's 'Operation Mindcrime II', which, while quite good in its own right, could not hold a wicker to the masterpiece original. Especially when a band like Jethro Tull has been out of the broad public's eye for a few decades, releasing a sequel to one of their most successful albums could seem like a way to inspire some of their past glory. Ian Anderson seems to have presented an exception to that rule with 'Thick As A Brick 2', however. Seen as one of the greatest prog rock albums to ever grace a record player, it's understandable that the original 'Thick As A Brick' is not threatened to be toppled here by its 2012 incarnation. Regardless, I think I speak for more than myself when I say I was pleasantly surprised with what Ian has done here. In no shortage of cynical wit, Anderson has revived the passionate energy that made Jethro Tull such a great band in the first place.

Assuming that the majority of people reading this are already well-versed in the original 'Thick As A Brick', might I say that 'TAAB2' faithfully recreates the charm and flair of the first, without being an utter reprise. Ian Anderson finds a comfortable medium between the fresh and familiar. As with the first album, this is a satirical story about one Gerald Bostock, who- last we heard from him- was a child and angered the prudish loons of his parish for a particularly scathing poem he wrote. Forty years have passed since 'Thick As A Brick', and Gerald has aged in real-time. While the original was an expression of cynicism well beyond Gerald's years, Ian Anderson's lyrical approach is more conventionally narrative this time around. Through the course of the album, we hear of some of the things that have happened to Gerald since '72. Suffice to say, Anderson has not lost his penchant for tongue-in-cheek jabs and social satire.

Although this is labelled as an Ian Anderson record (as opposed to Jethro Tull), it very much sounds like a full band, and I would not take exception to someone calling this a Jethro Tull record. Many of these musical ideas are immediately charming, and between the quirky Anderson spoken word segues, harder rocking guitar riffs, flute mania and quirk, 'TAAB2' never feels boring. Where it appears less successful than the original however is in the overall structure. Although many of these musical ideas are on par with Tull's output in '72, the album lacks the 'epic' quality that boosted 'Thick As A Brick' to the near-perfect realm. Many passages are self-contained, and there is not the same sort of overarching composition that could produce a 'central musical theme' to this work. Perhaps if one or two of these original ideas were emphasized and made into effective motifs, Papa Brick could have reason to get a little worried.

'Thick As A Brick 2' actually manages to triumph over the original in a couple of ways. Most notably, the production and performance here is fantastic. With none other than Steven Wilson at the technical helm, Gerald Bostock is in good hands. The richly organic nature of the band's performance is something that I felt was missing in the original, and it makes Ian Anderson's quirky tale come to life. Although the original 'Thick As A Brick' is not one of my favourite classic prog albums, it has always had my well-deserved respect and appreciation. While more devoted lovers of that album may turn their noses up this time around, this is one of 2012's most pleasant musical surprises.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#713928)
Posted Saturday, April 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
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.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#714317)
Posted Saturday, April 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Oh well, Ian took on himself a hard task when he'd decided to give his last album the TAAB2 name. More to it - without his long years Jethro Tull musician - Mr. "Lancelot" Barre and thus also not under the JT name on this release.

I should say it seems to me strange decision even after some thoughts about it. TAAB is one of the most beloved classic (especially here but not only) from JT and to release the sequel to this classic under Ian's name is IMHO not appropriate. Maybe it has something to do with this the miss of Barre's guitar but nevertheless it left me a trace of dissapointment in the mouth...

So - you should step to this release with open mind and ears to be not biased... I've tried and I should say I ain't dissapointed after all. In fact I expected this record both with expectations and fears... The result is more than only good. It's very fine!

I don't want to comment every songs. Some better writers here did it exceptionally well so if you want to know take a look at their ratings. I want to say for me it's the best Ian (and JT) did from, say, A record... Funny thing is I hear in this influences from the whole Anderson's/JT music, not only from TAAB or last JT records. Somebody told it here and it's really true. And it's refreshing you could hear some music from which there'll stay something in your mind. Music in these days has the one big problem - you listen to any new record, appreciate the musicianships of the musicians but after that you'll find only a little stays in your mind. JT records from last 20 years usually falls to this category too. But not this one fortunately. It's almost like a miracle...

If I want to name some of the songs it would be From A Pebble Thrown; Banker Bets, Banker Wins; Old Schools Song; A Change Of Horses and Kismet in Suburbia. Funny how the Cosy Corner thing resembles me the infamous "Hare and the spectacles" part from APP... but in fact it's better and it's more "on the place" here.

All in all, this one is a big surprise for me. A new sparkling record from Ian Anderson is something I didn't expect to be true. It'd be in the better half of the JT records for me and it's a shame it wasn't released with Mr. Barre and under JT mark. These are the biggest problems of the TAAB2. But I'll give 4 stars anyway! More of such records...

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Send comments to Libor10 (BETA) | Report this review (#714336)
Posted Saturday, April 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 stars.

Thick as a Brick 2, or TAAB2 as it has come to be known, was possibly the most anticipated album of the year. I recently purchased the deluxe version the day it was released in the US, and went home to listen to it twice on a surround sound edition. This brings me to the first part. Steven Wilson, as is usual, creates a fantastic surround edition and mixes the album perfectly. It sounds vintage, but not too vintage to where it sounds awful. The only thing that sounds modern is the guitar, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the person. I find it bad, but not awful. I prefer the less- distorted, tube amp sound that was attained on albums such as the original Thick as a Brick.

The actual album is very nostalgic, and is much more major-sounding than the original beast. I love the flute, and the acoustic guitar is also perfect. Unfortunately, the bass doesn't have that "pick" sound like Jeffrey was able to attain on the original. The keyboard is alright, but not fantastic. The drums are the same way. Some songs are great, and some aren't good at all. I also cannot get over the fact that Ian Anderson released it under his name and without Martin Barre.

All in all, I would definitely suggest this album. It is worth checking out. It may not be the best album ever, and it probably isn't near the best album of the year, but it is a very good Tull (excuse me, Ian Anderson) release.

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Send comments to bb1319 (BETA) | Report this review (#717786)
Posted Sunday, April 08, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I totally agree with Muzikman's fair and unbiased review of Thick As A Brick 2. This album will take a number of listenings to get aquanted with it, as most of my favorite albums have done. there's some good stuff on this recording and previous familar melodies and phrases make their appearances tthroughout the work. I am very curious as to why Martin Barre is absent. This is too close to being a Tull project and it's hard to imagine his non-involvement. Did he not want anything to do with "living in the past" or rather "reliving the past" or just think it was a bad ides? The other answer is that he wasn't asked to partisipate (Doane Perry is also absent, but current Tull members Dave Goodier and John O'Hara are.) Very strange. The way in which this album is credited , at least here in the United States, as "Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson" is also a mystery. Why isn't just listed as Ian Anderson, or the Ian Anderson Band? Did Chrysalis insist on the Tull reference from a marketing POV? Although most of us think of Tull as Anderson + Barre, there is no reason for it not to be a Tull album outright. Anderson owns the name and band members do not share equally in royalties. For filing purposes this causes a bit of a dilemma, especially in music stores or departments, but I've decide to disregard the Tull reference and place it within my music collection under Anderson's solo work. I guess I'll visit Barre's offical website and see if he has any comments.

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Send comments to 19evenbar56 (BETA) | Report this review (#720398)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
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.

4/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#722916)
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars I remember an interview with Ian Anderson in RollingStone magazine from the early 1990s. In it he said he would probably retire Jethro Tull in 2001. In the early 1990s that year still seemed far away. He never exactly did that but who would have thought he would ever release a follow- up to Thick As A Brick under his own name? I'm not at all familiar with Anderson's solo albums, but from what I have read about them they are not too similar to Tull's music. This is the most interesting thing I have heard Anderson do since the A album (which was originally supposed to be a solo album). I'm not a big Tull fan but Thick As A Brick is one of my favourite albums by anyone. At first I was not expecting much out of this album but after I heard it a few times I was more than surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it.

The album opens with the three notes that end TAAB Pt. 1 and begin TAAB Pt. 2. The album concludes with the beginning/ending section of TAAB. In between we get five different stories of what would have happened to Gerald Bostock. Sometimes folky, sometimes rockin' the music is entertaining and interesting throughout. There are musical quotes from the first TAAB as well as new themes here that are reprised. It flows like an epic although it is made up of 17 individual tracks. As would be expected Ian's flute is all over the place and still sounds good. None of the vocals or playing however can match the original but the music here for the most part stands on it's own.

Some tracks almost work as mock radio advertisements. Other tracks have parts that slightly remind me of Gentle Giant. There are quite a few modern day references in the lyrics on this album. "Old School Song" is one of the highlights because it sounds similar to the original TAAB and '70s Tull in general. "A Change Of Horses" is the longest track at 8 minutes. Another highlight. This has more of a modern vibe musically compared to the rest of the album. Nice accordion(?) work in this song as well as call-and-response between guitar, flute and accordion. This is a great sounding album with a lot of dynamics. Nowhere near the greatness that is Thick As A Mofo Brick but this is nonetheless a really good follow-up. Actually it's just a really good prog album from 2012. This gets a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#728885)
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The biggest problem Thick As A Brick 2 has is that it's called Thick As A Brick 2.

As most of you probably know or have already guessed, Thick As A Brick 2 is Ian Anderson's sequel to Jethro Tull's 1972 album, Thick As A Brick.

Other reviewers have correctly pointed out that it is not a direct sequel either musically or lyrically, but more of a spiritual follow up that focuses on the different choices one makes in life and how we often reflect on what different outcomes we could have achieved had we chosen differently. Anderson does this by using the Gerald Bostock character who was purportedly the child poet who penned the lyrics which made up the original album and looking at where he might have ended up at 50 years of age.

The album opens up with "From a Pebble Thrown" which is a short track that sets the tone for the album while the lyrics set up the concept. "Pebbles Instrumental" is an extension of this track with the excellent flute playing we've come to expect from Anderson.

"Might-have-beens" is a short vocal interlude which reaffirms the album concept. I'm not totally sure it is necessary as I think the first track did a fine job expressing the same thing.

We now enter the first of several possible outcomes for Gerald Bostock - Gerald the Banker. It starts with another short track with acoustic guitar, "Upper Sixth Loan Shark", which leads right into the next track, "Banker Bets, Banker Wins", a romping rocker that could pass for classic Tull if not for the modern references in the lyrics. It's definitely one of the highlights of the album.

The next section, Gerald the Homeless, begins with "Swing It Far" which starts with another short vocal section which comes off like Anderson reading a piece of poetry. It then moves into a melodic section before shifting to a modern-ish sounding rock section which helps the track stand out before quickly shifting back again.

This segues into "Adrift and Dumbfounded" which sounds a lot like Crest of a Knave era Tull to me with the almost Dire Straits-esque guitars and good organ and piano bits. Another very good cut.

Now we move into Gerald the Military Man which begins with "Old School Song" which reprises a bit of the theme from the original Thick As A Brick before moving into new territory yet keeping the same bombastic proggy sound.

"Wootton Bassett Town" is a dead ringer for a lost J-Tull dot Com track, in my opinion, which may turn some Tull fans off, but I liked that album and so too this song. It's very enjoyable latter day Tull.

Gerald the Chorister starts with "Power and Spirit", another track which begins low key before bursting out into a driving rock chorus. Musically, it again sounds like latter day Tull, but lyrically it could more strongly recall some of the tracks from Aqualung with its biting commentary on organized religion.

So too, the next track, "Give Till It Hurts", which is short but wastes no time in getting its point across. This song might sit comfortable between "My God" and "Hymn 43". The vocal pieces remind me of the sarcasm of Kevin Gilbert's "Suit Fugue".

The final potential Gerald Bostock destiny is Gerald: A Most Ordinary Man which begins with another short track, "Cosy Corner" and the long time Tull fan may notice a few sly references sewn throughout the spoken word vocals.

"Shunt and Shuffle" repeats many of the references from "Cosy Corner", but the music of this track again recalls classic 1970's Tull. Short, but enjoyable.

At this point in the album we move to the extended finale sequence which begins with the longest track on the album, "A Change Of Horses". The piece begins very atmospherically and quickly proves to be another one of the album's highlights with a very enjoyable instrumental break and distinctive playing. To me, this track most closely recalls Roots to Branches era Tull.

"Confessional" and "Kimset in Suburbia" both act as a finale to the album proper and tie up all of Gerald's "alternate lives". "Confessional" is another track which mixes melodic sections with a harder chorus section and explores all of the consequences of Gerald's actions to his various choices. "Kimset in Suburbia" is more of a straight rocker which sort of gives each life a final destiny.

"What-ifs, Maybes, Might-have-beens" returns to the musical theme of the opening track and acts as an epilogue to the whole affair and even ends with a reprise of the final moments of the original album where Anderson sings the final line with a slight alteration, "And your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick... two."

Thick As A Brick 2 is a great album and contains some of the best writing from Ian Anderson in years. The players are excellent and even though the album does not contain Martin Barre on guitar, many of the tracks sound like a dead ringer for classic Jethro Tull.

As stated at the beginning of this review, the biggest problem Thick As A Brick 2 has is that it's called Thick As A Brick 2, which means that it will invariably be judged against the original. Many people consider Thick As A Brick to be one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time and very few albums would stand up favourably against it in a comparison.

Overall: No, Thick As A Brick 2 is not a masterpiece on the level of Thick As A Brick. The two albums aren't even really that much alike. However, that doesn't mean it isn't an excellent album. It is well worth your time and attention.

Highlights: "Banker Bets, Banker Wins", "Adrift and Dumbfounded", "A Change Of Horses", "What-ifs, Maybes, Might-have-beens"

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Send comments to FunkyM (BETA) | Report this review (#732181)
Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars So IAN ANDERSON decides to write a follow-up to the great 'Thick as a Brick'. I don't know why - and, truly, I wish he hadn't. For as pretty as this is, it detracts from the original.

He goes at it with all the gusto of a 64-year-old, and it shows in the music. Few risks, little energy and none of the joie de vivre we enjoyed from the first TAAB. A few motifs lifted from the original - the strongest figure (Banker Bets, Banker Wins, and others) seems to have been taken from the song 'Minstrel in the Gallery' - a bit of acoustic noodling and some limp flute. Was there a rhythm section? I didn't hear one.

The concept is about as interesting as the music. A younger ANDERSON would have selected one future for Gerald Bostock and followed it through. Providing us with a range of possible futures is a cop-out. None of them touch us because we know they're all illusory.

Annoyingly, his trick worked. I bought the album. I had to: what if it had been worthy of the original?

It wasn't.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#743480)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must admit when I heard that Ian Anderson was going to release a new album I wasn't too enthused. When I subsequently saw that it was going to be called "Thick As A Brick 2" I was even less enthused especially when Martin Barre is missing AND it wasn't a release under the Jethro Tull moniker. Cash Cow here we come for Anderson.

But I said to myself "don't jump to conclusions until you've listened to it". And to be fair, I also put in a rule that I had to listen to it a dozen times, yes 12 times before I wrote this review. I have come up with a rating of 7 out of 10 or 3.5 stars, which I suppose I should round up to 4 and not down to 3. This puts TAAB2 in the very good album category. This surprised me somewhat as Anderson has largely been uninteresting with his past 2 solo efforts and his vocals have IMHO been embarrassing for almost 25 years since developing his well known vocal cord problem. On this release, technology has managed to largely hide his vocal shortcomings. Which is fairly impressive...and I thought you couldn't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear! That's not to say that Anderson's vocals are near his 60-70s output, it's just that they sound better than anything after 1987's Crest of a Knave.

OK let's critique this album: There are 3 classic tracks any of which would make it on a "Best Of" Tull album...they are in order of classicalness: 1. Adrift and Dumbfounded: Maybe the prog song of 2012. Anderson has finally done it the twenty tens i.e. written a classic that stands up against anything he has written before. 2. Kismet in Suburbia: I like this a lot. Very clever structurally, musically and lyrically. 3. Pebble Instrumental: Why weren't there more instrumentals along this line on the album? The other songs range from very good (A Change of Horses, Shunt and Shuffle, Banker Bets and Banker Wins) to good (From A Pebble Thrown, Swing It Far, Power and Spirit) to OK (Give til it Hurts). There are only 3 passages that recall (copy) TAAB1: 1. the opening of the first track "From A Pebble Thrown" is taken from the ending/start of Side 1/2 of TAAB1, 2. The opening organ passage of "Old School Song" is the "John Evan Hand Clapping, Foot Stomping Favourite of live gigs" from side 1 of TAAB1 and 3. the final verse of TAAB1 finishes off TAAB2. The last I found unnecessary and would have been better to finish completely different to TAAB1.

Apart from Anderson, the only other musician that stands out on this album is Florian Ophale. He plays superb lead throughout (Barre's "Mini me"....in a guitar playing sense of course). On a negative note: it's lucky that Anderson cannot sue himself for plagiarism as the melody that emanates through three of the longer songs (Banker, Bets, Banker Wins; Wooten Bassett Town and What-Ifs, Maybes And Might-Have Beens) is largely ripped from the song "Heavy Horses". I keep singing "Heavy Horses move the land under me, behind the plough gliding, slipping and sliding free..." to all these 3; very musically lazy.

Also the flute riff on "Shunt and Shuffle" is almost the same to that on "Beltane". I was listening to it and thought, "where the hell have I heard that before?" and yep listening again to "Beltane" I found it.

In "A Change of Horses" a large part of the music for this track is too close to Anderson's "In The Times Of India (Bombay Valentine)" from his 1995 album "Divinities: 12 Dances with God"...which I believe is a masterpiece but "A Change of Horses" is not a masterpiece. So overall it is a very good offering and it surprised me BUT Ian please bring back Barre, Perry, Giddings and Peggy and make that final prog instrumental classic of the 21st century...and then retire in 2018.

Three and a half stars.

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Send comments to BarryGlibb (BETA) | Report this review (#743523)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars So, Thick As A Brick 2, the sequel to one of the most revered albums in prog and, indeed, rock music history. I might as well, at this early stage of the review, reiterate the rather important point that the original by Tull was conceived by Anderson as a total mickey take of concept albums in general, and also as a bit of a backlash against those who lauded the sublime Aqualung as a concept album (it wasn't).

Actually, the sequel to said send-up of our beloved genre owes a little bit more, ironically, to Aqualung than the first TAAB incarnation, certainly conceptually, for this is the sound of Anderson providing us all with assorted musings on the state of society, and life in general, much as Aqualung was a general muse about the role of religion in society. All he has done, of course, is to place said musings in the context of possible outcomes in life of Gerald Bostock, the original fictional character at the heart of TAAB.

Personally, I rather wish he hadn't released this as a straight sequel, although, in commercial terms, it was, of course, an absolute no-brainer. TAAB 2 was always going to sell better than "Thoughts on Possible Outcomes In Life by Ian Anderson".

Having said that, this is truly an excellent effort, and easily the finest work released by Anderson under his own moniker (and, yes, there isn't a great deal of competition out there).

Very deliberately, this has the sound and feel of a Jethro Tull album. I suspect that Anderson, to his great credit, refused to release it under the Tull name because of Martin Barre's non-participation. Having said that, the "replacement", Florian Opahle, does a more than creditable job on this, as, indeed, do all of Anderson's "hired hands".

Whilst the opening passages are reminiscent of the original album, I actually think that the overall feel and direction of this album owes far more to my favourite Tull period, that being Songs From The Wood through to Broadsword & The Beast, in other words, the band's and Anderson's most overtly folky period. Indeed, much of the material here would have sat very well within Songs and Heavy Horses, and I can think of no higher compliment than that.

The one thing that Anderson certainly hasn't lost is his roguesish and impish sense of humour and gift for providing sharp satire within a musical context. Thus, we have Gerald as a banker (whose ranks come in for a rotten pasting, deservedly, of course), as a homeless man (a la Aqualung, but this time with molestation thrown in for good measure), a soldier, an evangelical preacher (at which point Anderson throws in his most waspish disdain for said grouping), and, lastly, as Joe Ordinary (where he marvellously describes the lives of the majority of people reading this review).

As said before, the band play very well throughout, and very special mention must go to Steven Wilson's incredible job at the knob twirling helm. The whole thing sounds lush and warm. In addition, Anderson flute fans will find much to enjoy here.

Having listened to this a few times now, I rather wish I had booked tickets to travel to see Anderson perform this live. I never did regard TAAB as the finest Tull album, but this is, by a huge margin, the finest Anderson solo release, and it is, from start to finish, an absolute joy to listen to.

So, as a piece of parting advice from this reviewer, forget the comparisons to the original. They are somewhat pointless. Just go out, buy, and thoroughly enjoy what is a fantastic album from someone who is, after nigh on 45 years, still one of the most enjoyable artists on this planet.

Four stars. An excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#748050)
Posted Thursday, May 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars One of the worst curses a band can suffer is to debut with a masterpiece, because people will always expect more for the next album, some bands manage to survive, others can't jump over a bar set so high, but to release an icon of a golden era and pretend to make a sequel after 40 years without the original band is almost suicidal, well, IAN ANDERSON took the risk and released Thick as a Brick 2 without JETHRO TULL.

Personally I expected nothing but a pale caricature of one of the top ten releases of Prog history and a terrible reception by the demanding fans, so when I found that TAAB 2 is not in the level of it's glorious predecessor was not a disappointment, by the contrary it was a surprise to discover that it's a fantastic release.

It was also obvious fore me that the choice of recording it with his personal name proved to be the best option, being that he didn't compromised the JETHRO TULL name but also was able to select a group of very capable musicians who without any pressure were able to record an amazing record without having to enter in a lost competition with what hey were able to do 40 years ago.

The band is simply excellent: Ian hasn't lost the voice and his talent with flute and acoustic guitars is invaluable. David Goodier (bass) and Scott Hammond on the drums make a very solid rhythm section, John O'Hara is more than correct with the keys, but the real surprise was Florian Opahle who proved to be an amazing guitarist specially in tracks as Adrift And Dumbfounded being that he was capable to deal with the aggressive and the softer sections with great skills..

When RICK WAKEMAN recorded Return to the Centre of the Earth, he decided not to use any fragment of the original release, IAN ANDERSON did more or less the same except in a couple of tracks like Old School Song and the closer What-ifs, Maybes And Might-Have-Beens where he paid respect to the acclaimed masterpiece without falling in unnecessary nostalgia.

Usually I write song by song reviews, except when talking about conceptual albums, where I care more about the integral product and how the story musically flows, aspects in which I have no complains, because the record captured me from the first to the last note.

Just if somebody is interested about favorite songs I would mention the pastoral Banker Bets, Banker Wins that reminded me more of releases like Heavy Horses or Songs from the Wood more than of Thick as a Brick. But my favorite one is the delicious A Change of Horses, that took me back in time.

Before rating TAAB 2 I must say that the listener should never compare both albums, because Thick as a Brick 2 will not be able to compete, so I recommend to listen it as a new release almost independent of the original and I'm sure tha it will disappoint nobody because the sequel is a mixture of the golden era with a breeze of fresh air from the 21st Century recorded with great class and avoiding unnecessary comparisons.

My rating is 4 solid stars, not a masterpiece, but surely a great addition to any musical collection.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#748870)
Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars So, forty years on, what would Gerald Bostock - aged fifty in 2012 - be doing today? What might have befallen him?

The above phrase was an exact copy and paste thing from Ian Anderson's statement in January 2012 about this part 2 of Jethro Tull's concept album that was successful in 1972: Thick As A Brick. What a mind-boggling statement from the master of seventies' prog rock. It's so promising as I was part of the people who enjoyed that seminal album in the seventies even though I was quite late by two or three years from the issue date. Yes, I vividly remember that I knew this album sometime in 1975. I was impressed by its music - not the story as I did not know what was actually all about until I got the CD sometimes in the nineties. But then when I knew 'A Passion Play 'for the first time in 1980, I was much more liking A Passion Play than TAAB for one reason: many repetition of music in TAAB while APP was much more dynamic.

When I knew that TAAB2 would be recorded and released I did not expect much as I do not believe something like Part 2 or the like. It sounds to me like riding the popularity of the old success. By my standard, prog music must move on with new things and not necessarily looking back on past successes. A very good role model on this is Peter Gabriel who never look back his past days with Genesis by performing any number in The Lamb Lies Down album into his concert. Yes, prog music must move on with new things and not doing things retroactive. That's my view.

This TAAB2 which stems from a fictious story about a child named Gerald Bostock whom by now already fifty and may scenarios might have happened into his entire life in the span of forty years since 1972, musically is very different with its 1972 predecessor. One thing for sure, I do really miss the dynamic basslines that we can hear on the TAAB original version. The sond thing that I miss is the eerie and dynamic Hammond organ sounds we repeatedly find in TAAB. But that's OK as Bostock has grown up and he no longer likes the dynamic sound of basslines and the inventive Hammond organ work and now replaced by the acoustic guitar work - which flows excellently throughout this TAAB2.

The first time I listened to this album I was quite disappointed - not because of the basslines and Hammond organ - as it sounded to me flat as no emotion or to be precise it seemed like no soul with this album. This was than worsen by the fact that it's no longer Jethro Tull as I am much more liking the 'group' approach than a solo one - even though I love Peter Gabriel's works. I don't know for what reason this album was finally recorded under Ian Anderson's work instead of Jethro Tull. But what ever the reason, provided that this as-if created by Jethro Tull, still could not create such 'a-ha' factor to my taste.

But, don't get me wrong - I think this TAAB2 album is a very good album especially I salute with Ian's creativity in composing music that is basically driven by acoustic guitar work combined with wonderful flute-work. Yes, the music is quite dynamic with some interesting segments - and about 10% of them were shots taken from original 1972 album. The album is like a compilation of songs instead of story-line. Some tracks are interesting like 'Wootton Bassett Town' which to me sounds like a song suitable as part of 'Heavy Horses' album. Another excellent track is 'A Change Of Horses' which happens to be the longest track with 8 minutes duration.

Overall, it's a very good prog music album with most elements of music were composed with acoustic guitar as the main instrument combined with some electric guitar work and - as usual - very nice flute-work! Keep on proggin' ....!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#748939)
Posted Saturday, May 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
m2thek
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I don't think anybody had the highest of hopes when Ian Anderson announced Thick as a Brick 2 earlier this year. A follow up to one of the most beloved albums of this genre 40 years later sounded like both the best and worst idea that eventually left the middle of the road attitude of "how bad could it be?" As it turns out, while it may not be nearly as momentous as its predecessor, TAAB2 is actually pretty good and with the right expectations can be very enjoyable.

Thick as a Brick 2 does not feature the original Jethro Tull lineup but rather sees Anderson recruiting members of his own band he's been touring with the past few years which include David Goodier, Scott Hammond, Florian Opahle and John O'Hara. The overall sound is a bit stripped down from the original album, but mostly captures a similar feel with prominent use of acoustic guitar, organ, and of course, the characteristic flute.

In addition to capturing the musical spirit of the original, the concept of the sequel continues Gerald Bostock's story, though in a much more literal way than the original did. The album takes a look at what the now 50 year old Gerald would have done with his life, exploring different paths that are, in Ian's words, "ripples from a pebble thrown." The packaging is also done up in a ridiculous style, this time taking the form of a phony website that you can actually visit. I didn't find the pages to be as interesting or funny as the original's newspaper, but it's nice to see such an effort in an era where most albums are released with little more than cover art.

The album is said to be written as a single, 50-minute piece, but in reality it is much more song-oriented than the original. There are 17 in total, most of which are three to four minutes long, with a few being shorter and only one over five minutes. The songs are grouped into nine small medleys, the middle five representing the different branches that Gerald may have taken in his life. The album does feature a number of themes that are reprised many times throughout the many songs, and is actually much deeper than it appeared to me on first listen. The songs are much more connected than they seem, and it wasn't until many listens that I started to pick up on it. Overall the brilliant composition of the original is not matched by its successor, but this is probably the easiest difference to accept about the two.

What what's missing most when comparing both albums is the wonderful transitions that made Thick as a Brick flow so well. Personally, there are too many hard stops in between each song for me to see Thick as a Brick 2 as a single piece; many verses and choruses can be found, some of which are very goofy. Another difference between the two albums is that 40 years has not been very kind to the once powerful and commanding voice of Ian Anderson. Luckily he can still hold a tune, and does a good job for what he has to work with nowadays, but don't expect the vocals to be the best thing the album has to offer.

Of course, like everybody expected, the sequel does incorporate some of the music from the original. Surprisingly, these are used very sparingly, and the majority of music is brand new. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the album to me, as I was excited to hear how the old themes could be incorporated with the new ones. However, while there are not many, they will probably put a smile on your face when an old theme pops up.

Even the end of the album, predictable and cliché as it is, makes me really happy. The album as a whole may not be perfect or live up to its 40 year old expectations, but overall is really enjoyable to listen to. Going in with managed expectations is important, and with the right attitude, you might find Thick as a Brick 2 to be as enjoyable as I do.

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Send comments to m2thek (BETA) | Report this review (#755284)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Count me among those old fans of Jethro Tull and the original Thick As A Brick album who were skeptical that a sequel was a good idea. As it turns out Ian was sort of goaded into it by Derek Shulman. The concept reminds me of Gentle Giant's Three Friends about different adult outcomes of the three as adults. Here five possible outcomes of Gerald Bostock's life are explored with two songs each.

I didn't rush out and get this album, but after trying out the first few tracks on streaming, I knew I would likely like the whole thing. Musically there are a lot of echoes back to older days of Tull. There's nothing wrong with that for me. You can't have a proper sequel without that. He's assembled a band of talented young unknowns to me. Steven Wilson, not unknown to me, is on board for the mixing, always a winner.

I would encourage fans particularly those who experienced the original LP with it's fake newspaper album cover to spring for the special edition. The surround sound brings you back to those good old days of quad?or at least those when you were forced to sit down and put the record on to listen to it. Instead of flipping through an album cover you can read the lyrics on screen. The St. Cleve is still there only it's a PDF of an actual fake web site that you can go to. Then for good measure there's a making of short and an interviews short. I still haven't been able to make it through Ian's lyric reading bit. See Ian at various locations or with green screened backgrounds. OK, maybe that's all a bit much, but I got a kick out the entire package.

In the end it would be impossible to make an album that could supplant or exceed number one's place in prog history, but sometimes it feels good to go number 2.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#772674)
Posted Saturday, June 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars By any reasonable standard, making a sequel to Thick as a Brick 40 years later was a bad idea, and it's such a blatantly bad idea that I initially assumed the announcement of its impending release was some weird kind of hoax. Right or wrong, it's impossible to pull this album from the towering shadow of its predecessor, even if that was a Jethro Tull album and this one is Ian Anderson solo (there's no Martin Barre here); is there anybody who would purchase this album who wouldn't already know Thick as a Brick basically inside and out? If this album strongly hearkened back to the original, then it would be far too easy to criticize Ian for milking the ideas and themes of the original as a substitute for creating anything new; if the album didn't strongly hearken back to the original, then it would be easy to criticize Ian for using the name and reputation of the original as a cheap way to get people to listen to his new solo album. Furthermore, if the quality of the album was too far below the quality of the original (there was no way this could even be 80% of the original; the key was to keep it from being 50% or worse), there was the chance that this might spoil people's attitudes towards the original like the Star Wars prequels spoiled the original trilogy for lots of people.

On the plus side, Ian had to know all of this himself, and this is probably the reason this album didn't happen sooner (people had been pestering him for years, but it wasn't until a conversation with Derek Shulman, formerly of Gentle Giant fame, that he was persuaded to give it a go). On this album, Ian does his very best to walk the tightrope inherent in the project, and quite honestly the final product is about as good as it was probably going to get. Within the flawed framework, there is a reasonable amount of *wink*/*nod* references to the original; enough to justify the connection to the original, but not so many that they become too obnoxious. Surrounding these references are a good mix of (a) nods to the kind of general approach Ian took to writing music in the 70s (for better or worse) and (b) the kind of music Ian would have been writing anyway in 2012 if he wasn't doing this project. There are some ridiculous cheese moments that come from the nods to the past (like the ending nod to the original that ends with, "And your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick ... 2"), but there are nice ones as well, like the opening sounds that hearken back to the side 1 end/side 2 beginning from the predecessor, or the menacing alteration of a familiar theme at the beginning of "Old School Song." Plus, it's really nice at a gut level to hear Ian writing songs around the same kinds of instrumentation that he would have used way back when.

The concept of the album centers around Gerald Bostock, concerning 5 possible paths his life could have taken and imagining the consequences, before going off into various philosophical tie-ins about these possible lives. The different lives each span multiple tracks, but the multiple tracks in each life are best listened to in groups (this is how I ripped them for iPod listening). From the introductory tracks that set the scene (a pleasant nostalgic jaunt that moves into enjoyable instrumental passages before resolving in a slightly silly spoken passage), we see these paths in the groups "Gerald the Banker," "Gerald Goes Homeless," "Gerald the Military Man," "Gerald the Chorister" and "Gerald: A Most Ordinary Man." If I had to target one of these as having the best music, it would probably be "Gerald the Banker," as the "Banker Bets, Banker Wins" track has some great angry stretches. Unfortunately, a lot of the lyrics in this section are a little eye-rolling; these might sound better 40 years down the road, but I'm not really counting on it. If lyrics and music are considered together, I'd pick the "Gerald the Military Man" group, consisting of "Old School Song" (which, as mentioned, is in the same style of march as the most famous one on TAAB, and would probably have been a highly regarded outtake had it been recorded then) and "Wootton Bassett," which basically sounds exactly like older Tull with slightly updated keyboard patches (with a melodic reprise of "Banker Bets"). The other groups all have their good and bad sides, but they're enjoyable in aggregate.

The album kinda loses steam for me in the last twenty minutes, though, once we're done speculating on Gerald's life paths. There's nothing especially wrong with "A Change of Horses" (other than being a mildly pleasant excursion into latter-day flute/guitar dialogues that should not last 8 minutes) or the "Confessional"/"Kismet in Suburbia" combo or the closing "What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens," and I'd be willing to listen to them individually again from time to time, but when put in a row they make me feel a little sleepy and distracted. Ian makes a good stab at tying everything back together and recovering the momentum in the last track, but by then it's a little too late.

In the end, while I wouldn't recommend this album to anybody who doesn't already love Thick as a Brick, this gets a more hearty recommendation to Thick as a Brick lovers than I originally feared I could give. I'd be perfectly happy if it didn't exist, and I'll continue to seek out the original about ten times as often as I'll seek out this one, but it could be a lot worse.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#773000)
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I doubt if the world was anxiously waiting to learn what happened to Gerald Bostock, the fictional child prodigy and author of the controversial prose poem immortalized by Jethro Tull in the 1972 album 'Thick as a Brick'. But here it is, exactly forty years later: a belated update that works better as a tribute rather than a sequel, acknowledging a classic LP after four decades of well-deserved notoriety.

The original was Tull's first full-blown Progressive Rock concept album, and needs no introduction here. The follow-up (not a legitimate group effort, but a glorified solo album credited to 'Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson') is a fairly robust Prog throwback capturing much of the adventurous musical spirit and complexity of the 1970s.

But it's still a backwards looking album, even with the clever reboot of the original cover concept, trading the gatefold mock newspaper for a link to an actual (bogus) web site: the St. Cleve Parish on-line newsletter (www.stcleve.com). It's actually quite amusing in a low- key, English sort of way, although the effort to set it up probably took more time than making the album itself.

This time around the narratives (plural: apparently Mr. Anderson couldn't settle on a single fate for poor Gerald) are more literal than the esoteric symbolism of the earlier album, perhaps an indication of how we've changed since the idealistic early '70s. The music itself is often very engaging, following the same Celtic-Folk trajectory of later Tull albums. But it's the concept and lyrics that ultimately drive the sequel, and none of it fits together as seamlessly as the original. Instead of a single 40-minute song cycle, the new album presents an episodic, fragmented series of (quoting the closing song title) 'What-Ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens', interrupted by awkward spoken-word bridges.

It's too bad Ian Anderson couldn't have arranged a reunion of the original players, too. The backing band here (minus Martin Barre, alas) sounds much like Jethro Tull in the last few decades: totally professional but strictly anonymous, which may be exactly what an autocrat like Anderson expects these days.

Derek Shulman and the ubiquitous Steve Wilson are both name-checked in the credits, the former for pushing the idea (hey, Derek, how about a Gentle Giant sequel to 'Three Friends'?) and the latter for applying his usual mixing skills. High marks all around, but in the end the album had no chance to recapture the novelty and excitement of the original. Gerald Bostock isn't the only one here who grew older, and neither is Mr. Anderson...we've all put a few miles behind us since 1972, and let's face it: nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#805210)
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Didn't saw that one coming!

I frankly wasn't expecting something like this: to give a suite to (maybe) the greatest progressive rock album of all time. Some tried to give a second life to a majestic album, and who could blame them for rolling the dice again? We can think of In The Wake of Poseidon by King Crimson (the Good), Ocean II by Eloy (the Bad) or Metallica with their Unforgiven tracks (theUgly).

So, if Thick as Brick didn't exist, would that album be good?

Yes, and how.

Anderson won the incredible bet of giving a brother to his magnum opus; it's good and it's solid. The spectacular team of Steven Wilson and Derek Shulman is giving us impeccable sound, crisp and clear rendition of the 70's. It's not just playing old school with vintage instruments, you have to capture it correctly!

Excellent poems by Anderson. Some are regretting his past vocal chords abilities, I don't. He's still an excellent singer with a warm tone and perfect phrasing. He even winks at times at old classics like Aqualung or a Passion Play. Well done! It was probably not easy to invent a life for our pal Bostock, but by Jove, he did it!

The best thing is to listen to it and judge for yourself. On the other hand, you hardly can't bitch about it because the whole thing has clearly been well-thought and meditated. So if you're a fan of the first, please listen to this one. It could be your newest baby for a while.

What ifs, maybes and migh-have-beens...why-nots, perhaps and wait-and-sees.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#815539)
Posted Wednesday, September 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Another passion play

Even though this is officially the sequel to Jethro Tull's brillaint Thick As A Brick album from 1972 and features several direct musical references to that classic Tull album, it actually reminds me much more of 1973's A Passion Play. Especially in light of the spoken word passages and the occasional (and admittedly discrete) presence of brass instruments. There is nothing here as ridiculous and silly as the "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" story, but there is indeed a more whimsical nature to this album that is more in line with A Passion Play than with Thick As A Brick. As other reviewers have pointed out, there are also elements of and references to several other Jethro Tull albums from various eras.

While this is without doubt Ian Anderson's best solo album and a pretty good album in its own right, it does not compare all that favourably to the generally very strong Jethro Tull discography. Even if I can certainly think of a few Jethro Tull albums that fall below the present one, there are countless others that are just far better. Very enjoyable though this album is, it is actually only an average album judged by very high standards of Jethro Tull's vast but generally excellent output. I could hardly give this album the same high rating as such excellent classics as Heavy Horses, Minstrel In The Gallery, or Aqualung. But, as I hinted above, it compares rather well with A Passion Play in both style and stature. In my opinion, the two most recent Jethro Tull albums, the underrated Roots To Branches and Dot Com, are better than the present one.

TAAB2 was a very surprising and very welcome release, bound to please hungry Jethro Tull fans like myself. As such, it is certainly a recommended addition to any comprehensive Jethro Tull collection. But it is not quite as good as some starved fans have claimed.

Very good indeed, but not truly essential

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#865949)
Posted Saturday, November 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Few progressive rock albums receive as much praise as Jethro Tull's 1972 masterpiece Thick As a Brick, so Ian Anderson's decision to create a sequel to that album forty years later may have struck many fans as a bit odd. Some albums just don't need a sequel to solidify their place in history, and though it goes without saying that Thick As a Brick stands tall on its own, Ian Anderson's reflection on Gerald Bostock's life forty years in real-time after the original album makes for a fascinating concept. Anderson's lyrical wit is as poignant as ever, and the compositions here rival some of Jethro Tull's best. Although Thick As a Brick 2 may not overthrow its predecessor (as expected), it serves as an excellent companion to one of the greatest prog albums of all time.

Thick As a Brick 2 is strangely not a Jethro Tull album in name, but it is in sound. It obviously shares plenty of stylistic similarities with the original Thick As a Brick (some musical and lyrical themes are even repeated on this album), although I would argue that this bears just as much resemblance to 1973's A Passion Play - the whimsical spoken word sections especially remind me of this rather controversial concept album. Thick As a Brick 2 nicely summarizes the most productive portion of Jethro Tull's career, though; you might not hear very much from their early days as a blues rock act here, but the quirky, folk-infused progressive rock that Tull is best known for is faithfully represented on Thick As a Brick 2. Excellent flute solos, energetic riffs, and quirky arrangements are abundant, with fairly heavy use of the accordion adding a new dimension to Ian Anderson's style.

Most of the tracks on Thick As a Brick 2 are rather short, but all of them segue together to form one long composition. Anderson clearly had a surge of inspiration for the songwriting of this observation - tracks like "Banker Bets, Banker Wins", "Adrift and Dumbfounded", "A Change of Horses", and "What Ifs, Maybes, and Might Have Beens" stand as some of the man's finest compositions since the seventies'. All of Thick As a Brick 2 should be right up the alley of any classic Jethro Tull fan, and while it's clear that Anderson has aged in terms of his vocal ability and musical adventurousness, this is an immensely satisfying listen.

One could certainly criticize Thick As a Brick 2 for lacking the "bite" that classic Tull records have, but the album has enough high points to look past this shortcoming. This is a well-composed observation with an interesting concept performed by professional musicians and delivered in an expertly produced package (the album was mixed by no less than Steven Wilson). All in all, I've had a great time experiencing the sequel to one of my favorite albums, and I'd imagine that other Jethro Tull fans will find plenty to enjoy here too. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#888680)
Posted Sunday, January 06, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars It would always be a daunting thing to attempt to make a "Thick as a Brick" part 2 album as we are talking about one of the seminal classics of progressive rock music of the 70's. I've noticed that usually this type of part 2 thing done much later on in time doesn't really work and as an example I will point to Queensryche's follow up to "Operation Mindcrime" which was not a bad album however it was nothing like the original in quality. How does this album fare? Well let's see.

"The theme of this anniversary "part two" album is to examine the possible different paths that the precocious young schoolboy, Gerald Bostock, might have taken later in life and to create alter-ego characters whose song-section identities illustrate the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity. Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time" - quoted from Mr Anderson himself.

"It was a little daunting to consider the impact ? or perhaps lack of ? which this release might have on old and new fans alike but I eventually decided that I would embark on this for my own benefit and enjoyment rather than trying to please anyone else at all. To find the balance of interesting musicality and more accessible content too was not the main issue. The conceptual and heavily lyrical nature of the beast, however, might be out of place in the attention span-deficit world which we seem to occupy these days. But, having toured in 2010 and 2011 in Italy, Latin America, Australia and other countries where passions run high, I decided that maybe the world ? or our little corners of it ? was, in fact, ready for a bit of more substantial and weightier fare". - also quoted from Mr. Anderson.

Immediately, in the album's opening tracks I hear strains of what Jethro Tull was in its peak progressive period and to my ears it's a joy. The sound is very good however and that is to be expected in an album produced by Steven Wilson. The musicians here were not present for the original (except for Anderson himself) "Thick as a Brick" recording however these guys are no slouches and they do get the sound right. To attempt to remain faithful to the original "Thick as a Brick" album Anderson and Co here use the same brand instruments as were used on the original album.

So - to my feeling about this album. It isn't as sublime as the original album but then I doubt that much could be. Those who love older Tull through to the "Heavy Horses" album should adore this as that's what the sound is all about. The music is very well composed and structured in its attempt to be part 2 of the classic album. Lyrically and musically it is not a giant work as the original was however it is very very good at what it attempts to achieve. To rate this properly I have to take the original work out of the equasion and look at this as a recording on its own while remembering the older work. If I do that then I cannot but give this a full 5 star rating. Compared to the original this is not 5 stars as it isn't the equal of the original however it is a very very good album in its own right. It is essential for Tull fans and it is essential in its own right - had this been released by someone else without comparrison to TAAB it would have been recieved as a 5 star release by many. So - the full 5 stars.

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Send comments to sukmytoe (BETA) | Report this review (#944072)
Posted Monday, April 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars Returning to the scene of the crime. Ian Andersons first foray back with a concept album that has led to the equally dismal Homo Erraticus. TAAB2 fails in both achieving a memorable and enjoyable musical theme that the band could deviate from and return to as well as an interesting concept. The surrogate "Tull" band sounds like studio musicians that are out of their depths without showing the slightest bit of passion for or understanding of the parent material. Did Anderson forget that all of the band members require passion and inspiration in order to make a good album? Furthermore, if any other 70's prog group/artists wanted to make a follow up to their classic albums such as the present day version of Yes making Close To The Edge Part 2, the premise would be dismissed out of hand and rightly so. (Can anyone imagine Gilmour and Mason, right now, making Dark Side Of The Moon Part 2? I thought not.) If Ian Anderson wants so desperately to be remembered as more than just a member of a rock band named Jethro Tull, he needs to do much better than offering up TAAB2 and it's 2014 follower.

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Send comments to SteveG (BETA) | Report this review (#1171821)
Posted Tuesday, May 06, 2014 | Review Permalink

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