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Jethro Tull

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Jethro Tull A Passion Play album cover
4.05 | 1660 ratings | 130 reviews | 40% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Passion Play, Part I (23:04)
Act 1 - Ronnie Pilgrim's funeral - a winter's morning in the cemetery.
I. "Lifebeats" (instrumental)
II. "Prelude" (instrumental)
III. "The Silver Cord"
IV. "Re-Assuring Tune" (instrumental)
Act 2 - The Memory Bank - a small but comfortable theatre with a cinema-screen (the next morning).
V. "Memory Bank"
VI. "Best Friends"
VII. "Critique Oblique"
VIII. "Forest Dance #1" (instrumental)"
2. A Passion Play, Part II (22:00)
Interlude - The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.
IX. "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" (Anderson, Hammond, Evan)
Act 3 - The business office of G. Oddie & Son (two days later).
X. "Forest Dance #2" (instrumental)
XI. "The Foot of Our Stairs"
XII. "Overseer Overture"
Act 4 - Magus Perdé's drawing room at midnight.
XIII. "Flight from Lucifer"
XIV. "10:08 to Paddington" (instrumental)
XV. "Magus Perdé"
XVI. "Epilogue"

Total Time: 45:04

Bonus Video on 2003 remaster:
3. The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles (7:02) *

* Video clip presented onstage during live performances

Line-up / Musicians

- Ian Anderson / vocals, flute, acoustic guitars, soprano & sopranino saxophones
- Martin Barre / electric guitar
- John Evan / piano, organ, synthesizer, announcer of "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"
- Jeffrey Hammond / bass, vocals, narrator on "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"
- Barriemore Barlow / drums, timpani, glockenspiel, marimba

- David Palmer / orchestra arranger & conductor

Releases information

Artwork: CCS with Brian Ward (photo)

LP Chrysalis ‎- CHR 1040 (1973, UK)

CD Chrysalis ‎- CCD 1040 (1986, UK)
CD Chrysalis ‎- VK 41040 (1987, US)
CD Chrysalis ‎- 581 5690 (2003, Europe) Remastered + Enhanced section w/ video (QuickTime format)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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JETHRO TULL A Passion Play ratings distribution

(1660 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(40%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

JETHRO TULL A Passion Play reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

If this was not J T this might have been a good album but this is JT!! And it is completely over the top (as TFTO for Yes and BSS is for ELP) and it just went too far and finally came out as ridiculous. For this review, I kind of forced myself to re-enter it by spinning about 8 or 9 times in the last few days, five times with headphones. BTW, I have the Wilson remix - and unfortunately it doesn't have the lyrics (which might've helped a bit). Why the headphones you ask? Well, despite my best efforts, I couldn't concentrate on listening to the whole album (minus "The Hare" crap) throughout its entirety... I suppose this says something. It's not riveting me to anything at all.

But there are some brilliant musical passages, such as most of the faster-paced passages, whether instrumental or sung. Where it hurts is the constant step from Ian singing with just his acoustic guitar or with Evan's piano. The album's continuity is constantly broken by jumping from the acoustic/solo ground-floor to the electric/band floor... It's simply too much for me... TAAB of course did that floor-changing, but not nearly so frequently. As for Ian's sax playing, yeah, it's limited, as it pales in comparison to the flute parts (even the multi-layering of the flute is rather cool), but both are present, so it's not like one instrument is preponderant to the other (I read some critics dismissing APP as a "sax album"). What I do find a little annoying is that Evan uses here and there a synth to double or prolong Ian's sax parts... as fir the use (or abuse) of string arrangements.... Unlike the albums to come APP is not overloaded with them, and when there are some, they're justified. But the uneventful, boring and downright silly Hare piece (a failed attempt at creating a musical Monty Python IMHO) plus the rest of the album is a little too deconstructed and disjointed for me.

OK, I still don't understand anything about the concept, and TBH, I will not try as I don't care about it... If it didn't sink in upon the first few listen when I was still a teen, (I mean I understood TAAB upon first or second listen), it's not like it will sink in nowadays, though more mature - and not senile yet. I don't really think having the lyrics at my disposal would've made the concept any easier to grasp. But one has to give Anderson points for the daring adventure Ian & Co tried to experiment. The following project will abort because of the major criticism he got, courtesy of this album; and some of it was of course fully merited. As this is an extreme and controversial (love it to death or loathe it for life) album, it is very hard not to advise the Tull newbie to avoid this album, because they might just fall for it as well as hate it! Too bad for that bloody Hare interlude, which is responsible for the loss of at least one star

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars D'Isaster!

I know this album is constantly slated, but it is entirely justified. It really is astonishing how a band can follow up such a wonderful album as "Thick as a brick" with something as lacking in direction as "A Passion Play".

The ingredients which made "TAAB" so good appear to be here. The long single track, the storybook lyrics and the good sleeve are all present and correct, but the music is sadly lacking in inspiration. Whereas "TAAB" had witty lyrics, strong melodies, and a general coherence, "A Passion play" is lacking in all these areas. The lyrics are dull, the music wanders aimlessly, and there's little to distinguish one section from another. There's more of a jazz tinge to APP than any other Tull album, the trademark folk influences being only present in fleeting glimpses.

Even the supposedly humorous "The hare who lost his spectacles", fails to hit the mark. For some bizarre reason, this track within a track is split in half on the LP by forming the end of side one and the beginning of side two. The tale however is tedious and far from amusing, being a rather pointless shaggy dog story.

The "Chateau D'Isaster tapes" showed that Tull were well on their way to creating a worthy follow up to "TABB" before they abandoned that project and returned to the UK. Had they persisted with what they were creating then, the course of history could well have been different, and "A passion play" (or whatever it might have been called) could have become another magnificent album.

My abiding recollection of this album is of sitting down to listen to it with a friend who had just bought it on its day of release. We were full of anticipation having been swept away by TAAB. Halfway through side 2, he'd had enough, removed the stylus from the LP, and declared, "crap isn't it!". Sums it all up really.

Review by loserboy
4 stars Another one of the greats from Ian ANDERSON and Co. "A Passion Play" is really divided into 2 segments. The first is in the same vein musically and in structure of "Thick As A Brick", while the second part begins to take the shape more of a stage musical and storytelling. This is where I find JETHRO TULL to have been at their height of their musical career. As you would expect "Passion Play" digs deep into the mystical music that is associated with JETHRO TULL and contains some of their best flute and instrumental work. This is a very mature masterpiece displaying some very delicious progressive moments.
Review by lor68
4 stars Almost perfect, perhaps the most controversial album by JETHRO TULL, but anyway it is interesting all along its lenght... of course the critics regarded this one as the failed attempt to compose such a "Progressive album"; instead to me this album is not pretentious and the choose of the keyboards is remarkable as well: a great use of analogical synthesizers and the Mini-Moog above all. "The history of an hare who lost his spectacles" is a theatrical piece by an histrionic Jan ANDERSON... except on a few discontinuous parts, the rest of the album is memorable.

The most progressive effort by JETHRO TULL, and for this reason alone this album is well worth checking out at least!!

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After the marvelous Thick As A Brick album, Jethro Tull comes with this jewel. It definitely sounds like the previous record, but I find Passion Play having more subtle and refined parts and more mellow bits than Thick As A Brick. Plus, they really sound like Van Der Graaf Generator here, as reveal the many organ and sax parts. The 2 epic tracks are VERY progressive and rhythm changing, and the charm resides in the miscellaneous echoed saxes parts and the catchy, melodic & well played piano. Ian Anderson's voice is OUTSTANDING. There are many excellent organ parts, like on the previous album. The bass and drums are not lazy at all, at least during the loaded bits! Anderson's flute can also be appreciated, still always exciting and professionally played. Martin Barre's electric guitar is rather discreet, except on some specific partsl; he uses more in the foreground the acoustic guitar. Because of the numerous saxes involved, I find the record sometimes slightly jazzy/fusion!! It is one of the best Tull's albums!


Review by daveconn
4 stars "A Passion Play" picks up where "Thick As A Brick" left off. Their earlier album-length opus followed the life of one man, from birth to death. Their next ("Passion") follows the afterlife of one man, from heaven to hell. I don't know why this isn't more obvious to people, but some have apparently taken up the scent of the red herring in the title, concluding that "A Passion Play" has to do with the last moments of Christ. It does insofar as Christian theology holds that Christ's death vouchsafed our afterlife, but the operative architecture here is rather Dante ALIGHIERI's Divine Comedy than the titular medieval morality plays. And so many have gone looking for something that wasn't there, this despite "The Story of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", which cautions against looking for something that can't (and doesn't need to) be found. That's pretty much the theme in a nutshell, allowing for the usual human error on my part. (And, of course, if you've struck upon a theme you like better, by all means keep it!) Musically, "A Passion Play" is more complex than "Thick", downright diabolical in spots. The big difference here is the increased role of the saxophone, which supplants the flute and gives the arrangements a tempestuous twist that suggests GENTLE GIANT at this stage (unfortunately, Ian lost interest in sax after delivering "War Child"). Structurally, "A Passion Play" is less cohesive than its predecessor; "Thick" featured half a dozen or so themes played out several times throughout the course of the album, whereas Passion re-uses only a handful of themes and seems to consist of at least a dozen distinctive sections. By album's end, TULL resorts to piecemeal composition, stringing miniature songs together without even the pretense of a sound structural bridge between them.

In kindness, it could be that TULL was simply too creative to stay confined to a handful of musical themes, a point that "War Child"'s bulging bag of booty would seem to support. Some would rank "A Passion Play" with TULL's most magical creations (and far be it from me to debunk anyone's source of magic), but it's not a playmate I pull from the shelves too often, knowing it will only walk my mind in a circle.

Review by Proghead
4 stars I remembered way back in 1994 when I bought the LP how surprised I was about this album. I've heard how trashed-on this album was by the rock critics. Even what critics that trashed on their previous effort, "Thick as a Brick" was mild compared to this. Well, thanks to "A Passion Play", I find what mainstream rock critics (Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Dave Marsh, their ilk) not exactly reliable, especially if you are a prog rock fan. Of course if you like The VELVET UNDERGROUND or Van MORRISON's "Astral Weeks", that might be a different story.

Reviewing "A Passion Play" is like reviewing "Thick as a Brick", you can't say what's your favourite song here because it's basically one song that takes up both sides. Here the music is even more elaborate than "Brick", in which ANDERSON & Co. wanted to compete with GENTLE GIANT for the most complex and over-the-top prog rock you can think of. In fact there are several passages here that remind me of GENTLE GIANT, especially on side one. John Evan just purchased a Mini Moog synthesizer, making this the very first TULL album with synths, and it's definitely a far cry from the synth- dominated albums they did in the '80s (like "The Broadsword & the Beast" and "Under Wraps"), sounding as you expect a Mini Moog to sound (that classic analog sound, as opposed to the synthetic polyphonic synths Peter-John Vettesse used in the '80s).

Part 1 and Part 2 of this album is interrupted by a silly story called "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", narrated by John Evan, with orchestration from David Palmer. It sounds like your silly children's book story. After that, the music resumes. The second half of the album is a bit more accessible, in which the music is more melodic. This part does sound like several different songs and you can tell where one ends and one begins (usually after John Evan does some noodling on his Mini Moog synthesizer). One section was actually included on the compilation "M.U. Best of Jethro Tull". For those who think "A Passion Play" (as well as ELP's "Tarkus" and YES' "Tales From Topographic Oceans") is the reason why punk rock happened, of course, you won't like this album. But for those wanting to hear TULL at their most progressive, this is the album to get.

4 1/2 stars

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars This is a fantastic little piece from an excellent band. Harkening back to TAAB, the 40+mins. take you though a journey on the afterlife, or at least his take on it. The music is very good, and very progressive. Part one is more of the TAAB stage, but still very orginal. Part II is where this disk shines. A deffinate plus to any collection.
Review by penguindf12
5 stars This is the album a lot of people say went "overboard." Bull. I just don't see it. It's every bit as good, if not much better, than "Thick as a Brick." Whereas "Thick as a Brick" drew on the aspects of life and cynical dealings with humanity, cycles, and all that heavy-handed yet Ian Anderson-ly sarcastic material (much like the first half of "Aqualung" did), "A Passion Play" draws on the more religious concerns of Jethro Tull (much like the second half of "Aqualung" did -- although the music in the two are very different). The Play is also sarcastic and irreverant, perhaps even more so than "Thick as a Brick," but it's more hidden and less immediately visible. The music as well is more unconventional, with the saxophone and keyboards playing much larger roles (occaisionally sounding like Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant in some places), but I don't really see anything 'diabolical', 'self-indulgent', or 'pointless' at all. Some compare this album to YES' "Tales from Topographic Oceans," but this is completely unbased. "Tales..." is a great album, but there is very little similarity between it and the Play. "Tales" is much longer, clouded in strange mysticism, and much more difficult to decipher; I haven't been able to yet. Others compare the Play to ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery," which I don't see at all. "Brain Salad" didn't go overboard, it went underboard in my opinion, with a lot of sub-par material filling the first half and some varyingly good and great material on the second half. Doubters should consult http://www.ministry-of- for their full annotations and ideas. It REALLY helps, and only takes about 20 minutes to read through. I encourage the other reviewers here who gave this album mediocre reviews to see the site.

Regardless of what the title says, this is not a "passion play" in the sense of Jesus' life story. Instead, it is the story of an ordinary middle-class man (Ronnie Pilgrim) and his afterlife. The album begins with a soft heartbeat growing into a crescendo, and an instrumental "prelude" begins. Soon the prelude dies down, and the heartbeat does as well, crashing into the ground. As this happens, Ronnie Pilgrim's ghost rises from his coffin to attend his own funeral. After a short instrumental, he is taken to purgatory, where he meets an angel which leads him to a "viewing room" after another instrumental, to be sorted into either heaven or hell. Here, Anderson's sarcasm is apparent, as it would almost seem that this afterlife is flooded with earthly beauracracy. Ronnie enters the viewing room, and a panel of judges have him watch portions of his life on a screen. They review his life and criticize him during the second half of the first track, beginning softly and slowly increasing their sharpness and throwing impossible questions at poor Ronnie. Eventually, however, they let up and allow Ronnie to continue on to heaven, as he qualifies as "good enough." Following a short reprise of the first theme ("the silver cord") is a beautiful instrumental "Forest Dance" with a light, etheral, heartbeat keeping time throughout as magical guitars and synths build into a crashing halt as the second track begins.

Jeffery Hammond-Hammond announces "THIS IS THE STORY OF THE HARE WHO LOST HIS SPECTACLES!!!" loudly, and we have reached intermission. A silly Monty Python-ish story follows, orchestrated by the band and, well, an orchestra for background. It's fairly amusing, but has absolutely nothing to do with the storyline so far (much like "Willow Farm" in "Supper's Ready" by GENESIS).

Jeffrey declares "A-pairrrr" and the band begins where it left off, in the middle of the beautiful "Forest Dance" section, this time with a faster, more nervous hearbeat accompanying. It slows, and act three begins in "the office of G. Oddie and Son" (God and Jesus -- more Anderson sarcasm and post-death beauracracy hints). Ronnie has been in heaven for 2 days, and is bored. He complains to God that heaven is too pious and good for him, so he is going to give hell a try. The music intensifies, and the cry of a lost soul groans as the "Overseer Overture" begins and Ronnie listens to Lucy's (Lucifer -- get it?) monologue. This section is very synth-heavy, in contrast to the soft, acoustic music when God spoke. Ronnie predictably decides hell is not for him either, and he decides to flee. How he escaped eternal damnation is beyond me, but he does. He wishes to be alive again, and with the help of a mysterious non-speaking person/entity called Magus Perde he boards a train to a riverboat. The music becomes more hard rock at this point (the second half of the second track), and acoustic in sections much like "Thick as a Brick" as Ronnie rides the train and uses Magus Perde's powers to transport him onto a riverboat bound for earth. In other words, Ronnie has opted out of the Christian view of the afterlife, instead going for reincarnation. As the main theme is reprised, a more awkward, earthly heartbeat begins and Ronnie (now somebody else in flesh) rejoins the "ever-passion play," which is of course life itself.

There are many parallels between this album and other prog concept albums. For instance, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by GENESIS is about a street punk named Rael who dies and enters a purgatory in which he confronts himself; "The Human Equation" by AYREON is about a guy who enters a coma and must choose whether to live or to die, and he chooses the former; in contrast, "De-loused in the Comatorium" by THE MARS VOLTA is also about a guy who enters a coma and must decide whether to live or die, but he chooses the former. JETHRO TULL's version of this classic prog concept also takes on it's own flavor. GENESIS' Rael character learns to love and must venture through an existentialist maze of tests; MARS VOLTA's Cerpin Taxt, in true punk-prog fashion, lives fast and chooses death over life; TULL's character wanders thru a classic Christian version of the afterlife (almost beaurocratic in nature) and doesn't learn anything at all: nothing about him changes, he learns no lesson, and it drives home "Thick as a Brick"s point, in otherwordly fashion: "OF COURSE: 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."

Recommended for everybody.

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A darker and more twisted twin of the previous masterwork "Thick as a Brick" and Tull's finest moment for me. I bought it together with Genesis' 'Duke' and it got more time in my CD player the first half year than 'Duke' ever got the chance to even to this date. This album is far more complex and quirky than usual Tull and draws parallels to bands like Gentle Giant in it's sound mingled with the usual unique attitude of Ian Anderson. This is an intense and bumpy ride that you'll either love or dismiss as rubbish, but it definitely need some time on your ears. I personally consider this as Jethro Tull's best work as I loved this album on first listen, and while it admittely lacks the focus of 'TaaB' the music is even more enjoyable on my ears, which is saying quite a bit. Give it a try with an open mind.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Though I like Jethro Tull as a band, I'm not very fond of their epic experimentations including this one and "Thick as A Brick". From these two records I have listened, this one pleased me slightly more. The core reason to this seems to be my disability to enjoy their stream of consciousness via long rock compositions, which appear incoherent, and often losing that kind of dramatic wholeness I personally would rejoice. I am certain this is just my own problem; Have had similar difficulties with some longer Van Der Graaf Generator classics also, which many consider as best music they have heard. On the B-side of the album "The Story of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" amused me as a witty intermission, but after some time the main composition has been spinning, I start to feel I'm being "in that forsaken paradise that calls itself Hell, and where no-one has nothing and nothing is well". This and "Thick as A Brick" are still indisputable classic albums, from which I personally just could not get a grasp.
Review by Matti
2 stars Almost all ratings on this one are excellent, so I'll be quite alone with my disagreement. NB: I'm rating albums according to how I personally like them, without any thoughts of MUST admire something, or vice versa. First, Thick As A Brick is a superb and highly enjoyable work in my opinion also. With this, JT continued in that direction, but I think here lacks the adventurous and jolly spirit of TAAB. Instead it feels like it's been made just for making's sake, complexity for complexity's sake, without real passion(!) behind the music. It's quite even all the way, no notable highlights. I returned to this album yesterday after 12 years and I actually remembered it better (though not among the best ones anyway, even then). Frankly, I was bored. Afterwards almost nothing remained in my mind, except that saxes are played more than usual. It's surely more 'acquired taste' than other Tulls.

The hilarious fairy-tale narrative "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" in the middle is of course quite amusing with the exaggerated pronunciation. For most Tull fans there may be nothing wrong with A Passion Play, but somehow it leaves me cold. The sleeve notes tell of a failed studio session (was it in France) after which the whole concept changed for darker. For worse, perhaps?

Review by NJprogfan
4 stars It's been at least 15 years since I've listened to this album. I just bought the re-mastered CD and three things stand out the most to my ears: 1) How much Ian plays the soprano sax commpared to his flute. 2) How much it sounds like Gentle Giant, especially the first part/side one if you have the vinyl. 3) How well Ian sings. You forget how good a singer he was back in the 70's. I'm curious to know what this album would have sounded like if the lads had stayed in Switzerland and finished it instead of dropping what they recorded and went home to England. It is one sober, somber and bottom-heavy work. Just look at the cover, it speaks volumes. It really doesn't pick up until the climax, (my favorite part BTW). Yet, it's on par with 'Thick As A Brick' to me and if it wasn't for the Monty Pythonesque 'The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Specaicles' I would give it the highest rating. Such as it is, which is still one of the best prog albums of the early 70's, it rates 4.5 stars. A must have!!!
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was really caught off foot with this album. I was initially expecting based on the reviews that I read that this album was going to be a little disappointing to any Jethro Tull fan. Well, after giving it a few listens, I must say that this album is great. It's no Thick as a Brick, but it really does give it a run for its money. Ian Anderson and the rest of the group have a knack for writing great pieces, and they really exhibit their abilities on this album. The use of flute on the album is subtle and it really makes for a more light-hearted tone, even though the album deals with darker themes. When I first put it, I initially thought that I had accidentally put in Thick as a Brick, but soon I realized that this piece was so drastically different from TAAB. John Evans is once again at the top of his game, with the keyboards taking the forefront and really making an incredible experience. But the guitar is not drowned out, Martin Barre also plays some incredible licks and really shows why he is a great guitarist.

I really have to say that the first part is a lot better than the second part. It's really similar to TAAB, in that it feels as if all of their best work went into the first part, and then the rest was just filler (but good filler, mind you). I don't really enjoy the beginning of the second half. Once you get past the first 3 or 4 minutes, though, it really seems to get back into form.

I really was impressed by the intricacy and perfection that Jethro Tull had on this album. Then again, it wasn't as good or as remarkable as TAAB. There are few dull spots, but there are enough spots to keep you interested. I give it a 4/5 because I feel that if you give it a chance, you'll truly enjoy this work (I certainly did enjoy it).

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator

Honestly, I have had countless attempts to write a review about this concept album. Not because of the controversy between two poles that "hate it" or "love it" but due to the incapability to express my views that is fairly objective and comprehensive about this complex and serious album. As far as controversy issue, I have been on the latter pole, ie in the category of those who love the album. Big apology if this review of being too subjective, probably. What I can assure you is that whatever my view here is not exaggerating. But if you think so, I don't blame you - it's probably I appreciate prog musicians too much because I'm not a musician, but music is my soul. Music is emotion. I sleep with music, breathe with music, work with music .

Ian Anderson's Perspective

"With Thick As A Brick, we took the idea of the concept album and had some fun with it. Now we thought it was time to do something a bit more serious and make an album that wasn't a spoof and wasn't meant to be fun. We ended up going to record the album at Chateau D'Herouville, in France, where people like Elton John and Cat Stevens had made records. Our original plan was not to make another concept album. The project started off as a collection of songs, including two that ended up going onto our next album, War Child: 'Bungle in the Jungle' and 'Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day).' A certain theme had begun to emerge among the songs - how the animal life is mirrored in the dog-eat-dog world of human society - but the project just wasn't working out. So we abandoned what we'd done and went back to England."

"Back home, I ended up almost completely rewriting all of the material we'd worked on in France, and this became A Passion Play. The concept grew out of wondering about the possible choices one might face after death. It was a dark album, just as we had intended, but it was missing some of the fun and variety that was in Thick As A Brick. The critics savaged us. Chris Welch of Melody Maker and Bob Hilburn at the Los Angeles Times wrote really negative reviews that everybody jumped on and reprinted or based their own reviews on. It really snowballed from there, and we got a fair old pasting for that one. On reflection, the album is a bit one-dimensional. It's certainly not one of my favorites, although it has become something of a cult album with some fans."

Ian Anderson, Guitar World, September 1999

Well, the above quote speaks clearly enough so that I don't need to repeat. Chris Welch is a great reviewer and I learn a lot from his critics about rock music.

Album Review

"A Passion Play part 1" - The album starts off with a relatively complex and less-melodic music (which would grow to a melodic one with many spins) combining multi instruments including woodwind and flute. This part is where most people would most likely reject listening to the remaining part; nothing so attractive about it. It once happened to me when I first listened to it for the first three to five spin. At approx min [3:26] Ian voice enters wonderfully with powerful accentuation : "Do you still see me even here? (The silver cord lies on the ground.)" augmented with great piano work. Acoustic guitar inserts into the music during this first verse lyrical part that ends with: "There was a rush along the Fulham Road into the Ever-passion Play." And the music turns quiet.

Hammond organ solo continues the music and with the fading in of drum work the music turns into complex and fast tempo music with soprano sax as lead melody; and suddenly it breaks into silent passage where Ian continues with the second verse of lyrical part. The music then turns complex again in uplifting mood combined with low points with acoustic guitar work and with the drum brings the music into foxtrot, followed with third lyrical verse: "All along the icy wastes there are faces smiling in the gloom." Oh man . I like this part. It's a truly musical orgasm for me whenever I enjoy this part! Especially when Ian continues singing "Invest your life in the memory bank.. " what a memorable part!

At approx min [11:43] Ian Anderson plays his flute brilliantly and dynamically followed with fast tempo music with great drumming. The music is complex, overall. And the fourth lyrical verse continues with : "Take the prize for instant pleasure, .." with still complex arrangement. The music increases with energy when Ian sings "All of your best friends' telephones ." and I really like this part. Piano and guitar play together with sax, Hammond and drums. The music then stops for a while and moves up again with piano as main rhythm section and guitar work followed with lyrical part that begins with: "Lover of the black and white it's your first night." In relatively fast tempo and high energy music. It slows down beautifully when it reaches unique vocal line: "The examining body examined her body.". What a great break! The other great break is when Ian sings with acoustic guitar rhythm as background while other instruments stop playing for a while: "All of this and some of that's the only way to skin the cat." And the music returns back into high energy.

Another great treat for me is when the first play ends up with The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles where Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond does wonderful narration starting at approx min. [21:34]. What a wonderful narration and accompanied with a Tom and Jerry type of music.

"A Passion Play - Part 2" starts with the ending of The Story of The Hare with a floating music continued with wonderful entrance of Ian's voice that starts suddenly with "We sleep by the ever-bright hole in the door .." lyrical part, accompanied with stunning acoustic guitar rhythm. The musical composition is different than the first part but the main style is still maintained, i.e. the use of alto sax, organ and guitar as main solo that are played in intertwining style. At approx min [31:55] the music moves up differently with a combination of organ and drum work. Keyboard and piano work also characterize the music. Part 2 music is overall much more complex that Part 1.

At approx minute [40:22] the music turns differently with the entrance of guitar combined with organ and flute works followed with a lyrical verse that starts with: "Hail! Son of kings .". I thought that this ending part is a sort of disjointed portion of the whole epic because the style is totally different. But as I spin the CD more and more it feels to me that this can be considered as the epic's encore. Fortunately, the ending part of this last portion brings back the music into melody line similar to Part 1 with this lyrical part: "There was a rush along the Fulham Road into the Ever-passion Play." And it fades out .. Hmmm . what a peaceful feeling I got when the epic finishes. It's a rewarding experience!


Big apology for the long review but overall I can not put this album less than five stars rating. It's truly a masterpiece. I consider that this album is even better than the previous ground breaking "Thick As A Brick". For me personally, A Passion Play is the best of all Jethro Tull's albums. If you can not accept this album, please give it a chance for another 5, 10 or even 15 spins. I hope it'll grow. Otherwise, keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours,


Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album is one of the greatest albums Jethro Tull have graced us! They always demonstrate the talent of whom don't repeat the same formula. Yes, it's darker than Thick As A Brick, but anyway: what's the problem? It seems to be more various with the arrangements, including very interesting saxophone passages and beautiful Barrie's drums! The story of the hare who lost his spectacle represents a surprise, a break, in the obscure and magnificient atmosphere of A Passion Play........

........and it's sang by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, not by John Evan who, afterall, has made a great work, and having a great part in the construction of this masterpiece!!!!

Review by The Wizard
4 stars Wow. I have no idea this album got and still gets so much dirt. The lyrics may be confusing, it may have more jazz influences, and have a darker tone, but aren't these elements common in prog albums? I personally view this as Tulls breakthrough album. It is the first to feature a synthesizer, and there is more sax and less acoustic guitar. The musicianships is also at its peak. Also, instead of complaining about the infamous 'hare who lost his spectacles' all I have to say is that depends what kind of sense of humor you have. If your into Monty Python, you'll realize that the sequence is to sound like an opening sequence to the show, with the animated animals. It definetely dosn't bug like dosn't a lot a of people. If if you hate monty python, the other music is so good you'll just have to skip it.
Review by el böthy
5 stars 4/5

This must be one of the most complex albums ever...its certainly Jethro Tulls most complex album ever. But, complexety does not make a good album!!! But it seems that in this case complexety has much to do with the final product. The musicianship, or better yet, the way the instruments are presented is very diferent from other Tulls albums. This is because the guitars have a minor role but at the same time keyboards are constantly there; John Evans does his best work ever with the group. The other weapon of choice is Jeffrey Hammonh-Hammond, whos bass is also a very important part of the 2 long pieces, as well as the voice that tells the story of the hare who lost his spectacles. Then there are the drumms. Barriemore Barlow, a virtuoso of his instrument does not play a 4/4 signature time in any part of the whole album...and if he does ( which I cant remember) its only for a breef lapse of time. As I already said the guitars play a minor role, yet they are constantly present, but not doing solos or fills, but as a supporting instrument...still Martin Lancelot Barre manageds to do something here and there. And finally we have the bones, heart and brain of Tull...Ian Anderson, who plays the sax, quite good I might add, as well as the flute. But his acustic guitars are also different, his signature folkish kinda playing is here not present, for it has changed to a some what more classical touch...nice!

But I just went on and on about the musicianship, but did not said anything about the music inself, other than its complexety...well, this is hard to get into! Its not for the die heart blues/folkish fans from early Tull, unless you are opend minded. The 2 pieces are pretty much just one 45 minutes song, with a fairy tale in the middle. The music is hard to swollow some times, and Ians lyrics and voice are different from other albums. Although there is a constant irony behind his words, they are not really funny as in previous works, but dark. I find them incredibly interesting! The way he mocks very seriously about some excellent.

The album, because of his (again) complexety and theatrical aprouch ( A Passion PLAY!), makes the band no longer a folk prog band, but a symphonic one...very very nice!!!

From all the Tull albums I have at this point, and they are not much ( I dont have Thick as a brick...which many would say its a big mistake, havind Passion Play before Thick as a brick...and maybe yes...but I still find this one so very good!!!), this is the far!!!

Review by Eclipse
4 stars While not reaching the heights of Thick As A Brick, this album deserves its merits, since it has a very interesting concept (regarding after-life, it is cool to see IAN exploring such ideas) and has introduced a new style on JT: less flutes and more sax and keys. Unfortunately, the band didn't seem to feel like exploring new melodies with these instruments. That's why we have too much repetitive melodies, making the album a boring experience sometimes - i notice that i feel a bit tired sometimes at the middle of the second part, imagine if they haven't had add the Hare's story between, i think i wouldn't stand listening to the album as a whole. Anyone, despite being repetitive and not so inspired as TAAB, Passion Play is a very nice effort by Tull so i feel secure on giving it four stars.
Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I remember I bought "A Passion Play" in the very same day it landed in the shop; in fact, I was there looking for something different when I noticed that one hot-from-the-press pile of gory and macabre covers had just arrived that I promptly sacked one and ran home (after paying, as a civilized sacker must do).

My first hearing was an astounding adventure: I was literally crushed! But some demon inside told me that this work should not be well received by the mainstream and even the sidestream peers. Later, I read the critics and realized that "A Passion Play" wasn't properly lighting the neon. What a pity!

Well, nothing better than the elapsing of time and when the 20th Century faded and the new millennium arrived, apparently the comprehension of this work improved hugely (or maybe, averagely). Many people are considering, now, "A Passion Play" in the same level of "Thick As A Brick" (a JT's magnum opus for several honest fans) or even in a higher position - a posture able to get an asylum passport 30 years ago. I wasn't really one of those probable asylum dwellers but I always considered that either epics were more or less leveled, with "Thick As A Brick" a bit overrated, maybe for being the first to be born.

Unlike its older cousin, "A Passion Play" hasn't a main theme being repeated here and there, except for the intro and the end. The piece is a bunch of average-to-good songs that keep a general homogeneous atmosphere; the real link is done by the lyrics and mainly the band's playing - seeming sometimes foolish and vague, but never deviating from the target.

Never before, Jethro Tull played so harmonically; Ian Anderson had the vocals and splendid saxophone solos, but keyboards, guitars, bass and drums had their peaks along the song - great moments indeed. "A Passion Play" has high points but the near-ending is totally amazing - after 40' of different musical parts, the listener is caught for about 3 minutes in a tsunami of rock-folk-symphonic sounds that form undeniably one of the unforgettable passages of the entire prog-rock scenario, all sparking after 'Hail, son of Kings.'; a majestic and splendid end for a great musical piece.

Ah! I forgot to mention the interval curiosity summoned by the name of 'The story of the hare who lost his spectacles', a psychedelic fable, excellent to learn some Lancashire accent, according to my British friends, isn't it?

And finally, how to rate a work that has a different passion and a difficult play? I recommend "A Passion Play" for all serious and diversified prog collection. Total: 4.

Review by Zitro
2 stars 1 2/3 Stars

Rather than the ambitious Tales of Topographic Oceans taking the blame for everything wrong with Progressive Rock and making the public lose interest, I think this should been that album. It is amazing how can a band that releases masterfully crafted classic rock albums like Benefit, Aqualung, and the sophisticated Thick as a Brick can suddently lose the inspiration and release a Thick As a Brick wanna be without the direction, melodies, and charm that made Thick as a Brick so successful. While the folk -> jazz change could have been a good one, I do not like the execution. The only things remaining are the great musicianship and the poetic lyrics from Ian Anderson. Just check on the internet the lyrics and you will be amused at the poetic talents of Ian. Also, the keyboardist here sounds like a hybrid of Charly Garcia and Italian prog keyboardists with his synths while Ian plays great flute and even the sax, the rhythm section is strong, and the guitar player plays a led-zeppelin-style kick ass riff near the ending. Sadly, those two can't help the disaster that this album is.

The story begins and you can hear that the musicians are playing complex arrangements, but are they good? I really can't remember much after it as the melodies are weaker than ones I could compose myself (and I'm not a composer at all!). How can the band compose such unremarkable melodies when they were the complete opposites with songs such as Aqualung and Thick as a Brick pt1? Lack of good melodies are not the only problems with the album as I stated in my first paragraph. I think the biggest problem with the album are lack of ideas and inspiration. Not only are the melodies weak, but the themes and riffs, and even the solos too. Everything in here is so uninteresting that it makes it a dull moment in your life to spin the disc. There are 2 more problems to be addressed:

_ Directionless : The album goes through one theme, doesn't really develop it and goes through another section. While the transitions aren't horrific cut and paste jobs, they still make the album incoherent and directionless.

_ The Hare That Lost its Spectacles : Oh My God!? If you want an example of the bad things about mixing music with humor, this is the first place to look. The story is silly and the humour is pathetic and irritating after a couple of listens. Ian makes a fool of himself with ridiculous vocal tones and the band plays childish theater soundtrack to follow the music. Remember when the band seemed to follow the lyrics brilliantly like in "My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT." when you hear a hammond organ chord when you hear the word "Shout"? Now, you hear Evans do cheesy 'shakes' to create tension I guess, but they are so out of place. Also, the riffs/melodies are some of the cheesiest, most ridiculous things I've heard. Finally, I haven't addressed the final problem with this part: Why is it in here? It doesn't suit the song musically and is really put as a cut and paste job in the middle of the epic just after it was kinda getting good. This song within a song almost makes me put 1 star in the album.

For diehard Fans only. If you are not a fan of Jethro Tull, you'd better stick with the early great albums and their mid-career gem (Songs From The Wood). Do not start the band's discography with this one!!

1. A Passion Play (Part 1) 4.5/10

2. A Passion Play (Part 2) 3/10 - The Hare play: 0/10 - The Rest: 4.5/10.

My Grade: D-

Review by hdfisch
5 stars TULL did it once again!!

So this one had been Tull's most controversial album ever and actually I can understand that rock critics and fans being more into mainstream rock had devaluated it since it had been undoubtedly their most complex and hardest approachable work. But honestly I cannot follow those Prog fans putting this great album which I consider at least as good as TAAB down as crap. Actually I liked the overall darker mood of the music right from the beginning but it really took me numerous spins before I've been able to memorize some parts of it. The two-parted compositions is much more dominated by Anderson's sax and Evans' moog playing than any of their previous releases and resembles rather bands like Gentle Giant or VDGG than typical Tull. The album's concept which had been designed as a stage performance is centred around the story about death and afterlife of a guy called Ronnie. I wouldn't claim that I went already deeply into the lyrics which are even more difficult to understand than the ones for TAAB allowing multiple interpretations but for better understanding I can just confirm my fellow reviewer Dex F.'s advice to follow the link he mentioned. Actually it didn't work with me at the first place but you should go to and then follow the link for the album. There you might get as well explanation why they've put this strange and hilarious hare-story which isn't related at all to the concept in fact right between the two tracks. As far as I understood you've got to imagine the record as a stage play and I guess this short nonsensical yet amusing story had been meant as a refreshing break for the audience to recover a bit from the quite serious topic of the main story. And I've to say it's quite nicely done much in the vein of "Peter and the wolf" and I didn't find it disturbing at all. Anyway apart of that the artistic performance of all band members is just stunning here and this album offers some of the best sections they've ever done during their career. In my view The Play should be considered Tull's second masterpiece after TAAB and anyone who appreciated that one should find this one enjoyable as well, at least after a couple of listens. Some people might find it too pretentious but IMHO it wasn't but rather a masterpiece of progressive music!!

Review by Guillermo
4 stars I listened to this album a long time ago, but I remember that I heard very good things. The arrangements are very good, and I think that, from the albums that I have listened from this band, this is one of their best albums, one of their more Prog albums. It has an humorous section, called "The hare who lost his spectacles" or something like that, which sounds funny. This album also has songwriting credits in this section for other members of the band, who also "sang" a bit. This is a fine album, IMO, from a band which is not one of my favourites.
Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hah. The most progressive Jethro Tull's album (so far), but not necessary the best one. Everyone will agree this is an attempt to be thicker and brickier than a "Thick As A Brick". Well, of course, the band failed to overtake the artistic value and success of the previous album, but this one is not bad actually.

This is another concept album, (with "The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" mockery thrown in), and it doesn't works perfectly. Well, "Thick As A Brick" wasn't working perfectly neither, but I still think it's a masterpiece. The problem with this album is in the fact that it's much less homogeneous then it's predecessor, while sharing the same amount of complexity and diversity. However, I'm doing the same thing as most of the reviewers are: I'm comparing it to "Thick As A Brick", which is maybe unavoidable, but it's certainly not very fair: there's plenty of other Tull albums from the same era to conclude what status "A Passion Play" deserves.

If we look at it as a isolated entity, this is a very good album, with excellent cover, witty Anderson's lyrics and superb musicianship. Anyway, this is the first (and the last, I think) appearance of soprano and sopranino saxophones on Tull record, played by Mr. Anderson himself. Album contains boldly used Moog synthesizers; keyboards are all over the place, most of the time emphasising Ian's vocal perfectly ("My touch, freezing"). Hammond is ridiculously overdriven more than on any other Tull album. "A Passion Play" also contains some time signatures that could be described as a pure madness, plus my favourite rhythm-guitar section of all times (theme that has been repeated in variations through all the record, and the last one just before the grand finale); unique and frenetic combination of ehm...regular guitar chords and guitar harmonics. I never heard something similar before or after.

I would not comment the theatre play related to "A Passion Play" and I won't compare the album to the "Chateau D'Isaster Tapes"; I'm not very familiar with the happening at the time, and it's not very relevant to the music itself, really. Just an small remark about "The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles": it contains some excellent music, and nice touch of humour somewhat similar to Bonzo Dog Band, perhaps a bit more pretentious. It's rather pointless inclusion in the middle of the record, but it's fun, and it's high-quality work. The video spot is great too.

Anyway, if there is any chance to avoid comparisons with other, more or less similar Tull's album, and if we try to criticise this one from the sheer musical point of view, than we have an excellent, epic-long jazzy symphonic record with touches of folk, of course with omnipresent "tullness" all over the place. So how can I say that "A Passion Play" is not good?

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars I discovered "A Passion Play" before "Thick is A Brick". It was back in December 1974. I received a taped cassette from it (you know, the ancestor of the download ...). At that time I found it a quite interesting and good album. I listened to it quite frequently although it was rather difficult to enter into.

After a looooong period (thirty years : so you can add several ooooooo's), I (re) discovered it. At first, I was quite disappointed. The Tull obviously tried to match "Thick" (which I had discovered in the meantime). This album is not as catchy as "Thick". It will also be poorly appreciated by the rock reviewers and press in general. I could not blame them.

When I listened to it back in 2004, I thought : hey ! how could I have loved this one (really). I spun it only a couple of times till recently. Since I decided to review the whole of the Tull's repertoire I tried again and again. I think that I have listened more to "A Passion Play" for the last three days than for the last three years for the purpose of writing about it. After a few spins, my meaning started to change : part one was rgood with very few weak moments. Not as melodious as "Thick" but a dark, profund prog track. Too little fluting though for my taste.

It took me another four (or even five) spins to be able to get into part two. It is really hard. At first (I remind you that this was more than thirty years ago in my case), I considered the cabaret-type intro as funny (you know "The Hare"). When I rediscovered it, I found it boring, dull : in a word useless. This is still my feeling. Another minute or so of average "sounds" and there we go again for another good Tull moment.

And again I tried and tried. Till the moment that I effectively believe that this is a very good Tull album. Not reaching the masterpiece level, but I can tell you, my rating for this one was two stars when I started to prepare my first hundreds of reviews to be posted here. Two months have passed, and I got used to "A Passion Play" and started to like it, even if it will never bring me true "Passion" (like other Tull albums).

It is definitely not the Tull album to start with. If you do not like at first sight, forget it a bit, then come back and listen carefully. You'll be rewarded, really. Seven out of ten.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Surpassing the pretentiousness of its amazing predecessor "Thick as a Brick" and somewhat predating the dark mood of "Minstrel in the Gallery", "A Passion Play" is a gem in its own terms in the multicolored musical history of Jethro Tull. By now, the interest of Anderson & co. in exploring the progressive potential of their musical vision had been fully exposed throughout the last two years, and now with this epic satire (funny and bitter at the same time) of the afterworld, the band is ready to push the envelope: neckbreaking complexity of compositions, unabashed sophistication of arrangements, impressive lyrics full of literary references, augmentation of the instrumentation with the addition of saxes and synth as well as a full orchestra for the 'Hare' section (a very Monty-Pythonesque fable that feels perfectly coordinated with the Tullian ideology of music with farce). The storyline to this album finds a man experiencing a parallel to the travels of Christ to the 'other side' after his execution by crucifixion and his resurrection, but now Ian Anderson bears a different muse, a muse of disenchantment and frustration about the idea that the afterworld is as pointless and dull as our earthly realm. The intro theme, punctuated by a synth and bass beating heart, gives way to a joyful yet slightly somber motif that turns out to be quite catchy. The first sung section, a languid piano-based ballad in full chamber fashion, shows Ian at his most vulnerable. The choruses are so effective in their simplistic solemnity: "There was a rush along the Fulham Road / There was a hush in the Passion Play". A nice passage that is soon counterpointed by an amazing 11/8 interlude (similar to the famous "TAAB" interlude, at least, to a certain degree), and that's when the power gets in and remains consistent. The rhythm section bears a very solid feel, especially regarding Barlow's taste and precision in his rolls and other percussive tricks. All the way through, the rockier passages are the ones that take center stage, sometimes going for the hard, sometimes going for a bluesier vibe, always keeping an aura of controlled complexity. Anderson is really enthusiastic with his soprano and sopranino saxes, which assume a more prominent role than his archetypical flute: not that there are not flute extravaganzas (the incendiary solo for the interlude's reprise is awesome, simply awesome), but it is clear that the saxes are there to provide a new texture for Anderson's duels with Barre's guitar leads and Evan's keyboards (organ or synth). The A side ends with an acoustic guitar interlude that introduces the excellent, bizarre farce 'The Hare who Lost His Spectacles'. Ended the fable, the interlude is reprised in order to pave the ground for the mysterious 'Down of Our Stairs' section - one of the most vibrating introspective pieces ever written by Anderson, undoubtedly a hint to things to come in the "Minstrel" album. The lyrics, which portray the hero's disappointment with the boring solemnity of Heaven and seriously considering a visit to that "forsaken Paradise that calls itself hell", are really moving: beyond the poetic tricks, the emotion is clearly palpable. Once again, after this dominantly introspective passage, comes a series of rockier sections in which the main character discovers there are also reasons to be disappointed at Hell and its master chief Lucifer. The final section, in which our hero turns the stone to return to Earth, is one of the most accomplished regarding composition and performance stamina. The climatic ending is adorned with the final chorus and the reemerging heartbeats - an awesome finale for an awesome progressive opus. No matter how much their music challenges the progressive label (as well as many other labels), "A Passion Play" has to be one of the most outstanding prog albums ever, and most certainly JT made a bunch of them in the 70s. A bit less consistent that "TAAB", but masterful all the same.
Review by laplace
4 stars A great mixture of prog excess and pantomime exuberance, "A Passion Play" is a greater success to this reviewer than "Thick as a Brick" as the band strive to bring the variety that its predecessor lacked. Incidentally, "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" is brilliantly written and is the sort of joyful incidental music that Camel's "Snow Goose" should have been. I'll spend no more time on this one as it's such a popular and oft-reviewed release.
Review by russellk
5 stars A misunderstood album, 'A Passion Play' is JETHRO TULL'S last great progressive work. Let's review the misunderstandings.

Can't understand what it's about? This album was based on a real art form. A passion play told the story of Christ's trial and death, and the form developed over the centuries to include everything from the fall of Lucifer, the creation of man and the second coming. A modern version is Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'. Even 'Jesus Christ Superstar' has elements of the passion play. This form allows the maverick JETHRO TULL to explore a passion play about the afterlife, beginning with the funeral (my friends as one all stand aligned) with cameos from God and His Son, Lucifer, Magus Perde and everyone else IAN ANDERSON could think of. Dante's 'Inferno' meets the Gospel of St. John.

Lack of melodies? The problem is not the lack of melodies, but too many, all falling over each other to be expressed. Listen to the introduction (Lifebeats/Prelude): I don't think they wrote anything as melodious as this. One of my criticisms of this album is that JETHRO TULL have collected too many ideas here, and don't give them room to breathe. Sixteen tracks (as IAN ANDERSON identified in 1973) is too many for 48 minutes. The album is either too short or too dense. Probably both.

The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles a pointless diversion? Quite the opposite. Such an interlude is an essential component of a passion play. Treated humorously, it is the equivalent of a Monty Python episode, and introduces levity into what is, by and large, a serious album. Treat it as an intermission. Take it out if you've had your humour gland removed. After all, this album is five minutes longer than 'Thick as a Brick'; it isn't as though you've been short-changed.

Speaking of 'Thick as a Brick', doesn't it suffer in comparison to that masterpiece? Well, yes, so does almost everything. That's not a reason to dislike this. In fact, in some areas this album is superior: this is arguably IAN ANDERSON'S premier vocal performance: the operatic nature of the mesic suited his voice perfectly. And the extra instruments certainly creates a more varied sound than TAAB.

The citics hated it. Yes, they did. They were willing to forgive one excess (TAAB); to many, 'A Passion Play' was taking progressive music too far. But you'll find that the most trenchant critics of this album also harboured a grudge against progressive rock in general. Sadly, the critics knocked the stuffing out of IAN ANDERSON'S musical and lyrical ambition. This album was followed by 'War Child' (shudder), and TULL'S subsequent exploration of folk and heavy metal has always smacked to me of a retreat, the antithesis of progressive music.

So what's good about it? Great lyrics, an excellent concept, melodies all over the place, superb musicianship (go to 11 minutes in and listen to the jam, superior to the TAAB jam at 7 minutes on that album, in my opinion), and some great composition ('Best Friends', at 13 minutes on Side 1, is outstanding, as is 'Overseer Overture' on Side 2). It's a little disjointed; it did have a chequered history and could have done with a little more thought and development. But what is here is magnificent. 5 stars for brilliance, even if it is flawed.

Review by The Whistler
3 stars How do you live up to Aqualung, a nearly perfect album? You create Thick as a Brick, a perfect album. And, how do you live up to a perfect album? You don't...but you try. Unfortunately for Jethro Ian, his attempt wasn't all that good, and A Passion Play does not go on to become one of my favorite Tull albums.

It is not, however, my least favorite album either. Arguably the most misunderstood album in Tull history, Play is over-loved by fans and over-hated by critics. I like to think of myself right in the middle. When I say good but not essential, that's exactly what I mean.

What restrains the album is probably not what you think; at least, it wasn't what I thought at first. Initially I thought the album suffered from lack of time to prep and record, but Thick was also created very quickly. Alternatively, I thought it was a lack of humor; I had heard that Play was very dark. And it is dark...sort of. Actually, it's not dark at all. Lighter than Thick, lighter than Warchild even. I mean, the subject matter, life and death and all that, is pretty heavy, but it's just performed in such a toss off way. Besides, how can any album with the line "Flee the icy Lucifer, oh he's an awful fellow" be dark?

Nope, my problem with Play is two things: first, I find it to be fairly unmemorable and un-diverse. Secondly, it's a total sell out. Which is not to say it's not a progressive nightmare, it still is. In fact, it's Tull's most "progressive" work. But it's still a sell out.

We open with the amusing, and somewhat deceptive, overture. It's sorta folksy and bouncy, and reveals the introduction of our newest instrument, the saxophone! How is Ian's sax? Well it's...not bad. It's not fantastic either, instead of playing it like a real cool jazzy dude, Ian plays it like a merry medieval instrument.

This fades into some acoustic musings from Ian (by the way, if you have never researched Jethro Tull at all, the plot of Passion Play is a young man's travels through the afterlife. 'nuff said). It really doesn't stick with me because I can't remember any of it. Oh well. That turns into a bit of saxaphonery with some keyboards mixed in for good measure. Oh, by the way, do you like trading acoustics off with sax/keyboard noodling? You do?!? Oh good! Then this album is for you, because that's all that's on it!

Anyway, this goes on for a while. There are little snatches of possibility (a violent sax solo, some church organ), but nothing sticks around long enough to become anything. "Roll up, roll down?" What came first, the Play or Brain Salad Surgery? A word about the lyrics, they're great ("here's your ID, ideal for identifying," the infamous "ice cream lady"). They're not backed with particularly memorable melodies, which would be okay if I still had the lyrics sheet, but I lost my liner notes. Getting back to the review...

We continue with some more samey sounding stuff. Occasionally a guitar pops in here and there, and there's one decent flute solo, but all in all, doesn't click. A fairly popular bit of noise is called "Lover of the Black and White." It's repetitive and sounds suspiciously like the movement we just got out of, but you can at least headbang to it. It also contains some great spoken bits from John Evan and Jeffrey.

We gradually return to the overture theme. This eventually morphs into "The Hare Who Lost his Spectacles," a childish fable dropped on its head in the middle of Ian's most bombastic work ever (the point of course being that real medieval passion plays always had little fables in the middle like an intermission, yadda yadda yadda, history lesson). It's VERY underappreciated, in my opinion, and needs to be given its due. Perhaps you can't understand it without the video, but trust me, it's hilarious. Spoken word via Jeffrey backed by a real orchestra, instead of just John's keyboards (although John gives the quick spoken intro, great stuff). All the little blobs of music, the pauses and sound effects, the over-exaggerated sniffing, works perfectly with the narration.

Now, back to the album. "Black and White," overture, "Hare." We're lookin' good! We lose a little sight with "Foot of our Stairs," an inoffensive, but unimaginative, acoustic/keyboard/sax deal that's pulled beyond its means with jamming, and nothing that you haven't heard before. But then we meet Satan...

If there is anything on the album worth talking about, it's this. The "Overseer Over You." Everything works somehow. Ian's vocals are over the top, but hilarious. The keyboards are spacey, but cool. And Martin's guitar actually comes through for a change (he's playing out of a box; like on "Cross Eyed Mary!"). And Ian? Possibly the greatest noises he's made the sax ever produce. If Passion Play produced a classic number, it was the "Overseer Overture."

I love the organ transition here, and it becomes "Flee the Icy Lucifer." It's a decent enough rocker, but as I've said, nothing you haven't heard before if you've been paying attention to the album. Although I like the jig instrumental bit.

For some reason, we are next hit with some acoustic strumming that reminds me of Hawaiian music (hmm...maybe Play's more diverse than I give it credit for). This takes a very sharp transition, and turns into the energetic "Make the Ever Dying Sign" movement. It's not bad, but as I've said before, nothing you haven't picked up before. Just faster this time. Although I like the chorus bit.

There's some final acoustics to show we've come full circle, and one more shot at the overture and we fade. Now, remember how Thick ended? Yeah, it was awesome. Dude, that album ENDED. Play? Not so much. It just sort of falls apart in a lackluster kind of way. All I like is that brief shouting (what's he saying?). Maybe if Ian ended it better, I might be persuaded to raise rating, but...

So, as I've said, Passion Play is a collection of interesting musical ideas that are extended beyond their abilities, and any diversity is killed by overuse of Emersonian synths and weak sax. Not that I have anything against John's keys or Ian's sax, they're all well played, but remember Thick? EVERYONE in Thick had a shot to shine. There was a friggin' drum solo! Now, there ARE some decent guitar and flute parts, but they're buried (poor Martin) or few (where's Ian?). Barrie and Jeffrey are screwed though. So, lotsa synths, but the album can't work as atmosphere because it still tries to be engaging, nor can it work as listen-to music because it's not particularly memorable. Is it interesting? Sure. Amusing? Usually. But not particularly good.

Now, what do I mean by sell out (remember that?)? Up to this point, the Tullers were embracing early seventies alt-rock, but it was always on their own terms. Try to describe Aqualung using other bands: "if the Who had Eric Clapton and John Lord instead, hired an orchestra, and tried to play some hard gothic rockers with a little Bach thrown in for good measure." Okay, now Passion Play: "ELP covers the Yes Album." WHAT?!? Yep, even though Tull always had their own unique Tuller sound, with Passion Play, they play what sounds like everyone else around them (mostly due to the over reliance on John's spacey keyboards).

Alright, that's not fair to Tull (since the album does use the "Tull sound"), or to ELP (who I really do like) or to Yes (who I also...uh, I like the Yes Album at least). But still you see my point; Passion Play is a sell out in that it sounds like other popular albums at the time instead of that unique Jethro Ian noise.

Not that I'm saying it's a total waste of time. And I can understand why some people adore it. The first side has its moments, and the second side is almost cool. In fact, if you're more in for the prog haul than the Tull haul, then dude, this is YOUR album! Of course, I can also understand why some people can't stand it...

(Passion Play comes with but one extra feature: a video! And it's the greatest Tuller video this side of Slipstream. In fact, it's a better saving grace for the album than the "Overseer Overture." The video is, specifically, a theatrical version of the "Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" from the middle of the album. It is also one of the trippiest (not recommended for newcomers), most hilarious pieces of rock theatre ever recorded. Ever. If you're having trouble getting into "The Hare," you need to see this. Helped me. Jeffrey is the devil. Barrie is a cameraman who chases ballerinas. There's some guys in really bad bee and newt costumes. Best moment? Ian (SNIFF) hands Jeffrey a clipboard; Jeffrey reads it, then tosses it carelessly behind him. It's almost scary to think that someone gave them money to film this. It doesn't raise the overall rating a point, that would be too kind for a single video, but it easily raises it to a 3.5. In fact, maybe even the record alone gets a raise from the video, since it honestly helped me appreciate the album more. Seriously though, if you consider yourself a fan of Tull, prog rock, or just whatever, you need to see it at least once. Did I mention Jeffrey is the devil?)

Review by b_olariu
5 stars Another great by Jethro Tull. "A Passion Play" is really divided into 2 segments. The first is in the same vein musically and in structure of "Thick As A Brick", while the second part begins to take the shape more of a stage musical and storytelling. This one along with Songs from the wood are my fav. Despite the fact that some reviewers are not so pleased by this album, i find it very catchy, more on theatrical side, but very well done. Here JT try to explore new sounds and most of the time succeded. On the other hand, it is quite good instrumentally. Jethro Tull were always good musically, and here is clear they develop complicated music, folkish prog at the highest level. In the end i rate this one 5 stars, because i relly enjoy this album more than Benefit or Aqualong. Here Jt were in the front line of prog, no doubt. Sorry if i deseppoint some reviewers with this rate, but for sure i pleased others. A masterpiece of prog, and among the best Jethro Tull albums.

Review by fuxi
5 stars In a genre as full of bizarre concoctions as progressive rock, A PASSION PLAY must be one of the craziest gallimaufries around. Many proggers just can't stand it, and even Ian Anderson has written (in his liner notes to the 2003 remastered edition): 'The badge of honour worn today by the hard line Tull fan who knows everything, is to claim to have listened all the way through, twice'.

Well, I may be a JT fan, but there are at least seven of their albums I don't know (all of them post-1979), and still - I never had a problem with a PASSION PLAY. This must be because I grew up with it and digested it slowly, in the same way as TUBULAR BELLS or CLOSE TO THE EDGE.

Oh, I do understand that A PASSION PLAY suffers from some shallow patches. When Ian first starts singing, for example, it sounds kinda... boring, and he's definitely not helped by the sheer awfulness of the lyrics. Lines like "She lay her head upon my disbelief and bathed me with her ever-smile" just about make me want to puke. But let's not forget what a splendid instrumental introduction the album has! And with the "All along the icy wastes..." passage A PASSION PLAY takes off for real. From then onwards, the listener finds himself on a rollicking rollercoaster ride, full of exuberant folk-rock dances, brash guitar riffs, pretty pastoral intermezzos, manic flute and sax solos, and crazy keyboard interludes. The sheer variety of sounds and melodies is exhilerating, and when (on the original B-side) Ian reaches the passage "Colours I've none - dark or light, red, white or blue", the band rock as hard as Jethro Tull have ever done.

I see no need to use the word 'self-indulgence' in such a context. A PASSION PLAY is a glorious entertainment, one of the most accomplished Jethro Tull have offered us.

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A Passion Play is a divisive album. Even hardcore Prog fans find it dense and impenetrable, or else simply boring and pointless. On the other hand, it has its supporters. I am one of the latter.

In my view, A Passion Play is simply brilliant. Following on the heels of Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull attempt the impossible: to top a masterpiece of long, shamelessly excessive rock with another album even longer and more excessive. One is reminded of the day Yes went too far and made Tales For Topographic Oceans. However, in this case I believe Jethro Tull succeeded, if not in topping Thick as a Brick, then certainly in equaling it.

The subject matter and general vibe of A Passion Play is far darker and more serious than Thick as Brick, dealing with religion and death. The music takes a little while to get going, and it takes a few listens to get your head around the not instantly accessible melodies, but I've found that this depth is one of the most appealing things about the album. Every time I listen to A Passion Play, I get more out of it than the time before. For me this is truly the hallmark of a great record. Many albums that sound amazing the first time around start feeling empty and trite with repeated listens. Not so with A Passion Play.

All this seriousness and gloom is interrupted halfway through, with the delightful and humorous story of the hare who lost his spectacles. Many other reviewers find this interlude stupid and pointless, but I love it. It is filled with puns and clever wordplay and is reminiscent of the writings of A. A. Milne. Most importantly, it injects some much needed levity into the dark and brooding music that surrounds it.

The quality doesn't suffer on Side 2, probably because there are lots of musical ideas and the piece doesn't rely on repetition as much as its predecessor. A Passion Play is a masterpiece from start to finish and as good as anything else in the Tull catalog. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in long form and classical music, as well as Jethro Tull fans who haven't yet taken the time to hear it.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

It seems than every major prog band back then released an album ''good'' enough to be crushed to pieces by critics and some of their fans.ELP had BRAIN SALAD SURGERY or WORKS vol1, YES produced the always ''controversial'' TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS or PINK FLOYD with THE FINAL CUT!

PASSION PLAY fits this criteria for JETHRO TULL.After the release of THICK AS A BRICK which became a #1 hit in UK and in the USA, IAN ANDERSON decided to stick with the magic winning formula.Another concept one song-suite! Why not? Don't fix if it ain't broke, they say!!

When released in 1973, PASSION PLAY was badly criticized by almost all rock critics, real bad. All the words used to decry a prog album were used with profusion such as pretentious, over the top, self indulgent or pompous. What was great with TAAB suddenly has disappeared with the new album, replaced by worthless music. So what about PASSION PLAY 3 decades later??

This is not an album to hate or reject, neither it is an album i worship! this is a good album, not great, some kind of middle of the road JETHRO TULL music. There are some pleasant parts like the beginning of the 2 parts with nice ANDERSON vocals, some nice instrumental parts that are very energetic and enjoyable like on part 2, some other kind of dull noodling like at the end of part one. Some melodies are memorable, some other suffer from originality, or lack of!

Also, i am sure MARTIN BARRE is not listening too much this album as he is quite non-existent throughout the album! Ian ANDERSON is all over it. When he is not singing, he is fluting; when the flute stops, time for the saxophone!!and a lot of it, believe me! more than the guitar ,for sure. But i like to hear the guitar of LANCELOT on a JT recording.I have to wait the end of the album to finally notice him.

Next to IAN ANDERSON, the star is JOHN EVAN very, very present: a lot of good organ, piano and even some synths.This is definitely the most proggish album from JT with TAAB. Did i mention about THE HARE?? everybody has an opinion about this piece of ''music''. Again, i am in the middle for this ''masterpiece''; it's not bad, it's even entertaining, but it could have been well shortened!! There is nothing wrong being funny even for a serious prog musician.

Not a bad album, even pleasant to listen to on some occasions. I definitely prefer part 2 than part1, but JETHRO TULL did better than that before and....will do better.


Review by Tapfret
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Its not art if its not hated by some

Am I right? All of the great artists through history had works that were hated by contempararies and in many cases considered offensive. While usually not as extreme, similar views have been expressed regarding JT's 'A Passion Play'. What is puzzling is that 'Thick as a Brick' is used as a lithmus test for the album and is praised and stroked like the pretty golden child while 'A Passion Play' is the ugly step-child kept chained in the closet. My opinion is the opposite of most in that TAAB is an off target first attempt at a concept album and APP meets the mark in a more adventurous progressive manner. And certainly the most unfair comparisons to Yes' metaphysical monstrosity 'Tales from Topographic Oceans'. Neither of the 2 JT works even come close to floundering with the audacity of TFTO.

The album starts with a bouncy main theme with a circusy feel to it that morphs into a classic Ian Anderson accoustic guitar vocal movement. The main theme returns with a more sinister feel, alternating through the accoustic piece. The music flows into a jazzy feel with multiple winds, not the least of which is Anderson's ethereal flute. Throughout the albums first side the main theme is hinted with increasing sinister modulations. The 'skin the cat' portion, as I like to call it, is the heaviest and most sinister porion of the side. The side closes with the part of the album that makes the most people stomp around angrily, 'The Hare who Lost his Spactacles'. I love the intermission.

My feeling on 'The Hare who Lost his Spactacles': regurgitated from one of my forum posts: I love the story. I think its an outstanding metaphor for what was going on socially in the western world at the time. The anthropomorphic representations of establishment: Hare - The youthful idealist who has lost his spectacles and therefore his vision. Bee - The laborer: Is ready to help, but not the best thinker. Kangaroo - The leader, mother: Hare is far to big, and independant for mother's help. Owl - The wise, the forefather, the man: Has the wisdom of the ages, but conventional wisdom is old and tired...and falls asleep. I'm still a little puzzled on what newt represents. In the end the lost spectacles were his own affair (mind your own business!) and hare indeed has a spare pair, or his own vision for the future. Maybe it means nothing, but I doubt it. Its presented like a fairy tale. And nearly all fairy tales have a moral.

The second side starts with anoter classic Ian Anderson accoustic guitar and vocal part with very dark textures. Most of the second side holds a more consistent theme of its own with occasional recalls to the side one theme. What stands out on the second side is Andersons use of saxaphones which provide a very distinctive sound to the album.

I have read interviews with Anderson regarding this album. It is certainly not one of his favorites. There was even talk that the music from APP was to be part of 'War Child', including 'Bungle in the Jungle' (I'll consider that a bullet dodged). Thank you Mr. Anderson for letting this fine work stand on its own.

4.95 stars

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars Well, if you thought Jethro Tull took on religion with Aqualung, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

I think that's probably why this album doesn't get a lot of respect. And then there's that irritating Hare Who Lost His Spectacles bit. Actually, being a Monty Python fan, that doesn't bother me a bit.

Passion Play is musically very interesting and has some great lines: "All along the icy wastes there are faces smiling in the gloom." "(The examining body examined her body)" "All of this and some of that's the only way to skin the cat." The whole "hare who lost his spectacles" bit makes me think "hare who lost his testicles" for some reason whenever I hear it. "But after all he did have a spare pair." "Show me a good man. I'll show you the door." "Here's the everlasting rub, neither am I good or bad. I'd give up my halo for a horn and a horn for the hat I once had." "Everyone's saved, we're in the grave, see you there for afternoon tea." Eh, I could go on, but I don't want to border on lyrical plagiarism for this review.

The music here certainly has some of the important qualities that define classic prog. It's got dark moments, complexity, and moments of beauty, with a few silly things thrown in for good measure.

They really don't make it like this any more. May actually be the only time they've made it like this, period. Maybe a bad or a good thing. Not a bad thing for me.

Review by jammun
2 stars Well, it didn't take long for Tull to immediately lose whatever credibility they'd gained with Thick As A Brick. A Passion Play is plodding and grating, bloated and pretentious, and so wrapped up in its own complexity that it is aurally claustrophobic. Truly, the emperor has no clothes. At best, it comes across as a parody of TAAB, though not a very good one.

We can't fault the musicianship; the band is in fine form here and tries to bring infuse energy into to the lifeless compositions. But by nearly any other measure by which I rate an album, this is a failure. I bought A Passion Play back in 1973 upon its release; I didn't purchase another Jethro Tull album for 30 years. It's Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and I'm feeling in a generous and well-sated, so I'll give it a 2. Newcomers be forewarned: this is not the place to start your Tull collection.

Review by The Pessimist
1 stars This is a type of album that often apears in prog: a love it or hate it album. For me, sorry to all you fans out there, it's a hate album. I cannot stand it. It was a blatant attempt at recreating Thick As A Brick, and it was a pathetic attempt in my eyes: TAAB was a one off where JT were at their peak, that was to never happen again. Of course this album has its moments, but overall it is an abomination to my CD collection. Overcomplex, overpretentious, overexaggerated rubbish with a stupid concept and not direction, i detest it with a passion (pun not intended). The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles just sprinkles this sewer-water cappecino with powdered [&*!#]. There was never going to be another TAAB.
Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Into the ever Passion Play

Jethro Tull's A Passion Play has to be one of the most controversial albums ever to hit the market. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but simply in seeing that it comes right next in line after the Godly Thick As A Brick makes one know that expectations are going to be high, and any slight disappointment it going to be magnified infinite times by the fans, as unfortunate as that is.

It's not surprising to see the reaction that this album gets from many critics. This is indeed, Tull's most bizarre album. Anyone venturing into its territories is going to need a sense of humor and an ear for the extreme end of things. Lyrically it follows Thick As A Brick with its satirical views on everything in the world, but while Thick. expressed that through lofty and poetic stanzas, Passion Play tends to play more to the eyebrow raising one-liners. ''Here's your ID/ideal for identifying/one and all''. ''And your little sister's immaculate virginity wastes away on the boney shoulders of a young horse named George''!

Of course, the music can be expected to be just as strange, and it is. Where previous albums helped define the prog-folk subgenre, this one tends to use more lofty and strange synthesizers, at times relying on them entirely to complete a given section of music with one recurring obscure synth riff. This is not a bad thing however, since the flute is not hidden away entirely and still gets played here and there, not to mention that the pressing synths are actually a welcome change to the music.

This is all, of course, with the ability of full 20/20 hindsight. It's very clear to see where disappointment would have come from after a seemingly serious album such as the previous two. The middle segment of the track that kicks off Part 2 is the ever controversial The Tale Of The Hare Who Last His Spectacles. A strange bed-time tale from the band which has been dissected with semantics hundreds of times over but in the end is likely just a strange spoken-word middle section to break up the monotony for the band while playing a live show of the album. Enjoyable, if confusing the first time you hear it, this section of the song is best taken without a serious tone in mind.

Really, what we have here is an excellent album from an excellent band. Stating that the album is misunderstood would be a redundant and vague overstatement, but really, it can be. Not for the faint of heart, this one is still easily recommended to prog fans everywhere and people who fancy themselves Tull heads. Just consider yourself warned. now sit back and enjoy, because this album has a lot of spine tingling moments that can't be missed. 4 stars! Not quite a masterpiece, but close.

Review by TGM: Orb
5 stars Review 45, A Passion Play, Jethro Tull, 1973


After the phenomenal success of Thick As A Brick, Anderson and co. at length and after the abortive and somewhat vague events of the Chateau D'Isaster resurrected from the ashes a more cohesive and thoroughly composed one-song album. Whereas Thick As A Brick's approach (several songs welded together, and parts of pt. 1 cleverly reprised with variations in side 2) had a definite charm throughout, this is a much more acquired taste, and it takes time to fully appreciate exactly where the more unitary one-song album pays dividends. I did like this on the first listen, but it took a lot longer to remember the melodic hooks and clever twists in it. In short, the issue is very much one of cohesion and the opportunities for real twists rather than small additions. You can get the same bar of music leading up to a completely different entity, and that does grow on you. All of the flow is more deliberately handled than on Thick, certainly, but with Thick As A Brick, you come to love the problems as well as the greatness, and with the more clinical approach of A Passion Play, that is not the case.

Ian Anderson's vocals (most of those here, though John Evan and Jeffrey Hammond contribute a couple of spoken lines), lyrics, acoustics and flute are excellent as ever throughout the entire album, and the more prominent use of his sax (which isn't generally great, but does contribute to the more chaotic and dissonant sections of the album). We do get some well-applied touches of violin, most obviously on The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles. Anderson's vocals on this album may well be his best ever (though my money's on Baker Street Muse). The other standout player is John Evan, whose hearty application of piano and organ for blocky, delicate, effervescent, grandiose, forceful and hectic sections in equal measure is a welcome development from Thick As A Brick. There are also valuable glimpses of VCS-3 in both the more chaotic and careful sections.

Martin Barre generally seems rather more carefully applied on this one, so carries a lot more weight when he does burst out of the woodwork. He does handle some superb soloing and hard rock lines around the 'All of your best friend's telephones/Never cooled from the heat of your hand' section, as well as some wonderful sax-guitar-VCS-3 interplay on the second half. Barriemore Barlowe has, somewhat deliberately, not so obviously spotlighted the glockenspiel on this one, and gone more typically for occasional bangs on tympani, as well as some very interesting rhythms (I don't pretend to understand them, I just find them interesting) on the drums. He contributes well throughout.

I suppose the player I find least enjoyable on this one is Jeffrey Hammond(-Hammond), who is still an excellent bassist and completely adequate. My small issue is that I loved his connecting bass on Thick As A Brick, with its oozing, flowing feel, and I find the bass on this slightly less distinctive. Nonetheless, his bass throughout is very good, and has its moments.

Now, that's just an overview of the musicianship. The combination of these things, and the masses of high-quality interplay in an initially overwhelming array of styles (whether that's pure acoustic guitar and piano, harder rock, chaotic jams or even the parodic Hammond-narrated Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles) is half of what makes this album so exceptional. There are very few moments, if any, where I feel someone is taking away from the mix. The much-loathed Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles, in my opinion, is a fairly amusing touch, and doesn't clash too much with the rest of the album. I could see it being split over the two sides as an annoyance on vinyl, but I think it's transferred well to CD format.

The other half is the composition. Anderson's writing provides clever catches and multiple cases where you have the same lead-up to two completely different sections and end up virtually tripping over yourself in either admiration or surprise as you hear the twists. The overture is neatly done, and the choices of instruments throughout is grand. This is not at all trying to be Thick As A Brick, it's trying to be a one-song concept album, and, as a rule, it succeeds monumentally at that. I do get a little irritated by the 'Overseer' section, and I think an ending with slightly more aggression or force would have been more desirable, though probably not better-suited, but otherwise the whole piece is fantastic listening.

After sufficient acquisition time, this album definitely begins to grow on you, and there are some incredibly good moments, both lyrically and musically, but its increased panache doesn't always result in an increased charm. Essential listening, for curiosity and interest as well as quality. The flow is impeccable, and the benefits of the one-song album as a basic concept are on display throughout.

If we're arguing 'objectively' whether Thick As A Brick or A Passion Play takes the Tull crown, I'd go without hesitation for A Passion Play, but for personal connection, Thick is a much easier and better sell. For the hard-core proggers this is clearly of much greater interest, and noone should miss out on this album. More trivially, this is one of two albums to which I have been caught playing air acoustics very badly. I'm restraining myself from awarding five stars, but only because my personal preference finds itself elsewhere at the moment.

Rating: Five stars in contradiction to the above (edits are edits) - preferences changed a little. Favourite Track: Ian Anderson unwittingly mocks my review format.

Fived. I'm as likely to listen to this as anything by Tull these days.

Review by Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A Passion Play by Jethro Tull was the much anticipated follow up to highly acclaimed Thick as A Brick. While certainly exceeding the latter for more sophisticated and complex music it doesn't reach some of the more emotional highs or memorable passages of its predecessors. Certainly in the second part the band reaches the level of Thick as Brick but the moment is too short and may have served better as a series of shorter songs than this one long piece of music. For one I could do without the reprised chorus of along the Fulham road repeated so many times.

That being said there is a level of music here that goes beyond Tull's usual blues and folk base and even conjures up memories of Van Der Graff Generator and Gentle Giant. It is probably the most experimental Ian ever went and Anderson was severely beaten up for it in the press. That must have had some effect on him as you can tell by the next two albums which brought back shorter and simpler but still good formats.

Still there is a lot to like here. The band is in good form and the music for the most part is stellar. Surely more dark than and not as uplifting as TAAB and more mysterious than Aqualung it still has ways of grabbing you when you least expect it. It is sad that Ian has turned his back on doing a medley of some of this material in his live sets because I think it would have been good to hear.

Without The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles narrated by Jeffrey Hammond- Hammond and replaced by another song this would be easily a 5 star album but I seriously cannot rate this as high as the last three albums in their catolog. The last of the progressive rock era of Tull as we knew it still rates 4 stars

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars "Fell with mine angels from a far better place, offering services for the saving of face"

The continuous upward trend that Jethro Tull had found themselves in ever since their humble Blues Rock beginnings in 1968 could not go on forever. Like most others, I too think that Thick As A Brick was their peak. A Passion Play is inevitably a lot weaker, but still in my opinion a decent effort in its own right. If Thick As A Brick was Jethro Tull's Selling England By The Pound or Close To The Edge, then A Passion Play was their The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or Tales From Topographic Oceans. Like those efforts by Yes and Genesis respectively, A Passion Play too is much less good compared to its immediate predecessors and even slightly rambling in places, but ultimately a worthy album with several very good moments.

The only thing about this album that I really don't like at all is the ridiculous and embarrassing spoken word interlude The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles. It is obviously an attempt to be funny, but it really isn't funny at all! Just totally annoying and silly. I am certain that if this story had been left off the album completely and that the music too had been somewhat trimmed in places, A Passion Play could have been a better album. It would still not have matched Thick As A Brick, but it could surely have been better than it is.

While the quality of the material on this album is clearly lower than on Aqualung and Thick As A Brick, the band's sound continued to evolve. The composition is musically and lyrically very complex and the instrumental palette is broader than ever. There is more Jazz influences here and the saxophone makes its first appearance on a Tull album. There is a wide array of various keyboard instruments. Had this been the band's sole album, they would no doubt be listed under Eclectic Prog rather than under Prog Folk.

A good play, but there are many better Jethro Tull albums from both before and after this one

Review by LiquidEternity
2 stars This album will never, ever make it out of Thick as a Brick's shadow.

I have always gotten the impression that, under pressure from a whole lot of directions, Tull took some average-quality music, hastily mashed together into some really long tracks to mimic the format of their highly successful previous album, and then released it. I firmly believe that the music would be much better if the individual songs were divided up and wrapped up and presented like the individual songs they should be. Instead, we got an awkward medley of this and that, something like an album thrown in a garbage compactor and condensed together. And I think all of it suffers because of that. Clever ideas just get lost in the mayhem.

And don't get me wrong, there are some really neat bits in here. Some of Ian's flute strains can rank up there with his best moments ever. There are a couple of really neat melodies. It just leaves me kind of sad, I suppose, looking at what could have been developed into a wonderful follow-up album, rather than the chaos it results in. Also, I would have appreciated the ability to skip past The Hare and His Spectacles, which isn't terrible or anything, but there is no way it can be listened to with as much frequency as real music can be. Jethro Tull find their feet again after this record, at least after a few more years, and they return almost to a place almost as high as what this album by all rights should have been.

Serious Jethro Tull fans will probably enjoy this release well enough, but as far as an album goes, it's pretty weak. Do not expect a Thick as a Brick Mark II with A Passion Play.

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 1. The Passion Play (Part 1) Oh the year 73, all disks that out this year are fantastic! Well having spoken so.

Part 1, tension, the melody in the background, some noises, the stereo through the boxes, and increasing .... boom! Sound! The band starts the journey almost a theme tune with different hard and of course that the whole sound of Tull is there, but they opened the range of influences, for sure! The voice of Ian (which for me is one of the most vocal of all the prog [%*!#]) enter almost like a chapel, a song. Part folk takes on a tragic and emotional, the guitars that Ian Anderson plays are excellent, the melody is difficult to engulir of first. But hey! we are here for different sound, not for more of the same! Another high point is the low Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond unparalleled, and even more from the battery of Barriemore Barlow. Some saxophones throughout downtown give a taste of more, and of course we have John Evans playing the keyboards, yuuupi! (laughs) Speaking of guitars Martin Barre is also very wronged because it is little remembered when it comes to guitar players! Injustice! The guy is very good. Lines excellent! More part melodicamente complex and difficult to digest is as follows, but as soon as you can throughout the indigestion becomes a pleasure, who want to run the risk! Then the flutes catch fire, this is another brand of Tull, the always excellent flutes of Ian, he plays the way of crude, not so classic, almost always in the fast passages of music. More parts and vocal melodies difficult. Why then an even more rock 'n' Roll, assobiável completely. Overall this disc is very complex, I think that is why most of the staff remember The Thick The Brick, which is also very complex, but the melodies are much more accessible, the guys here have tried it. It is a continuation but is not. Many pianos and counterpoints, conventions, and the narratives of John Evans who come very well in music, some classical vocal means' tiração of fun '(sic), and more rock. I love the parties that everything and move to the melodies and then suddenly changes again, that they are kings. Until today I wonder how so many parts fit on the head of personnel of the band! The 'near-final' with piano and voice is creepy! Here is a melody of guitar and a 'hit', some keyboards and flutes and of course the bottom solando like crazy. But the keyboards are even taking account of the epic final track.

02. The Passion Play (Part 2) - The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles What opens the second part is The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles, a tale 'child' which tells the story of a hare which loses the glasses and is helped by animals of the forest, not yet well understood that the co-relation music in the second part, but is so good to hear Jeffrey telling the whole story with that accent and I dragged me uncomfortable. The instrumental part of this is undoubtedly one of the prog worked throughout the world (only compared to the geniuses of the Gentle Giant, complex enough to say). When the band around it seems that nothing happened, back across the sensational tone of Jethro Tull we love. In this second part some passages resemble somewhat the Thick The Brick The first part, which is very natural. Many synthesizers animals across the track, sounds and everything back 'to normal', these guys are good. Many letter that disc (as well as before) is very complicated prepare these 'texts' for music giants. It is not just writing out, have to make some sense. There is a part near the end with guitars and a keyboard that's too much, a very nice melody martial, must have been written at least some four guitars here. And then ... The guitar comes with everything a melody that is not strange, I think now of the repertoire of the guys, some keyboards of hell and a fantastic voice!

Review by Chicapah
4 stars For those of you who weren't alive and/or aware during the 60s and 70s and wonder why that period of musical history garners so much attention and admiration in the prog world, consider the fact that both "Thick as a Brick" and "Passion Play" were not just popular but rose to #1 on the charts in the U.S.A. Chew on that for a moment. The general public at large not only enjoyed but fully embraced progressive rock in that era. Nowadays if you confess to your friends and family that your preferred genre of music is prog they will most likely look at you as if you just rudely crapped yesterday's meatloaf on the living room floor. So, when you listen to this enigmatic work of art, keep in mind that, despite a complete lack of radio support (there was no single or excerpt to play), it was readily accepted by even the most average of Joe in those days. Hard to believe but the data confirms it.

Having said that, I must admit that I missed "Passion Play" completely. As revealed in my review of TAAB, I was so disgusted by what I perceived to be the blatant commercialism of "Aqualung" that I childishly turned my back on one of my favorite bands and boycotted every offering they released thereafter. Thus it wasn't until this millennium that I came to my senses (heavily influenced by the esteem that my proggy peers place on Jethro Tull's contributions to the cause) and delved back into what I cavalierly dismissed like some spiteful lover scorned. The downside of my infantile behavior is that I denied myself the pleasure of the group's creations for decades. The silver lining is that it's not too late and now I get to discover them anew.

It's apparent that "Thick as a Brick" is pretty much universally accepted by proggers young and old as a bonafide masterpiece, and rightfully so. It is amazingly cohesive and inspired. Yet many of the same folk that applaud that album disparage this one and I'm not sure why. While I will concede that "Passion Play" doesn't quite scale the dizzying heights that its predecessor does, it remains a challenging and very thought-provoking endeavor that should appeal directly to those who firmly profess to adore unorthodox, progressive rock. (By now you're mumbling "Enough already, old dude, get on with your insightful report. I humbly agree and will do so forthwith.)

The first section is a glimpse of our unnamed protagonist's earthly life distilled down to a 3:24 time span, represented by a festive marching parade atmosphere and book-ended by his first and last heartbeats. Now he awakens in the afterlife where, after the initial shock wears off, his first inquiry to no one in particular is "Do you still see me, even here?" The beautiful interplay between Ian Anderson on acoustic guitar and John Evan on piano as they underscore the complex melody line is terrific and they do a great job of allowing Ian's abstract lyrics to flow effortlessly. Our boy isn't sure what to think of this place. "Such a sense of glowing in the aftermath/ripe with rich attainments all imagined/the sore thumb screams aloud/echoing out of the Passion Play," he sings. Suddenly the band jumps in and delivers a high-spirited, jazzy interlude before they return to a calmer motif. A "sweetly-scented angel" leads our hero to the pearly gates where deft acoustic guitar playing serenades him. A very Tull-like rocker approach is used to personify the heavenly security guards that usher him into a viewing room where he's informed that during his mortal existence "cameras were all around" and "we've got you taped, you're in the play." The dense musical structure here is filled with intricate time signatures and difficult passages as well as raw saxophone and synthesizer lines whilst Anderson plays a stunning flute solo. At this point my mind reels at the group's audacity and courage.

The poor fellow's history is screened for him without discretion and there are so many entertainingly poetic lines thrown about during this extended, rocking sequence that I can only encourage you to follow along in your libretto as you listen. The dynamics are interwoven with astounding skill into the flow of the narrative that speaks of telephones that "never cooled from the heat of your hand," how he was the actor of the "low-high IQ" and how he was reminded of his little sister's virginity being snatched by a "young horse named George/who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision." While the film's end credits roll he is asked by the staff whether he thinks the documentary was for "our good cheer" or for "the gory satisfaction of telling you how absolutely awful you really are." (St. Peter and his posse are rather cheeky, are they not?) A short reverie from the acoustic guitar leads to a gorgeous, too-brief instrumental featuring an echoing synthesizer air as it resonates among the clouds.

Without explanation Jethro Tull next tosses in the controversial spoken-word diversion that is "The Story of the Hare who lost his Spectacles." While I understand how and why this disruption ruffles the fur of many, I've come to consider it a sly, wry satire on the sometimes confusing and irritating clerical employment of condescending parables as theological and ethical teaching tools. Its abrupt appearance smack dab in the middle of the album is strange, indeed, but the background orchestration is intriguing and I like the implied sarcasm in the grandiose presentation of a tale that, in the end, means absolutely nothing. (Evidently, though, the angelic professors are extremely proud of it.) A reprise of the lovely music ensues, then the group leads you into a mellow but still non- standard/involved segment where our disembodied man finds himself in the company of a bunch of groveling carpet crawlers, surrounded by old farts who "talk of when they were young/of ladies lost and erring sons" and where the Gods are "floating by/wishing us well/pie in the sky." Our restless soul is not impressed by this shallow heavenly abode so he puts in for a transfer to somewhere else.

Since Hell is the only other "somewhere else" there is, that's where he lands. A jazzy jam greets him, then Ian's vocal and acoustic guitar extend a gracious welcome as the Devil asks him to "give me your hate/and do as the loving heathen do." Another lengthy but satisfying rock & roll episode decorates his whirlwind tour of the underworld. It's not ominous music as you might expect, but stately and pompous in its intensity as Lucifer briefs him on the saga of his falling "with mine angels/from a far better place/offering services/for the saving of face." But apparently the stench of brimstone doesn't endear our hero to Hades, either. Since rejoining his breathing brethren on Terra Firma isn't an option (though he'd gladly "give up my halo and the horn for the hat I once had") he thanks-but-no-thanks the Crimson King for making him feel wanted while boarding the tram back to the penthouse pronto.

Pretty acoustic guitars from Anderson and fluid electric guitar lines from Martin Barre color his unconditional return to Heaven Station just before an edgy, forceful riff takes over for another rock excursion where the rhythm section of drummer Barriemore Barlow and bassist Jeffrey Hammond- Hammond are so tight that you hardly notice them. Our ethereal boy has resigned himself to willingly participate in the curious cosmic adventure as the seraphim "roll the stone away from the dark into ever-day." He still has no clue as to what is expected of him or what the future entails exactly but the dissonant sounds emanating from the fade out indicate that eternity is going to be a real mindf**ker.

Everything from the clever but macabre cover shot with its dead, bleeding ballerina to its daunting, abstruse musical themes and arrangements literally screams PROG and nothing else to my ears. So my thinking is that if "Passion Play" doesn't appeal to those brave 21st century aural adventurers who frequent websites like this one then it certainly won't hold an iota of charm for anyone else. I like it a lot. I deem it to be a slightly-flawed yet delightful, highly uncommercial romp in which Jethro Tull dared to continue to contradict the low-risk wisdom of cranking out more light, hummable ditties like "Cross-eyed Mary" and "Locomotive Breath" in lieu of running in the front ranks of the progressive rock movement. It's not "Thick as a Brick" but it comes damn close. 4.4 stars.

Review by The Quiet One
5 stars It's a Passion to Dislike this album at first listen

After one of the finest and most remembered Prog Rock records in the entire history of Prog, an album similar in concept, two 20+ minutes grandiose songs, followed, however the style was completely different leaving desperate lovers of Thick as a Brick cold and annoyed. I'll be sincere and say I disliked this at first completely, didn't know what it was about, just saw 2 songs, and thought ''Hey, another Thick as a Brick, this is gonna be great'', I was so dissapointed that I gave it to my father who was and still is a real lover of the album, he was very happy I had bought it, so we made a little exchange, I gave A Passion Play to him and he gave me Thick as a Brick, excellent deal, huh? Well I was going to regret that exchange for, like 2 weeks. He played it in the car every time I went with him, at first I felt the same as before, just noise, no sense, too much, PRETENTIOUS! But then after a few more, dedicated listens in the car, I started to think ''gees, what a great instrumental passage'' or ''awesome quirky synths'' or ''wow, that saxophone is superb! Thick as a Brick doesn't have one!'' and so on. Also hearing my dad narrate the parts of The Hare Who Lost It's Spectacles by memory was really shocking, and made me enjoy a bit the story, while I barely listen to it, if someone else puts it, I won't be annoyed, on the contrary I'll be quite delighted remembering my father's humorous way of narrating it. I finally realised it was just a matter of time and DEDICATED listens, that ''noise'' and ''nonesense'' I thought before had just tansformed to ''awesome!'' and kind of the like, like I mentioned before. I asked my dad if we could, well to be honest I didn't ask my dad, I just ''stoled'' it and I put Thick as a Brick again in his collection, obviously he didn't realise since he's a bit too old to remember things like this.

Anyway, anecdote apart, I can say that this album is a true challenge, just like Relayer or Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes are, or Brain Salad Surgery by ELP is. They're definitely the most adventurous album written by each band. These albums truly deserve more respect than they have.

To go a bit further of the style of this album, I'll say it has a much more eclectic style compared to the previous Prog Folk/Symphonic masterpiece. The acoustic guitar doesn't have a lead role anymore. John Evan plays less his superb hammond-organ replaced by the quirky synth which is definitely an acquired taste. There's less of Ian's splendid flute which is replaced by a extremely catchy and enjoyable saxophone played by Ian himself. Martin Barre is still is a backing member supporting some nice guitar ideas, while Jeffrey Hammond is still playing some fantastic bass lines alongside Barriemore's efficient drumming. There are parts which are so quirky or complex that remind me of Gentle Giant.

Overall, A Passion Play for me is tied up with Thick as a Brick in the #1 spot of Tull's best albums, despite both being extremely different. One being highly melodic and playful with a lot of focus on the flow of the composition, while the other one being by far more eclectic and yet the compositions are done brilliantly.

Certainly an album that all Prog fans and Tull fans should check once in their life-time, give it time and dedication if you really want to appreciate it. Of course, you may have done that and find no positive results, but it's worth the try. Gentle Giant fans may find this a very rewarding piece as well. A masterpiece.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars So what is going on here - Tull does cheesy children's pantomime theater?

I love Jethro Tull's music passionately and knew eventually I would get hold of this CD. I picked it up many times, looked at the cover, shook my head and placed it carefully back in the stack. Finally it happened. I had the CD in my hands and was on my way home eagerly awaiting the characteristic enigmatic sound of the Tull to bless my ears.

Wait a minute... what is this? No! This can't be Tull. I must have put on the wrong CD.

My ears were not blessed at all. It was one of the most unnerving experiences. Interesting music and some weird lyrics. I can cope with this until - - - - - - A voice began:

This is the story of the Hare That Lost its Spectacles. It is basically a mix of a strange commentary that is not all humourous and comes across as rather a silly commentary, blended with chaotic fairytale music that is irritating and extremely pretentious. A childish theater prank laced with humour that does not work on any level. Even my children thought it was stupid and questioned what it was all about. The insanity of it all is not even clever and is beyond music - in fact, it is difficult to listen to after one listen and it is one track or section that you will probably skip as it is rather dull once you have heard it once. The novelty wears very thin and only diehard Tull fans will bother, the rest will shake their head in dismay with 'what were they thinking?'

The CD comes with a little bonus filmclip of the HTLIS story with Anderson and co playing it up to the hilt. Bunnies, stillettos, ballerinas and greasy old men - this is Tull at their most freakish. Admittedly the clip is better than the album itself but its available as a bonus on the 21st Anniv DVD so nothing to write home about if you have the DVD.

The press absolutely creamed this release and it received bashings from tabloids worldwide. They didnt get it. and, no, sorry I dont get it either and I implore you not to get it. This release is sandwiched between the masterpiece Thick as a Brick and the great War Child. Anderson found out that releases such as the Passion Play are not worth the effort but it became important for that reason I guess. Here's a prime example of what NOT to do. If you have picked it up and wondered if it is worth a purchase - just place it gently into the CD rack and move on to such Tull brilliance as Thick as a Brick, Aqualung, Minstrel in the Gallery, Living In the Past, Benefit, Stand Up or J-Tull dot com - anything but this pretentious, indulgent nonsense.

**2 stars for the first section and bonus's.

Review by Sinusoid
2 stars Something about A PASSION PLAY annoys me now moreso than when I first listened to it. It's not that this thing is more experimental than other Jethro Tull works, employing many a saxophone line and toying with a few synths. I admire Ian and Co. for being bold enough to try to incorporate some new elements into their sound.

I'm afraid much of what they're doing is simply lost on me. It's hard to stomach A PASSION PLAY in one go when the only musical movements that really perked my interest (save one that I'll go over later) are the very beginning and very end of the entire album. The middle is plagued by too many ideas coming and going without making their mark on the listener. What made the length of THICK AS A BRICK work was the proper development of a few themes and exploiting them well. A PASSION PLAY seems to meander too much, suffering from various transition issues. Plus, many of the themes are simply unmemorable.

As perverse as this sounds, the only real reason I have for dragging this thing out every so often is that ''Hare That Lost His Spectacles'' section. I am dead serious, kids. Probably because it's the only thing on the album that doesn't take itself seriously without going overboard goofy. I imagine this paragraph is going to make progsters everywhere give me that dirty look that says, ''What is wrong with you?''

It certainly is controversial. It's an album that could get progsters excited on first listen only for the dragging nature to slowly bring the overall approval down.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another album length piece by the mad flutist Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. Although nowhere near as good as its predeccessor Thick as a Brick, A Passion Play is very very good. Very much darker in mood than Thick as a Brick and not containing as many folk elements it has even harder lyrics to understand than Thick as a Brick, "The ice cream lady wet her drawers to see you in the passion play,"? But look at the positives, to me it is more symphonic prog than other Tull albums making it stand out in a good way and the spoken word nursery rhymes are just plain clever, "This is the story of the hair who lost its spectacles." Not as good as others but definately still a solid release.
Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars So much for controversity... I really don´t understand what all the fuss was all about... Certainly A Passion Play is a pretentious album, specially lyrically, but so what? so many were at the time. If you stick to the music and you´rea prog fan you´ll probably like it. Ok, this CD is less accessible than their previous (and later) works. It demands atention to be appreciated. But the same can be appplied to so many great prog albums. Certainly I wouldn´t call it a masterpiece in the same league as JT´s previous release, the brilliant Thick As A Brick, but is still excellent.

I loved specially the instrumental passages: Jethro Tull never sounded so progressive! Those guys outdid themselves musically. John Evans keyboards soar and Ian Anderson never sang so beautifully. Only Martin Barre´s electric guitars parts are a bit subdue, yet when they appear they are very good.. There are some stylistic departitures here and there, when they do produce some more jazzy sounds (pehaps due to Anderson´s much use of the saxophones). This may have annoyed some radical fans.

The only real fault on this album is The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles. This silly story may be funny (an inside joke pehaps?) but has nothing to do with the album´s concept. Its placement in the end of the part one spoils the musical flow of the work. But I can live with that.

In the end I found this CD to be maybe JT´s most complex work to date. A real challeging album for a band that was at its peak. And a very good one, by the way. Four stars.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It would be impossible to describe the richness of this bizarre tapestry of an album. All the old familiar elements of Jethro Tull come crowding in a different...way. This is one of the hardest albums to follow. I literally fell asleep the first few times I heard it. I was prepared to give up on it. I was ready to say, "I don't get what others see in this." Then, with no small measure of courage and persistence, I held onto the few places in the music that held onto me, and my investment paid rich dividends. Each section contains amazingly memorable melodies that just beg to be heard again and again. Plus, for some weird reason, this album became my favorite to play while I was in the cups, and to this day, I like to play it around four in the afternoon after I've had a few. In fact, I play this album far more often than I do their previous record, but that could be due to the beer I consume and the fact that I purchased Thick as a Brick the exact same day I lost both of my cats. Oh well. Whether Jethro Tull was trying to bank off the ironic success of Thick as a Brick or not, I don't care. Nor do I care what the critics said about it. This is the ultimate comeback album for me as a listener, as a record I once regarded as the lamest of lames is now shoulder to shoulder with the grandest of grands. And if the ice cream lady wets her drawers to see me at all, well, who am I to complain?

"A Passion Play, Pt. 1" The opening instrumentation introduces the main vocal theme of the piece until the rest of the band enters in with their jaunty rhythm and main instrumental motif. Eventually a gentle acoustic guitar and whistle come in, bringing the listener to the vocals of maestro Ian Anderson. The acoustic guitar is brilliant with Anderson's vocals, and eventually gives away to some great organ and electric guitar music. The music is varied and yet united. Each section contains amazingly memorable melodies that just beg to be heard again and again.

"A Passion Play, Pt. 2" The children's story about the hare who lost his spectacles always made me cringe. The first time I heard it, I felt cheated. I wanted to haul the album back to the store from whence it came and get my money. Now that I am a father, and have come to enjoy this for everything it is, I find this narrative to be just a natural part of the album- I can no longer imagine it without it. The swirling segment, the one that came at the end of the first part, returns after the silly little tale, and is brilliant- one of the best things Jethro Tull ever did. And so much happens thereafter. My shoulders can't help but move in rhythm with the section just over fourteen minutes in. The following acoustic part is lovely and something one may wish to dance to, but, as with "Minstrel in the Gallery," the acoustic grandeur is broken up by a gritty wakeup call from the electric guitar. This lively segment is a punchy one that always dismissed my interest quickly, but my patience with going through with the album made this part just as enjoyable as the rest. Have I mentioned that each section contains amazingly memorable melodies that just beg to be heard again and again?

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've always got something of an undecided opinion about Jethro Tull's second progressive rock masterwork. While it has certainly grown on me and appeals a lot to me on a rational level, I never played it nearly as much as its obvious touchstone for comparisons: Thick As A Brick.

It sure is quite astonishing Jethro Tull managed to create a second 45 minute opus in 2 consecutive years. The inspiration must have run very high to say the least. Especially since this isn't just a TaaB rehash. No, I'd rather say it is adds a lot of stylistic differences. Especially the addition of saxophone and the more humorous and playful attitude give it a kind of circus music feel. It's less folksy and more cabaret like. Well as the album title indicates, this is a theatrical adventure and it works quite well as such.

My only issue with the album is that is sounds less vigorous then TaaB. That album just flashed with energy; here I sometimes miss that intensity and creative spark. It has moments where it sounds studied and slightly overworked when compared to the spontaneity of most of their earlier work. Not a love or hate album as far as I'm concerned. Just very good but not exceptional.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It is hard to imagine that the planet we currently live on once tightly embraced Jethro Tull's sixth studio LP, warmly receiving it and anticipating the rapture of rock musicians who had gone completely off the deep end, way past the line of reasonable behavior. But people loved it. At least for awhile. The overindulgence, ambition for ambition's sake, limitless opportunities, all part of what modern rock had become. A Passion Play reached #1 in the U.S. in 1973. Let me say that again: number one on the charts. The Billboard charts. In America.

It's almost beyond belief. Okay maybe the record was feeding on the fresh and beloved coattails of its famous predecessor. Maybe the time was perfect to sell a new Jethro Tull album, and perhaps people were just too stoned to notice anything wrong. But the funny thing is, Passion Play is extraordinary. The people who bought it were right. They realized what a wonderful offering it really was, and what a wonderful time it represented. You'll forgive me if I romanticize things a bit-- at the time this was simply Jethro Tull's new record. But in hindsight it is much more. It is, in a way, progressive rock's greatest love letter, and also it's saddest Dear John.

Ian Anderson has expressed his misgivings about the release - indeed approaching it as a spoof, a tongue-in-cheek response to the concept album - and his desire to oblige naysayers by stripping down the material on subsequent Tull issues, breaking apart his music into more digestible pieces as evidenced on the next, the great but conspicuously abbreviated Warchild. It all worked out for the best, I suppose, with a slew of topnotch things to follow including bonafide Prog classics as Minstrel in the Gallery, Songs From the Wood, and Heavy Horses. But it all just makes this one that much more special, and an important if ironic marker for the movement. If you liked Passion Play you were pretty much ready for anything. Cardiographic noises and a din of instruments overtures as the sprawl gradually unfolds, Anderson establishing the 'story' here of a man recently deceased. There are few landmarks to grasp hold of. As much an assortment of interconnected themes as one long two-part opus, the disparate parts ingeniously sewn together so that things shift too frequently to bore and if you don't like what you're hearing, wait 30 seconds. What we got with A Passion Play was the glory of the unintended; a joke turned darkly and brilliantly serious by the end; a band fooled by its own muses into doing God's work, giving the world a piece of music so great it was hard to see. John Evan's organ and synth grind the mulch, Barriemore Barlow's drums work warmly and unobtrusively with Jeffrey Hammond's bass (who also lends his voice to the histrionic and pouffy 'The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles'). Musical quotes from previous Thick as a Brick appear, Anderson's sax as delightful a lead instrument as his lithe baroque guitar, and tasty riffs from Marty Barre throughout.

Make no mistake, the record is full of terrific music as good as anything they'd ever done. But here you have to sit down and listen. You have to listen carefully, or it'll all be over before you realize what's happening. Too long and involved? No I don't think so. You can say that about Tales From Topographic Oceans if you want, but not this. A Passion Play was a creative triumph if a public relations nightmare, and we are truly lucky to have it.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This could have been a much better album if they just kept to playing music, and omitted the dreadful "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" section. Without this overly long, and embarrassingly silly interlude, the music is very good. And very progressive. I wouldn't say it would rate as highly as Thick As A Brick. But how many albums do? While there are sections that are every bit a good as some of the parts of TAAB, the flow between them just doesn't seem natural, as it does in the aforementioned album. And since that wascally wabbit is stuck right in the middle of the CD's single track, or the LP's 2 sides, it is very difficult to skip over it.

3.5 stars, rounded up. Coulda been a solid 4.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is another one of those classic albums that has split the fans in two groups. Just like Tales From Topographic Oceans, King Crimson's Islands and a few others, A Passion Play is a debatable classic to anyone who wasn't introduced to this material at the time of its release.

My theory is that the already existing fan base was eagerly awaiting another great Jethro Tull album after a streak that began with the release of Stand Up. Since there was no point of reference to compare A Passion Play to at the time of its release the fans played their vinyl records like crazy just to get the feel for the material. Guess what thought? Judging from the current status of this album, they did manage to get something interesting out of all their hard work. Unfortunately this only proves to me that any half-decent release can get into your head if you really want it to. My question is--do I really want it to?

After being convinced to give A Passion Play a chance, almost ten years ago, I played it a few times only to rarely pick it up since. Every time I actually give it a shot it only brings me closer to one and same conclusion regarding its quality. Namely, the band seemed to be content with the response that they received after Thick As A Brick and therefore began to work on an even more ambitious recording. The myopic hope of seeing the lightning strike twice made Jethro Tull do minimal enhancements to the winning formula. Those enhancements and the overall lack of any worth a while material made A Passion Play seem as only a weak half-sibling overshadowed by the greatness that was depicted on Thick As A Brick.

The biggest differences this time around were the lack of continuity, that made this recording a very bumpy ride, and the addition of a sketch titled The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles which seemed completely out of place with the rest of the album. The material and all of the revisited themes that bind the album together are just not that great. This just screams for a fans only labeling if there ever came such an occasion!

**** star songs: A Passion Play (Part 1) (21:36)

*** star songs: A Passion Play (Part 2) (23:32)

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I guess you could compare this to "Tales From Topographic Oceans" in the way that there's so much controversy about it. Both are very over the top, so there's this love / hate thing going on from TULL fans. Critics were very hard on this album, so hard that Anderson announced he would stop touring. He would tour again of course (about a year later) but it showed how much Ian disagreed with their assessment. He must have felt some sort of retribution by the fact it went number one in the USA. Like "Thick As A Brick" this is a concept album only this one deals with a man after he has died. We get two side long suites.

"A Passion Play (Part 1)" has sort of a strange intro until it kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes. It settles with whistling after 3 minutes, vocals follow. Acoustic guitar then piano join in. A change before 6 minutes as it builds. Great section ! Unfortunately we're back to the previous soundscape too soon. It picks up around 9 1/2 minutes then flute leads around 12 minutes as the bass throbs.Vocals are back. Another great section after 14 minutes until before 18 minutes. It ends in a laid back manner.

"A Passion Play (Part 2)" opens with spoken words as a story is told to light classical music for over 4 long minutes. A calm after 5 1/2 minutes with reserved vocals and acoustic guitar. Organ and drums join in. Excellent sound 7 1/2 minutes in with sax then electric guitar. It then sort of meanders along.The organ 14 minutes in is good then the song picks up with vocals. It settles 18 minutes in with strummed guitar. A fuller sound 19 1/2 minutes in which is much better. It ends with reserved vocals and piano.

Very much hit and miss with more misses.The laid back sections feel uninspired to me. Maybe if I was into concept albums my feelings would be different, but to rate this just on the music alone it's barely 3 stars.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A Passion Play is a great album, a good concept and entirely progressive. Bombastic in terms of the poetical meanderings and lyrics but hey this was 1973. Ian Anderson had license to thrill and be as creative as he wanted. Chrysalis did not mind either. It is made up of two parts and is largely keyboard driven, Guitars not as prominent. Whilst there was a certain amount of negative criticism from the press regarding A Passion Play, it's still defied the critics and did well, especially in USA.

Nothing earth shattering here but most Tull fans will give this a favourable nod. The late seventies was a true return to form for JT before the challenging 80's. A good album. Three stars.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Tull was all the rage at the high school I started attending in 1972. Stand Up. "Living in the Past." Benefit. And, then, of course, Thick as a Brick. I never felt the pull. But I did allow myself to try their next new release. That was A Passion Play.

I played it to death for a week, start to finish, Side One and Side Two. I don't remember any song titles--to me it was all one song. But I do remember that after a while I found one "song" that kept drawing me back--and I was able to find those wide grooves that allowed me to cue in for direct access. That was, as it turns out, "Magus Perde." I also like "Best Friends" and "The Foot of Our Stairs" as well as the two Forest Dances.

After a month or two I think A Passion Play went from my 'regular play' pile next to my turntable onto my shelf from where it has rarely been pulled again. Being no fan of lyrics (except those of Jon Anderson), a big chunk of the Tull magic was lost on me.

Then, again, four years later, as a freshman in college I became surrounded by Tull worshippers--especially as Ian and Company were coming to our college town for a show! Still I resisted.

To this day I remain pretty much unimpressed with the compositions or instrumental prowess of any of the J Tull members. Ian Anderson's flute playing left a lasting impression and is very much appreciated but compared to the work and stylistic approach of Thijs Van Leer, I always find/found myself choosing the Dutchman. A good ensemble group, the individuals never stood out to me like Akkerman, McLaughlin, DiMeola, or Albrighton (guitar), Van der Linden, Bonham, White, Walden, or Collins (drums), Clarke, Ruiter, Gomez, Squire or Lynott (bass). And I was never much of an organ fan at this time. However, as I revisit the Tull catalogue 40 years later I find that I am very impressed with their collective sound and discipline. This one's worth four stars.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This might be the proggiest album Tull ever made, but that in and of itself does not make it a great album. Any serious prog fan realizes that some of the best and worst music ever made is in the realm of prog. A Passion Play is Thick As A Brick's ugly little brother. All the pretty girls at school want to date Thick As A Brick, but since TAAB is taken, they will settle for APP. This album, like it's predecessor, went to #1 on the Billboard charts. It should come as no surprise that this was also the last #1 album Tull would have on the Billboard charts.

TAAB was a joke that became a masterpiece; APP was intended to be a masterpiece but ended up being a joke. On paper, I should love this. For the first time, Tull is using synthesizers. It's much darker than TAAB. In addition to flute, there is also saxophone. But ultimately, the results do not add up to a great or memorable album. One of the things that sticks out the most is that the guitar takes a backseat here. This works for other groups, but not Tull. Basically, Anderson & co. are just being experimental for the sake of being experimental. If TAAB hadn't been such a massive success, I highly doubt they would have made an album like this. All the people who made this a #1 album were expecting TAAB part 2; what they got instead was an album as directionless and self-indulgent as Tales Fom Topographic Oceans.

The first minute of this album is probably Tull at their most spacey and avant. The first half is not as interesting as the second half. I've always liked the line: "the only way to skin the cat". Generally, I like the synth work here. Sometimes the sax sounds like another synth. Little bit of marimba on this album too. "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" is not quite as bad as some make it out to be. It's still nothing essential to the album overall. The last 15 minutes is the best part of the whole album. Check out the Steve Howe-like guitar playing in the final 5 minutes. The last 20 seconds are some of the best moments on the album; I wish that part didn't fade out.

This is typically seen as one of those love-it-or-hate-it albums. I generally neither love nor hate those kind of albums. You could take the best 20 minutes here and make a really good epic out of it. When it comes to JT I only really like Aqualung, TAAB and MInstrel. Don't care for this album too much but it's still a lot better than the majority of their post-70s albums. 3 stars.

Review by lazland
3 stars Purely on a whim, I put this on today for the first time in an age, and, on even more of a whim, decided to write down a few thoughts. This is, more than any other, the one Tull album which divides fans of the band between exceptional and god-awful.

In truth, I think that it falls somewhere in between. It's an important part of the band's extensive canon, but, by Anderson's own admission, does not stand up as amongst the best. However, one thing that does rather amuse me is that whilst albums of the time such as Tales From Topographic Oceans are (still) regularly slated by the music press as heralding the fall from grace of prog as a commercial art form (too pretentious and all that), this album, released in the same year, never gets such a mention, something which I find somewhat strange, to say the least.

For this was Ian Anderson's "proper" concept album. By that, I mean that Thick As A Brick was deliberately conceived as a mickey take by its author, as a riposte to all those who saw the "deep meaning and concept" in Aqualung which was never there in the first place. This, however, was done in deadly earnest, and is Anderson'e extremely irreverent take on the afterlife.

Musically, it is very mixed, and, ironically, whereas Thick stood together extremely well as a concept both lyrically and musically as a whole, this one still feels as "bitty" as it did the first time I listened to it all those years ago. Of course, many of the musical themes are very similar to Thick, and I do especially love the sax to the fore, and wish it was an instrument that Anderson had allowed on more of his work. Further, this is the finest keyboard led album the band did, without a shadow of a doubt. John Evans shines here, and is very ably supported by Barriemore Barlow on drums and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond on bass. The only real disappointment is the near total absence of a meaningful contribution by Martin Barre on guitar - he makes himself heard about 19 minutes in to side two in marvellous form, almost as if someone had woken him up and asked him to do something. It is also, in my opinion, the best part of the album, the best saved until the end, so to speak.

As has been said by many reviewers before me, side one of the old LP is generally, the close apart, superior to side two, and it is on the latter side that matters fall apart for me. As with many of the albums released by classic prog bands of the time, in hindsight a bit less would have been far more. Having said that, with both sides, when it is good, it is very good.

Also, a brief word about The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles. This is, to blokes of a certain generation who worshipped and recited all things Python, brilliant nonsense. To most others, I suspect an awful amount of head scratching would be undertaken. You had to be there, I suppose.

1973 to 1976 was not my favourite Tull period. That would come later with the superlative Songs From The Wood, and this album is, for me, the start of a rather indifferent period, peppered by flashes of genius, and, of course, the work is not bad, given that Anderson and the band were simply incapable of releasing an album with that description.

However, a rating of three stars for this. Good, and certainly recommended for those who wish to complete or expand their Tull collection. It might be, though, perhaps best to start looking elsewhere first!

Review by Warthur
3 stars Jethro Tull were under enormous pressure when it came to cooking up the follow-up to Thick as a Brick, not least because early sessions aimed at producing a new album fell to pieces (but, thankfully, the highlights are available on the excellent Nightcap collection). In the end, they produced yet another album around the concept of one long song, and unfortunately this time around it feels rather forced - what was a good idea to do once as a joke seems to have been unsustainable as a model for continued releases.

In addition, this album has the infamous tale of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles, an incredibly irritating and - to me, at least - not very funny story which robs the album of all its momentum. Apparently it was usual in medieval passion plays to have a comical interlude between acts, so fair enough, Tull get points for accuracy. But they lose more points for cleaving to a vision of accuracy which ends up wrecking my enjoyment of the album.

It's by no means terrible, but there are severe structural and compositional issues with the album - there just don't seem to be as many ideas on display as on Thick as a Brick - and aside from the Hare it's a bit more po-faced than Tull's typical fare. For hardcore Tull fans only.

Review by HolyMoly
5 stars Most prefer Thick as a Brick, but this one feels much more cohesive and emotionally involving to me. As far as I know, it's the only album on which Ian Anderson plays soprano sax, and he does it all over this record. As with Thick as a Brick, this is one song spread over two sides, with the "main theme" serving as both an opening and a closing, bringing the concept full circle. The lyrical concept is even harder to understand than Thick's, but that makes it all the more appealing. The left-field inclusion of the children's story of "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" right in the middle of the piece is absolutely hilarious, and gives the whole piece a few extra points as a result. All the musical themes are compelling, the weird atmospheric parts more daring, and the emotional impact of the thematic development especially convincing. They caught a lot of flak for this album, and moved towards a more folk-rock oriented direction afterwards, making a few more good albums, but this one has a magic that I haven't heard from them before or since.
Review by GruvanDahlman
5 stars (The edition I'm reviewing is the one where track two starts off with the story about the hare who lost his spectacles. I've heard weird editions where this is not the case.)

Personally, I love all six of Tull's first albums. From "This was" through to "A passion play". These are truly magnificent albums but for me it has to be "A passion play" that really hits the spot. I know it's quite a debatable album. I heard the expression Marmite- album, meaning you either love it or hate it. I hate Marmite but love "A Passion play".

When I came across it back in the late 80's at a sale, I only knew the band by name. Thinking it was a hardrock band I bought itand to my amazement it was something completely different, yet not totally. Two long tracks, circa 20 minutes each, flowed through my ears, body and mind telling me I was in the presence of greatness.

Both tracks are flowing to the brim with imaginative music, ranging from folk to hardrock and encased in brilliant prog. The ability to make tracks of that length feel so natural and ever intriguing is hard, so this has to be the work of genius. Some might think that that story of the hare is boring, being recited in a typical, over the top, quirky british way but I have always found it to be an integral part of the whole experience. For me this is Tull more than ever. Amazing stuff thorugh out!

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ''Thick as a brick'' became an instant seller for Jethro Tull, even reaching the number 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart.It was a great chance for the band to attract the US audience and later in the year the compilation album ''Living in the past'' was released, containing remixed singles, B-sides and outtakes from the band's old repertoire.Jethro Tull moved to France to avoid the increased taxes in the islands and started working on their next album at the Chateau d'Herouville Studios near Paris.They were so dissapointed by the upcoming result, that they decided to relocate in UK and start the whole thing over, visiting the Morgan Studios in London in December 1972.The album was recorded in two different periods and in July 1973 Chrysalis released it under the title ''A passion play''.This work dealt with afterlife through a character named Ronnie Pilgrim and starts with the man attending his own funeral as a ghost-like shade.

Jethro Tull used the same receipt as on the very succesful ''Thick as a brick'', two sidelong pieces, completing one long suite, clocking at over 45 minutes.The first act is definitely one of the most stunning epics in the history of Progressive Rock.While the folky touches are still among the lines of the band, this piece shows Jethro Tull at their very best and most progressive form, reminiscent of the British Symphonic Rock bands of the 70's.Not loosing their strong identity even by an inch, they proposed a complex Progressive Rock with symphonic structures and countless tempo changes, propelled by Anderson's poetic and emphatic voice and his fantastic performance on sax and flute with a tireless John Evan alternating between jazzy piano moves and elaborate organ washes.Their sound was now reminiscent of YES and GENTLE GIANT, containing Classical interludes, symphonic instrumental parts and superb interplays between flute, guitar and keyboards.What more can I say, this is a flawless gem by any means.The second act deals with Ronnie Pilgrim's adventures, after visiting Heaven and Hell, and borrowed elements from Theater Music, Comedy and musicals.With narrations and story-telling lines among the usual instrumental density, this is a bit different from the opening piece, recalling more of a show than a piece recorded for a regular album, more particularly at the opening minutes.The rest is solid Progressive Rock with lots of flute, organ and sharp guitar, sounding a bit jazzier than the introductive act, but offering plenty of intricate moments, filled with interactions, solos and atmospheric themes.Moreover it appears to be more of a vocal-driven structure, but the musical background is always strong and professional, now Evan adds some great synths in the process and the result remains consistent and pompous.

A highlight in Jethro Tull's discography.People were not used to this side of Jethro Tull, but the result is an almost masterful album with superb arrangements, complex ideas and still some incredibly polished melodies and moods.Highly recommended.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 20

Jethro Tull is a progressive folk rock group formed in 1967, and their music is characterized by the lyrics, the vocals and the flute of Ian Anderson, which has leaded the band, since their foundation.

'A Passion Play' is one more studio concept album by Jethro Tull, after their previous concept studio album 'Thick As A Brick' released in 1972. It's their sixth studio album and was released in 1973. Once more, the album has only one long track, split across the both sides, on the vinyl LP version, interrupted on the end of the side one, by the reading of a strange but funny tale, 'The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles'. The story is about a man's spiritual journey in the afterlife and is narrated by their bass player, Jeffrey Hammond- Hammond. Unfortunately, the album had to be interrupted in the middle, as with 'Thick As A Brick'. It was a shame, but as all we know, in those times of the vinyl music, the records were unable to store more information than 30 to 35 minutes, on each side of the disc.

The line up on the album is Ian Anderson (lead vocals, flute, acoustic guitar and saxophones), Martin Barre (electric guitar), John Evan (backing vocals, piano, organ and synthesizers), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bass guitar) and Barriemore Barlow (drums and percussion).

'A Passion Play' like 'Thick As A Brick', is another very ambitious album. Lyrically, as it title suggests, it seems to be a truly passion played, depicting death, ascension to heaven and reincarnation. The lyrics are, as is to be expected of Anderson, impossible, excessive and theatrical, but, surprisingly, rarely come across as being too pretentious. Musically, we can listen on it soft acoustic guitars, playful pianos, jovial keyboards, frantic flutes and the usual passionate vocal work by Anderson. Here we have some of the Jethro Tull's greatest melodies ever made. Anderson and his band mates choose to make the tone a bit more gloomy and dark, while still maintaining their typical light heartedness, but behind this, the song writing remains largely unchanged.

'A Passion Play' received very hostile critics, attacking the album for its obscure lyrical references and excessive length. However, the album sold well enough to reach number one on the US charts, although, in UK, it reached only the number thirteen. After years of growing popularity for the band given by critics and fans, 'A Passion Play' eventually, marks a transition to Jethro Tull's musical career. It also divides opinions on Progarchives, as well as it also divided, at the time it was released, between the critics and the fans.

This is my second review of a Jethro Tull's album, after 'Thick As A Brick'. It was also my second contact with the band, in the 70's. My first contact was 'Thick As A Brick'. This is also the second time I review a controversial album on Progarchives. The first was 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' of Yes. And, once again, I'm with those who think 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' and 'A Passion Play' are two great musical works. The main critics of the album are that it has some obscure religious lyrics, is something dense and impenetrable, something boring and too lengthy to a Jethro Tull's album. Sincerely, I cannot disagree more. Although I agree that after Jethro Tull make an album like 'Thick As A Brick', their great masterpiece, it would be very hard their next studio album, might have the same quality level. However, I also agree with those who say, that 'A Passion Play' could have been a better album, if the band had only played music, like on 'Thick As A Brick', instead of introducing a story in the middle of it. It's true that it's a nice story, especially because it's narrated with a very funny English accent. Jeffrey's pompous accent is absolutely wonderful, emphasizing ever word on the story. However and in my humble opinion, it was not needed on the album.

Conclusion: 'A Passion Play' is a great album and one of the three or four best albums of the band. It's much darker than 'Thick As A Brick' is, and the sound of the saxophone played by Anderson is surprisingly enjoyable. As with their previous album, 'A Passion Play' is also, for me, one of the most progressive albums of them. However, I'm afraid that this album may be considered a shadow of 'Thick As A Brick', and for this reason be so misunderstood. I sincerely think that this is a great injustice to it. It doesn't deserve to be treated as a clone. With 'A Passion Play', Jethro Tull, very bravely, decided to devote their fans and critics with another concept album. While mainstream rock critics may have been scratching their heads over the group's motivation for recording a lyrically so oblique, but musically, they made a very dynamic album full of English humour that possibly only the band members could full appreciate. Being 'A Passion Play' a Jethro Tull album, certainly it deserves the properly attention of all fans of the progressive rock world. They should give to it, at least, one very good listening, because it's the minimum it deserves.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Ambitious Concept Albums 2: Electric Boogaloo"

After the smash mega-hit "Thick As A Brick", I suppose that, in an almost Hollywood-like fashion, Ian Anderson was just seeking to one up himself. And, in much the same way that many a blockbuster sequel bombs in comparison to the source material, "A Passion Play" has certainly not maintained nearly as much respect as its predecessor. However, unlike many a b-movie flopper, Jethro Tull's most notorious work isn't quite so crippled in awfulness, and does still have some redeeming features. As with "Thick As A Brick", though, it suffers from many of the same plights.

After "Thick As A Brick" firmly established Tull as a band capable of competing in the world of progressive rock, "A Passion Play" took this prowess a step further. The typical folk influences in Jethro Tull's music are toned down, and the album seems to be the nearest to symphonic prog as they ever got. The playing on here is even more complex and technical than on "Thick As A Brick", and the arrangements even more erratic. However, it seems that, being swept up in chart success, the band didn't think critically on how they could move forward and improve what they did the first time around. Indeed, the technicality is usual for nought. As I've always maintained, technique and virtuosity should only serve to augment already strong music; it should never serve as the be-all, end-all. And just like in "Thick As A Brick", if you look past the concept, the abrupt and erratic musical changes seem to be done more as a sleight of hand, to distract from the fact that the music has no emotional grounding.

Speaking of the concept, "A Passion Play" is a definite step down from "Thick As A Brick". While the latter was actually quite clever, I'm honestly not even sure what this one is supposed to be about. The lyrics are utter nonsense. Normally I don't have any problem with that. Take Yes for instance: Jon Anderson's lyrics may be cryptic and have no literal meaning, but it's very clear how his words and phrases augment the sentiments and mood of the song, and his angelic voice blends with and even carries the music. The same can be said for many other prog bands where the voice serves as just another instrument. This is problematic for Tull, though, because frankly, Ian Anderson just isn't a good singer. In addition to having no charisma in his voice, it sounds like he's straining (even suffering) to sing even the simplest of phrases. As a result, the vocal-driven sections of the album are plain unenjoyable, just as they were on "Thick As A Brick", and virtually all Tull material for that matter.

In all, it's easy to see why prog gets attacked as pretentious when albums like this are being put out. Unnecessarily over-the-top arrangements, with little more charm to go by than flipping through the dictionary to see the longest words they could find (e.g. surreptitiously) and assaulting the listener with unrelenting English-ness. If you're into prog just to appreciate technical performances, or to sit in the den, stroking your chin while admiring how smart you are, then this should be right up your alley. But if you actually enjoy mood, atmosphere, or genuine pathos, then look anywhere else but here. If you're a Jethro Tull fan and loved "Thick As a Brick", you might enjoy this one as the endearing sequel, but there are no guarantees. While the intricate performances on the album demand so much more, I find this one straddling the line between 2 and 3 stars for a rating. I'll be conservative and err towards the lower end of that. There are many Tull fans who consider this work near and dear to their hearts, but this certainly isn't something anyone should go out of their way to get into.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars Progressive rock as an art form had only gotten its true recognition as a bona fide rock genre in 1969 but in a mere four years the unstoppable forces that pushed artists to up the game at breakneck speed found the style reaching its logical end game as early as 1973, a year which saw 60s rock bands that were based in blues and heavy psych releasing some of the most demanding and complex expressions of music in the overarching rock paradigm. Pink Floyd evolved into a major concept album powerhouse with "The Dark Side Of The Moon," Genesis had completely morphed into a fairly bland 60s pop band into the prog majesty exhibited on "Selling England By The Pound" and Yes had all but shed its heavy psych art rock clothing and created on of the most complex and sprawling albums in all of prog history with "Tales From Topographic Oceans."

While some of these have gone down in history as the ultimate classics, others simply took things way too far for the non-musicians in the audience to keep up with. Amongst the early popular prog players, JETHRO TULL hit the scene with extremely popular albums such as "Stand Up," "Benefit," "Aqualung" and the Billboard chart topper "Thick As A Brick" making JT one of the most popular bands much less prog bands in the entire rock history book. However, despite the band's popularity, even these guys took things further than their audience was comfortable with when they followed up "Thick As A Brick" with an even more ambitious and unrelenting prog behemoth in the form of A PASSION PLAY which emerged in July 1973 to mostly negative reviews and despite the album having been redeemed in the ensuing decades, still remains the great divide in the fanbase showcasing how a great number of prog fans are only willing to take things so far before it strays outside the comfort zone.

At this point in prog history, it was all about taking things to the next level exponentially as bands strived to outdo the competition which took prog to its logical conclusion peaking in 73 when several albums like A PASSION PLAY unapologetically took things as far as humanly possible. And in the process this all conspired to create a backlash that would ultimately result in the easier to digest punk and new wave scenes to come to fruition a few years down the road. A PASSION PLAY was a major departure from JETHRO TULL's signature progressive folk rock sounds that preceded. While the traditional flute driven jigs and earnest vocal expressions of lead singer Ian Anderson's lyrical content were still present, A PASSION PLAY delved much deeper into the world of hardcore progressive rock with a sprawling album that contained a series of shorter tracks fused into one epic behemoth. Coming across as some sort of Shakespearean play in musical form, A PASSION PLAY despite its pompous presentation was initially designed to be a sprawling triple album but was scrapped and truncated into a single album's playing time.

A PASSION PLAY pulls no punches as it takes all the prog attributes of the day and puts them on steroids. A veritable sampling of the sounds and styles that could be experienced on all past and present JT albums, this sixth installment in the JT universe tackled an overarching concept about the spiritual journey of a man named Ronnie Pilgrim who embarks on a totally new adventure after his death where in the afterlife attends his own funeral and traverses a series of destinations before contacting his angel guide in Act 1 and going through the process of being judged by a jury in order to determine exactly where Ronnie will ultimately end up. After a strange process of musical meanderings that correspond to the jury's ultimate conclusions, the lengthy prog workouts that often take the band completely out of the JT playbook results in a verdict that Ronnie Pilgrim was a decent bloke and is indeed allowed into the pearly gates of heaven above.

With the jubilant celebratory news at hand, "Act II" erupts into a silly rejoicing and festive mood which begins with the most recognizable aspect of the album, the make or break (for your sensibilities) part called "Interlude - The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles," a rather quirky and comedic interlude narrated by Jeffrey Hammond in an exaggerated Lancashire accent which is presented as an absurd fable that was inspired musical by Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf." Once the silliness is presented, "Act II" delves into a never-ending display of progressive rock workouts punctuated by interludes of the more familiar Anderson sung prog folk styles of previous album only augmented with a tremendous focus heavy keyboard use. The album also demanded that the five musicians Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evan, Jeffrey Hammond and Barriemore Barlow essentially became multi-instrumentalists as the added saxophone, synthesizers and various percussive instruments put them in the same camp as the more eclectic bands like Gentle Giant and Gnidrolog.

One of the biggest mistakes one can make is to compare this prog behemoth with "Thick As A Brick" which is derived from a completely different space. That album was essentially carved out of a few intricately designed melodies and then teased out into an infinite number of variations but still maintained a vital thread of continuity that made the album flow so beautifully from start to finish. A PASSION PLAY is a completely different beast and designed to exhibit more of the "Frankenstein effect," that meaning that the album is a concatenation of various disparate shorter songs and melodies that alternate with some recurring and some existing for a brief moment before fizzling out. While "Thick As A Brick" was more about a single idea exhibiting various moods that determined the changes, A PASSION PLAY was designed to be a huge magnanimous expression of the concept which narrates an unorthodox tale of the afterlife which by nature exists in an astral plane disconnected from the physical and therefore alienating, which by the way was the whole point of the experience, namely to take the listener to a musical place and time that had never been heard before.

Despite the negative reviews upon release, A PASSION PLAY still hit the #1 spot on the Billboard charts and has been a fan favorite for many including myself. This album is utterly unique in all of JT's vast and interesting canon as it is by far the pinnacle of the band's expression of progressive rock run amok, a feat they would quickly backtrack upon starting with the rather unremarkable followup "War Child" which took the back to basics approach. The album also marked the peak of JETHRO TULL's stage productions which found elaborate stage sets matching the ambitiousness of the music and lyrical content. Unfortunately A PASSION PLAY was too much prog for the comfort zone of the majority of proggers during the day and has gone relatively underappreicated ever since due to the extra attention this album needs to be understood. This is unlike anything else JT has released and unlike the other albums that are instantly accessible and easily understood, this one is rather dark and elusive in the beginning and is one of those hard to crack nuts that needs quite a few spins to fully comprehend. This was hardly my favorite for the longest time either but ultimately it clicked and now ranks high in my world of crazy complex prog. This one is a true 10 on my prog-o-meter scale and not recommended as the place to start for JT abecedarians. For me, a true masterpiece.

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
5 stars In the late 1960s, Jethro Tull released their first album, 'This Was'. A folk rock album, not in the vain of Progressive Rock, however some of it's songs have a sort of experimental edge that differentiated them from the folk rock bands at the time. 3 years later, Jethro Tull released 'Aqualung'. A star stunning progressive rock record that both shaped the two worlds of folk and Prog. It was a shining hit with critics and both old and new fans of Jethro Tull. But with being called a Prog rock album, Jethro Tull thought that 'Aqualung' wasn't so much Prog, and more traditional folk rock they have done for so long. With this, they began too work on their next LP, a spoof album on the Progressive rock, poking light fun at the genre. With this they gave us 'Thick As A Brick' a giant suite of a song, split into two parts due to how records work. Like Aqualung, it shaped Prog and folk, and was a massive hit with critics and fans a like. Now full on Prog, the band got together to make their 6th next greatest band, and the 3rd and last album in what I like to call their 'Magnum Opus Trilogy'. A Passion Play, released in 1973.

Similar to Thick as a Brick, it is a 40 minute long song, split into two parts. One of the most noticeable things about this album is the more jazz like sounds on the album. This album strayed a bit away from the folk sounds of the past two records. Despite this change, the album still sounds as true as Jethro Tull could get to themselves. The first part of this suite feels like the fanfare before the play. A welcome speech if you will. This part contains glorious acoustics much like Thick as a Brick plus some cool new jazz instruments like trumpets and saxes. Ian's voice is still as good as ever, though I fear it may be a tad samey too the last albums, but if it ain't broke why fix it you know? The first glorious part ends which leads too part 2, which has the rather interesting story of how the rabbit lost his spectacles. While it begins as a normal kids story, it leads into a weird story about reality. The story reminds me of the rabbit and the tortoise in a way that it tells a narrative with a world wide lesson using animals. After this part, we got more of the same good Jethro Tull music. On the last few minutes, the albums comes back around in such a good way.

Overall this album is the perfect close off to this time of Jethro Tull. An amazing suite by the band with beautiful vocals, drumming, guitars, everything. It's as perfect as their previous albums and is a beautiful work of art. A shame that this is under the shadow of Aqualung and Thick as a Brick. I say this album needs far more recognition than ever, and I think it deserves as much love as those two albums as well, because this was a turning point. Whether this turning point was good or not is not for me too decide, but it definitely turned the band around and created a new world for Jethro Tull, and I think that is beautiful, a beautiful and passionate play.

Review by Hector Enrique
4 stars The road ahead for Jethro Tull, after the consecutive releases of their major works "Aqualung" and, above all, "Thick as a Brick", was more than challenging. In this scenario, the release of "A Passion Play", the band's sixth album, generated controversy due to the theatrical approach of the proposal and the subject matter, dealing with sensitive themes such as life after death, and the eternal dichotomy between good and evil. And the sensation that haunts the album is that it tries to go further in the level of complexity with respect to "Thick as a Brick", resulting in a conceptual work of similar structure, but more intricate and at times of choppy fluidity.

The reflections of the troubled Ronnie Pilgrim, the main character, now out of the animated world and in a flashback of his life confronted with himself and his post-mortem destiny between heaven and hell going through the ordeal of purgatory, serve as an excuse to appreciate how consolidated the band was at that point in their career, separating the story of "A Passion Play" into two parts.

Part 1 describes Pilgrim's funeral and the review of his earthly years, highlighting Anderson's acoustic guitars accompanied by John Evan's classical piano and synthesizers in passages like "The Silver Cord" (including Anderson's sax) or in the brief "Re-Assuring Tune"; and standing out in between the demanding bent flutes of "Memory Bank", the intensity of the changing "Best Friend" and "Critique Oblique", and the closing with the crystalline magic of "Forest Dance #1".

And the amusing fable of the hare who lost his glasses narrated by Jeffrey Hammond's vocals and orchestrated by David Palmer, bridges Part 2 to pick up Pilgrim's story where it left off at the end of Part 1. Tempted into his final judgement by the demon Magus Perdé, Pilgrim begs and is given a new lease of life, with the powerful instrumental backing of the very progressive "The Foot of Our Stairs" featuring Evan in the lead, the melancholic beauty of the brief "10:08 to Paddington" and the distorted guitar riffs of "Magus Perdé", in one of Martin Barre's sporadic appearances on the album, before the work concludes with the circular "Epilogue".

Although its pieces have hardly been part of the band's live repertoire, "A Passion Play" is an excellent album and a must-have reference in Jethro Tull's discography.

4/4,5 stars

Latest members reviews

5 stars After their d'Isaster-ous attempt to record an album in France, Jethro Tull returned to the UK for their next release. What resulted was another massive, 40+ minute epic: 1973's A Passion Play. Anderson insists this was yet another jab at progressive rock, but when does supposed mockery loop around ... (read more)

Report this review (#2903220) | Posted by TheEliteExtremophile | Friday, March 31, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This stunning follow-up to their groundbreaking Thick as a Brick remains a divisive album among fans, many hailing it as a masterpiece while others dismiss it as as a cumbersome and pretentious misstep. Once again, it contains a single album-length song split between the two sides of the album (alth ... (read more)

Report this review (#2873002) | Posted by BBKron | Wednesday, January 4, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For a long time I was in a camp of JT fans which doesn't appreciate The Passion Play that much. I just considered it ok, but below the usual Jethro level. Liking only bits but couldn't grasp it as a whole. Now I write to you as a complete convert. Now I get it. This album is amazing! Yes, it's a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2536155) | Posted by Artik | Saturday, April 17, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Review #63 "A passion play" continued with the formula of "Thick as a brick": a whole song that covers the entire album. With "Thick as a brick" JETHRO TULL demonstrated their geniality: they created what is probably the most amazing Progressive Rock album ever recorded, so it is easy to thin ... (read more)

Report this review (#2484438) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Saturday, December 12, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Six of one. A half dozen of the other. The trouble I find with APP is not that it is a bad album but simply that's it's only half a good album. After the stunning success of Thick As A Brick, Anderson and co. decided to push the long suite album epic even further. But the first side of APP is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2269243) | Posted by SteveG | Sunday, October 13, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Inventive and Original. But takes Effort. Carrying on with the same 'formula' as Thick as a Brick (ironic and intellectual humourous lyrics, over a longer single-piece prog-rock epic), 'A Passion Play' takes a few more liberties with the music, and adds in a few detours (like the story of the har ... (read more)

Report this review (#1695722) | Posted by Walkscore | Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A controversial work in the TULL gallery?

Probably, but it shouldn't be. The controversy turns almost exclusively on how many times the album has been listened to before the audient decides, "WOW, Great!" or "Ugh, total rubbish...." Those who purchase it on the heels of falling in love w ... (read more)

Report this review (#1687150) | Posted by CapnBearbossa | Monday, January 30, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I was surprised to find "A Passion Play" currently rating lower than "Thick As A Brick" and "Aqualung". I was in the (fortuitous?) situation of hearing PP first among JETHRO TULL's albums, in the year of its release. So I have tended to measure their other albums - and in fact all prog rock album ... (read more)

Report this review (#1685561) | Posted by Sgai Friend | Thursday, January 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars So here it is. The Jethro Tull album everybody loves to hate. It's a shame this album followed the ground-breaking Thick As A Brick. I think everyone knew at the time that TAAB was a great record, but I don't think they realized what a masterpiece it was. It takes time for that sort of thing to ... (read more)

Report this review (#1296386) | Posted by branchranch | Friday, October 24, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I have no idea why this album has generated so much controversy. It may seem to have been a formulaic follow-up to TAAB, but only for the fact that it was another concept album. Ian Anderson did an amazing job composing a second concept album that was not simply a clone of their 1972 masterpie ... (read more)

Report this review (#1084126) | Posted by Mr. Soot Gremlin | Sunday, December 1, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A decent album, but it unfortunately had to follow right after the legendary Thick as a Brick. This album still has many great moments, and also some hints of heavy metal leanings that would take more fruition as we get into albums like Minstrel in the Gallery (though the band still remains more of ... (read more)

Report this review (#993923) | Posted by JCDenton | Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What do you prefer: a joke playing with serious elements or a serious theme including some dark jokes? Because these guys were good enough for both. After the satiric "concept album" (according to Ian Anderson) Thick As A Brick, Tull came with the real concept album: A Passion Play. Talking ... (read more)

Report this review (#990527) | Posted by VOTOMS | Monday, July 1, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Another giant of an album released by Jethro Tull following the great "Thick as a Brick" album with another one track wonder concept album. This is the first work of Tull to incorporate a synthesiser into the music. Some solid sax work as well on this effort. It is not as playful as "Thick as ... (read more)

Report this review (#942518) | Posted by sukmytoe | Thursday, April 11, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A Passion Play was a very difficult album for me to listen. It all started when I discovered Jethro Tull, on a DVD (file) recorded by a friend, which contained This Was, Stand Up, Aqualung, Thick as a Brick and Songs From the Wood. When I heard these albums I was absolutely amazed with the band. I d ... (read more)

Report this review (#897361) | Posted by GKR | Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars so, this is somewhat embarrassing, but I'm just now getting around to listening to Jethro Tull's much-maligned (and much-loved) "A Passion Play". I've been a Tull fan since the 70s but somehow never bought or heard this album. well, after a day and morning of listening, here are my impressi ... (read more)

Report this review (#780727) | Posted by peskypesky | Sunday, July 1, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It's easy to see why this album presents so many difficulties to so many listeners, particularly among Tull's faithful. But, as I do not consider myself a real Tull fan--this and TAAB are the only JT albums I own--I am in no way troubled by APP's lack of folksy melody and abundance of jagged arr ... (read more)

Report this review (#644863) | Posted by DaveRoxit | Saturday, March 3, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I would like firstly, to clear up hopefully a few things about "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles". Unlike many reviewers who believe it does not have a place on this album and is an attempt at monty pythonish humour, I believe have missed a crucial clue to it's possible meaning. The Hare in an ... (read more)

Report this review (#620659) | Posted by Marc Hopstad | Thursday, January 26, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've heard this through four times, so I'm going to work on letting it grow on me. Like Thick as a Brick for me, it has those sections (or section, you may know which one I mean) which seem awkward and out of place - and I'm trying really hard to get to the stage where I can appriechiate it fo ... (read more)

Report this review (#539937) | Posted by Renkls | Sunday, October 2, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This was the piece by Jethro Tull I tried to avoid for a long time. Having heard this was the album that made one of my favourite rock groups venture into years and years of musical inconsistence scared me away for a good number of years. Finally, last year I accidentally came across a bootleg ... (read more)

Report this review (#455646) | Posted by Ludjak | Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A Passion Play ? 1973 (3.4/5) 11 ? Best Song: You tell me. Ugh, not the middle section, though. Fuck spectacles And, of course if you're going to write a masterpiece or two, you might as well destroy your legacy by going totally overboard immediately after; go hog wild, man! Oh, how some folks ... (read more)

Report this review (#441643) | Posted by Alitare | Monday, May 2, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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