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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.36 | 2707 ratings

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4 stars This iconic album of the early prog era reached a larger crossover audience than any other by JETHRO TULL thanks largely to the title track and "Locomotive Breath". which are also arguably the strongest. Among progressive fans, myself included, "Cross Eyed Mary" easily draws in with the others. From there, one's overall assessment of the album depends on one's opinion of the remaining long tracks and on how well the shorter pieces glue together the overall structure. Until recently, I would have fallen into the category of those who find few other highlights, but, having listened more to Aqualung the last month than in the previous 4 decades combined, my current assessment is that this is an excellent hard rock album marred by a few average pieces and acoustic bridges that detract more than they enhance.

The title cut and "Cross Eyed Mary" are both beyond flawless, featuring exemplary riffs that perfected those of unlikely peers like LED ZEPPELIN and even BLACK SABBATH, proving that prog could rock as hard as any genre, and could not only deliver socially relevant messages but tell stories at the same time. Curiously, TULL never really pursued this approach as wholeheartedly again. The title cut is similar in structure to the MOODY BLUES' "Question" which opened their 1970 album, but both its harder and softer passages are snappier. It seems to deliberately lay off the flute, which is then fully exploited in the brilliant opening to the equally alluring "Cross Eyed Mary", before it resumes the lyrical and musical themes of its predecessor.

From, here, the album is more hit and miss. The gentle and whimsical "Mother Goose", the sing along folk rock of "Up to Me", and the aforementioned infectious rocker "Locomotive Breath" are the major triumphs. "Oh God" and "Hymn 43" work together as did the two kickoff tracks on side one, but don't stand out very well on their own. In particular, while "Oh God" eventually includes a stellar riff and technically best flute and acoustic guitar, and is more experimental, it's also rather disjointed. "Wind Up" is a disappointing closer that continues the biting lyricism but is not musically worthy of a masterpiece, let alone its finale. It does marry the acoustic and electric again in one track.

To a first time listener following JETHRO TULL chronologically, it would be hard to predict where they would go from here, given the landmark shifts with every release. The classic rock mainstream has dubbed "Aqualung" the band's high water mark, and I think at least his once, those poor old sods got it right.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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