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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover

AQUALUNG

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.34 | 2313 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ProgMirage1974
4 stars REVIEW #2 - "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull (1971)

Having been a vehemently blues rock band, Jethro Tull sought a new direction after recording of their 1970 album "Benefit", as bassist Glenn Cornick left the band - replaced by Jeffrey Hammond (subject of a few Tull songs) and John Evan joined the band on keyboards. Their next album would take them out of their comfort zone; ditching the upbeat and careless tones of folk in favor of the serious themes of prog. Band leader Ian Anderson spearheaded this lyrical approach, providing lyrical insights on issues from homelessness to the Church of England. The result is a transitional album that features infectious riffs and thought-provoking lyrics.

SIDE ONE: "Aqualung"

The album's title-track opener (5/5) is arguably the most famous song of Jethro Tull in general, and still receives radio airplay to this day on classic rock stations. Inspired by a photograph Anderson's wife took of a homeless man, it deals with a lonely old vagabond and his pedophilic tendencies. A strong track with a powerful message, it also features great guitar work by Martin Barre - especially the guitar solo, which is one of the best in prog. Following this impressive track is another piece of hard rock "Cross-Eyed Mary" (4/5), which is a slight continuation on the theme of the opener. Referencing "Aqualung" in passing (a move that spurred speculation that the album was a concept, which Anderson and Barre denied), a schoolgirl prostitute is now the protagonist. With abstract lyricism, the track can be childish lyrically, but is a great example of heavy classic rock, as the track has been covered by heavy metal bands Metallica and Iron Maiden among others. The rest of side one is a collection of lighter, acoustic pieces, beginning with the beautiful "Cheap Day Return" (5/5), a one-minute piece about Anderson visiting his sick father in the hospital. Save the similarly short and beautiful "Wond'ring Aloud" (5/5), the rest of the material on the first side is unfortunately mediocre, with "Mother Goose" (3/5) being average and "Up to Me" (2/5) being forgettable and a weak closing track. With the inclusion of unreleased material on the 40th Anniv. deluxe edition, it is odd that there was not stronger material on the final product, such as the longer edition of "Wond'ring Aloud" and "Lick Your Fingers Clean", which would eventually be drastically reworked and included on the album "War Child."

SIDE TWO: "My God" (A collection of songs critical of organized religion - very conceptual in nature.)

The first track of side two, "My God" (5/5) is equally as strong as the title track. With inflammatory lyrics critical of Christianity and very strong guitar work by Barre, this song is an instant classic. The serious lyrics of this track thrust the band onto a new plateau, out of the realm of blues rock and into prog. Followed by the hard rock staple "Hymn 43" (4/5), which would be the band's sole single off the album, the second side already reigns superior over the first - featuring a cohesive theme that borders on conceptual. A beautiful intercalary titled "Slipstream" (5/5) follows before leading up to another seminal work by the band, the behemoth "Locomotive Breath" (3/5), which, despite being regarded as a classic for the band, does not resonate with me very well. It strikes me as an average and even boring track, and I consider it over-rated as a result. Closing out the album is the track "Wind Up" (4/5) - the last great stab at organized religion on the album. Drifting between quiet and loud, this track also does well at capturing the listener due to Anderson's lyrical ability. It also is a fitting choice to end the album, as the ending lyrics are delivered powerfully and emotionally.

"Aqualung" walks the line between prog and blues rock. In some cases it is groggy (Aqualung, My God), and in some cases it can be more folk-based (Cheap Day Return, Mother Goose). There are even elements of contemporary classic rock (Cross-Eyed Mary, Hymn 43). The overall product is a very musically diverse album, consisting of both abstract lyricism and serious concepts that attract the intellectual prog fan. This album would shoot Jethro Tull into the mainstream and establish it as one of the seminal rock bands of the seventies. Its tendencies to behave like a concept album also drove the band to mockingly work on their next album, a parody of pretentious prog rock that would ironically become their most loved (at least on this site) album. A great step forward by the band, and one of the essential albums in the genre due to the title track alone, but it is barred from perfection by its weak ending to side one and a couple boring songs.

OVERALL: 4.1/5 (B-)

ProgMirage1974 | 4/5 |

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