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Jethro Tull - A Passion Play CD (album) cover

A PASSION PLAY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.02 | 1414 ratings

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Mr. Soot Gremlin
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 masterpiece, but rather a work of a completely different atmosphere, feeling, and concept. A Passion Play is certainty also the darkest Tull got, musically and lyrically. I hate to say it, because I do like a good deal of Tull's 1974-1979 work (and even some 80s albums!), but it seems to be the truth that A Passion Play is the band's musical and creative peak, in my opinion standing with Aqualung and TAAB as showing the best the band could do.

The album is much more atmospheric than previous Tull albums; for the heartbeat intro and some of the otherworldly instrumental sections of the album show this. Yet the melodies and individual compositions that Anderson composes for the album are top-notch. I understand people dislike the dense, confusing lyrics and the almost impossible to understand plot of the album's "story" (something to do with the afterlife, I think that is the easiest thing to agree upon). But in my opinion, the lyrics are no harder to understand (or to ignore) than TAAB's lyrics. But it's clear that Ian's lyric writing ability is not as strong as it was on albums such as, say, Aqualung or Stand Up, which I think have brilliant lyrics. "The Story of the Hare who Lost his Spectacles", I have to admit, is kind of funny but mostly something I have to sit through to get to the good music on part 2. Still, it's not exactly bad, or uninteresting, but kind of unnecessary. Jeffrey Hammond- Hammond has a greatly entertaining narrator voice, nonetheless.

Musically, as stated before, this is top notch. The first side is definitely the stronger one in terms of harder riffs and energy, but the second side offers up a fantastic blend of folk, harder rock, and purely great prog rock jamming, sounding very free and natural, yet structured at the same time. I can't think of a Tull album after this one where the band had such a good sense of playing instrumentally. This is music that is complex, genre-blending, yet utterly entertaining and affective, which for me is the best prog rock can offer. Along with TAAB, Close to the Edge, and a number of other albums, I can see APP as being one of the true "definitions" of the best progressive rock, if there can be such a thing. Additionally, I've read criticism of Ian Anderson's saxophone playing in this album and in general. While it's not exactly virtuosic or groundbreaking, it adds a new dimension to the music, and he is by no means a bad player. It's a shame he didn't continue with it further on than Warchild; he may have developed even further with it.

If Ian Anderson and the members of the 1973 Tull lineup feel at all discouraged by the division this album has caused, I would tell them to forget the criticism. I think this album is going to be around for a very long time, and I see (and hear) no reason at all for the bashing it gets. Without a doubt a true masterpiece, and one of the "defining albums" of progressive rock.

Mr. Soot Gremlin | 5/5 |

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