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Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2 (aka: TAAB2) CD (album) cover


Ian Anderson


Prog Folk

3.75 | 442 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I don't think anybody had the highest of hopes when Ian Anderson announced Thick as a Brick 2 earlier this year. A follow up to one of the most beloved albums of this genre 40 years later sounded like both the best and worst idea that eventually left the middle of the road attitude of "how bad could it be?" As it turns out, while it may not be nearly as momentous as its predecessor, TAAB2 is actually pretty good and with the right expectations can be very enjoyable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

m2thek | 4/5 |


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