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Jethro Tull - Aqualung CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.37 | 2949 ratings

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3 stars Aqualung is an album that rests in the record stacks, iPods, and hard-drives of countless fans of rock music, prog or otherwise. Its accessibility makes it easy to appreciate for the casual listener while the uniqueness that set it so far apart from the majority of its contemporaries secured this album a solid place in the vast and varied history of 70s rock. Without this album, it's highly unlikely that Jethro Tull would be as big as they are today or have the ability to take on the daring projects that followed this one. So why only 3 stars? Because while the album itself may have been innovative at the time, the music itself isn't all that interesting by prog standards. When I'm listening to an album, I want it to reach out and grab me, pull my emotions in a wide range of directions, challenge my listening abilities, and surprise me with something new and substantial with each new listen. This album does none of those things for me. Unique as it may have been at the time, that doesn't warrant masterpiece material in my book.

Rather than pick apart each track and assess its merits like I try to do for other reviews, I'd prefer just to stick to the basic assessment of the album as a whole in regards to why this is non-essential listening. It's strung together well enough, featuring tracks of very modest lengths connected in some cases by shorter selections. I resist using the phrase "filler material" for two reasons: one because the phrase itself implies the tracks weren't written with any artistic intent behind them, which I don't believe is the case as the melodies and instrumentation are actually quite pleasant; the other because I actually prefer some of these moments to passages, if not the entirety, of the longer songs, to be perfectly honest. The songs themselves also do not age well in my opinion, based on my listening preferences as stated above. After only a few listens, I felt like I had everything this album has to offer figured out, and that feeling has not subsided after the countless additional listens I open-mindedly undertook after that initial unsatisfactory realization. I'm not saying the tracks are inherently bad at all. I just don't care if I never hear them again. Performance- wise, I wasn't all too keen on Ian Anderson's singing style either. I understand it fits the folky atmosphere cultivated by the album, but it didn't appeal to me and only grated on my nerves more and more with repeated listens. The instrumental work was good, but not particularly exciting. You could tell they were talented musicians in their own right, but their inability to capitalize on that as they would do in future albums seemed to hamper the final product. And if you want to make the "less is more" argument or say "that was done to make the lyrics and vocal part stand out", you'll have a hard time convincing me to change my mind as there didn't seem to be a lot of substance in their songwriting and I wasn't reached even remotely by what he was saying. Again, personal preference wins out, and I prefer listening to works that communicate more depth and substance than this album did.

Do I fault people for thinking this is a masterpiece? Absolutely not. You're entitled to think of it whatever you like. I realize according to the sheer number of 5 star ratings this album has garnered that I'm in the minority of people who don't particularly care for it. The whole rating system is one built of subjectivity and personal preference, and that should be kept in mind at all times whether one agrees or disagrees with a review. I won't rate this album any lower because I don't believe it warrants the status of an album that should only be bought by collectors, fans, or completionists exclusively. There's nothing glaringly wrong with it, and calling it a failure would be a gross exaggeration. But I'm happy to say I'm being totally honest with my feelings by saying it's non-essential. I don't believe in giving a higher rating to a mediocre release just because of how unique or culturally significant it seemed to an audience at the time of its release. No album deserves to be put on a pedestal above its qualitative merits based on the actual listening experience and lasting musical impact, and this one is certainly no exception. 3 stars for an over-hyped, mediocre release that would be vastly eclipsed by the following two releases on a musical scale, even if they don't quite have the popularity to match this album within the rock community as a whole.

Neo-Romantic | 3/5 |


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