Jethro Tull - A Passion Play

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Chrysalis
Catalog Number: CHR 1040 / 81569
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:08:00

The now famous / infamous follow up to the chart topping Thick As Aa Brick was released to the beat of international hype and huge expectations in 1973. Following the unsuccessful sessions in France, which were ultimately released as a part of Nightcap: The Unreleased Masters in 1994, the band returned to England. The bare bones of the French attempts were re-worked, expanded and committed to tape. Another bold attempt at epic musical sermonizing from Ian Anderson, this release followed the previous year's success and became Jethro Tull's second straight #1 album. The lyrical subject matter was of similar complexity, but whereas Thick As A Brick dealt with man's earthly foibles, A Passion Play stopped only briefly on earth before heading straight to purgatory, heaven and hell, before returning its protagonist, the recently deceased Ronnie Pilgrim to the joys and travails of corporeal form.

Although the LP sold quite well and the resulting world tour was yet another string of sold out performances, the harsh greeting from the press, especially in England, caused Mr. Anderson to threaten, albeit briefly, to cease touring altogether.

Lyrically and musically, A Passion Play is more sophisticated than its predecessor, though unlike Thick As A Brick, this release is a string of individual songs tied by a number of devices. Sections are interrupted with lines of dialogue from the "play," drift away in echoes, shift abruptly or, as in the middle of this magnificent presentation, are interrupted by a charming children's (?) tale. Jeffery Hammond's wonderfully spoken and orchestrated "The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" is further enhanced on this CD reissue by the inclusion of the legendary film shot for the Passion Play tour. This short Quick Time video is a joy and it alone is well worth the price of the CD. For Tull fanatics like myself, this will now be the centerpiece of your collection. Add to this gem the newly re-mixed and mastered sound, capturing every nuance of the performance of Ian Anderson on flute, soprano sax and guitar, Martin Barre and Jeffery Hammond on guitar and bass respectively, Barriemore Barlow behind his monster kit, armed with tympani and glockenspiel as well, and, playing a greater and more varied role than ever, John Evan with the B-3, piano and synthesizers. Long time collaborator David Palmer, usually responsible for arranging and conducting strings or chamber ensembles when needed, steps in for additional keyboard duties.

To make a long, but very easily followed story short and sweet, the lyrics tell the tale of the previously named Mr. Pilgrim who, now departed after a greedy and conniving life in business, finds himself in the company of a string of characters who lead him through the afterlife. Angels, and other minions of the directors of G. Oddie & Son, a well known firm specializing in redemption, and of course, the principal partners themselves, make their various points to Ronnie and, failing to recruit him for a long and binding contract, reluctantly send him off to meet with their competitor Lucifer (Lucy in the stage version). Also failing to impress Ronnie with his various feats of trickery and illusion, our hero (is he?) makes a break for it and joins with countless other souls awaiting birth. As our story ends, Ronnie queues at the gate with the others, to be thrust back into the fray, to live and breathe the pain and joy of life once more.

Well, that addressed, we can look at the music of this classic. As I said, this is a sophisticated work, subtle and yet quite powerful. This recording has huevos aplenty, as well as numerous passages of subdued, beautifully arranged, almost, ?well almost religious music. John Evan's keyboards are right up front, fighting for supremacy (just like the characters in the lyrics narrative) with Ian's flute and acoustic guitar. Many moments may go by without the presence of bass or electric guitar, but again, this is no whimpy piece of work. The group's incorporation of classical and jazz stylistic elements are superb. Barriemore Barlow's drums are some of the most butt kicking stuff you are likely to hear in any progressive rock recording. In fact, I would say his chops on this, and Thick As A Brick, are amongst the finest to be heard in any type of rock music. This man knocked most drummers out of the ring. Everyone has their moments on this recording and Martin Barre is not forgotten. I have hummed to myself his rhythm guitar part from the "Magus Perde" section of this work for about, oh ? about 25 years now.

This is a memorable work, the CD and video bonus a treasure. This is not the place to start if you are unfamiliar with Jethro Tull, but believe me, once you are, you'll want this one.

Lifebeats (1:14) / Prelude (2:14) / The Silver Cord (4:29) / Re-Assuring Tune (1:11) / Memory Bank (4:20) / Best Friends (1:58) / Critique Oblique (4:38) / Forest Dance, No. 1 (1:35) / The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles (4:18) / Forest Dance, No. 2 (4:18) / The Foot Of Our Stairs (4:18) / Overseer Overture (4:00) / Flight From Lucifer (3:58) / 10.08 To Paddington (1:04) / Magus PerdÉ (3:55) / Epilogue (0:43)

Ian Anderson - acoustic and electric guitars, flute, soprano sax, vocals
Martin Barre - guitars
Barriemore Barlow - Drums, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Timbales, Tympani
John Evan - Organ, Synthesizer, Piano, Keyboards, voice
Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond - Bass, Vocals David Palmer - Synthesizer, Keyboards, Saxophone

This Was (1968)
Stand Up (1969)
Benefit (1970)
Aqualung (1971)
Thick As A Brick (1972)
Living In The Past (1972)
A Passion Play (1973)
War Child (1974)
Minstrel In The Gallery (1975)
M.U. The Best Of (1976)
Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die (1976)
Songs From The Wood (1977)
Repeat - The Best Of Jethro Tull Vol 2 (1977)
Heavy Horses (1978)
Bursting Out - Live (1978)
Stormwatch (1979/2004)
'A' (1980)
The Broadsword And The Beast (1982/2005)
Under Wraps (1984)
Original Masters (1985)
Crest Of A Knave (1987/2005)
20 Years Of Jethro Tull (1988)
Rock Island (1988)
Catfish Rising (1991)
A Little Light Music (1992)
The Anniversary Collection (1993)
25th Anniversary Box Set (1993)
Nightcap (1995)
Roots To Branches (1995)
J-Tull Dot Com (1999)
The Very Best Of (2001)
Living With The Past (2002)
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)
Classic Masters (2003)
Stand Up/This Was (2003)
Essential (2003)
Nothing Is Easy: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (2004)
Aqualung Live (2005)
Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson (2005)
Extended Versions (2006)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2007)
The Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull (2007)
Living With The Past/Nothing Is Easy (2008)
This Was (expanded) (2008)
Nothing Is Easy - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (2004/2008)
The Anniversary Collection/A New Day Yesterday (2008)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2008)
Live At Madison Square Garden (2009)
Christmas Album (2009)
Live In Switzerland 2003 (LP) (2014)
A Passion Play - An Extended Performance (2014)
War Child - 40th Anniversary Theatre Edition (2014)
Minstrel In The Gallery - 40th Anniversary La Grande Edition (2015)

Living With The Past (DVD) (2002)
A New Day Yesterday: 1969-1994 - The 25th Anniversary Collection (VID/DVD) (1994/2003/4)
Nothing Is Easy - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (DVD) (2005) Live At Montreux 2003 (DVD) (2008)
Jack In The Green - Live In Germany (DVD) (2008)
Live In Bethlehem, PA, 2003 (DVD) (2008)
Their Full Authorized Story (DVD) (2009)
Live At AVO Session 2008 (DVD) (2009)
Live At Madison Square Garden (DVD) (rec 1978, rel 2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: March 7th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1642
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]