Jethro Tull - Aqualung

Year of Release: 1992
Label: Capitol
Catalog Number: 21044
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:06:00

If art is what artists do, then progressive rock must be what progressive bands play, right? Well, Jethro Tull has, over the course of their thirty five years in the business, had one foot in and one foot out of the progressive rock genre for a lot of their time together as a unit. Other than a few albums, Jethro Tull has usually hovered at the fringes of progressive rock, and Ian Anderson would be the first to say that Tull was NOT a progressive rock band. Almost by default though, their work is put in that category, as no other genre is broad and generous enough to contain them, and their evolving work.

Aqualung (Chrysalis, 1971 (CHR 1044)) was yet another instance of the constant self-reinvention that Ian Anderson and Tull went through in the early years and early albums of their career. The first three Tull albums showed a band evolving from a fairly traditional blues band, albeit one where the guitarist and the flutist battled for control, to a lyrically brilliant folk rock group graced with both volumes of instrumental abilities and the best songs since Lennon and McCartney parted ways. Now, with Aqualung, they were a band of visionaries with their Marshalls cranked to ten.

For the first time since the early departure of Mick Abrahams, there were personnel changes in the band. Bassist Glen Cornick was gone, replaced by the musically staid but personally flamboyant Jeffery Hammond, and John Evan was no longer a guest, but a full member of the group, though he had already recorded and toured with the band for 1970's Benefit tour. The songs on this new release were just a bit less intricately composed and arranged as those of its predecessor, but everything, and more, that it lacked in subtlety, it made up in sheer swagger. This was a hard rocking, hard hitting Tull, both musically and lyrically. Where Anderson had previously been an ironic and slightly sad observer of life, he now unleashed some of his most biting and dead on shots at society and its treatment of its have-nots, and the established (and establishment) religion's hypocrisy and its failure to inspire its followers. This album also featured an unchained Clive Bunker turning in a red hot performance on this, his last release with Tull, and the most guitar heavy sound ever from the band. Martin Barre dominates this release with his ballsy, distorted guitar and many of these tunes have their foundation in Barre's crunching power chords and chunky rhythms. Anderson's ethereal acoustic guitar playing fills in most of the gaps, and his flute work on this release was the most highly regarded of his career. John Evan's piano is heard prominently on some of the bets known cuts on this release, and the listener will hear the group's first use of the Mellotron on "Cross-Eyed Mary," but for the most part, his playing is understated and supportive. Jeffery Hammond's performance on this album sticks to the basics and he lacks some of Glen Cornick's melodic sensibility.

The songs on this release are virtually all timeless classics. The title track, Aqualung, features the most memorable riff since Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," and Jimmy Page himself called Barre's guitar solo one of the greatest ever recorded. The contrast between the songs ultra heavy riffs and the center sections acoustic melody are stark, as is the lyrics description of its wheezing, trash can picking, street corner protagonist. The title track, as well as "Cross-Eyed Mary," the lyrically stinging "Hymn 43," and "Wind Up", and the arena rocking "Locomotive Breath" are all instantly familiar, and all have become staples of classic rock radio. The albums longest track, "My God," is a masterpiece, with a moving acoustic intro, bone shaking riffs from Martin Barre's guitar in the verses, and a dark gothic chant that accompanies Anderson's flute solo in the lengthy center section.

The folky, often acoustic sound of Tull's previous album, Benefit, was not completely forgotten, and the band performs some of their finest work with the beautiful and thoughtful "Wond'ring Aloud," as well as "Mother Goose," one of Anderson's best and most typically English sounding of his compositions for this release. One of the great joys of many progressive rock releases of the seventies, the cover, or album art, is not forgotten here either, and Burton Silverman's paintings of the band, in the character of the street creatures described in Anderson's lyrics, are among the best album art of the era.

While lacking some of the most basic elements of progressive rock composition, these songs clearly dwell in the realm of progressive rock, and fill the gap between the more gentle folky sound of the early albums and the full on symphonic sound of Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play. These songs and these lyrics have had an enduring impact on the rock music world and are among the most popular works ever to arise from the progressive rock movement. Even though there is a great deal of 4/4 time played on this album, even though there is little in the way of contrapuntal melody, this release is chock full of well constructed and quite thoughtful work, and the albums lyrics are well worth the time spent in considering them, and are probably the most intelligent and meaningful work that one will ever hear on the radio dial.

Aqualung (6:31) / Cross-Eyed Mary (4:06) / Cheap Day Return (1:21) / Mother Goose (3:51) / Wond-ring Aloud (1:53) / Up To Me (3 :14) / My God (7:08) / Hymn 43 (3:15) / Slipstream (1:12) / Locomotive Breath (4:23) / Wind Up (6:01)

Ian Anderson - glute, acoustic guitar, voice
Clive Bunker - drums, percussion
Martin Barre - electric guitar, descant recorder
John Evan - piano, organ, Mellotron
Jeffery Hammond - bass guitar, alto recorder, odd voices
David Palmer - orchestral arrangements

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: May 16th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1563
Language: english


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