Jethro Tull is a band whose popularity peaked in the 70’s and was in the vein of rock bands who had names that sounded like a person’s name yet no one in the band had that name like Pink Floyd and Manfred Man. There was no Jethro Tull in the band. Instead the front man whom most people often called Jethro, is Ian Anderson. He was the lead singer and flautist…that is flute player. In 1972, Jethro Tull went into the studio and recorded an album which I think everyone should give at least one full listen to, and here is why.
It is a 43 minute long song (yet not really)
During the 1970’s, progressive rock bands were in vogue. For those unfamiliar with that particular brand of music, progressive rock bands favored lengthy songs which proceeded beyond conventional lengths (three to five minutes), had classical influences, were avant-garde, made concept albums which maintained a story or overarching theme throughout the record, and often made use of odd time signatures. In 1971, Jethro Tull were accused of making a concept album with their “Aqualung” record. While the album did appear to have an overarching theme, Ian Anderson maintains that it was NOT a concept album. So Anderson and company set out to make a parody of concept albums. The idea was to make an album that consisted of only one song…yet that song was to be 43 minutes in length. To most folks today, listening to such a record may seem like a arduous task. For those with short attention spans, you can find copies of the album (or download it) that have the album chopped up in bite-sized tracks. Since the album was merely a series of smaller songs spliced together with musical transitions in between, these versions may seem like a normal album. But, back in 1972, one did not have the convenience of skipping track to track. For this reason, it is best to listen to the record from one end to the other. That, and the whole album tells a story.
The album tells a story
Yet, not a very cohesive one. In fact, a lot of people still debate it’s meaning to this day. Ian and company don’t do much to shed light on the subject save to tell us that the lyrics are said to have been written by an 8-year-old boy named Gerald Bostock (of course, they were indeed written by Ian). In short, it is a coming of age story of a young man overcoming his overbearing father and taking control of the household to yet be overbearing in his own ways. Many point to this being the way new cultural phenomenon supercede the old like the hippies did the 50’s Era. If that is so, Ian, ahem…Gerald doesn’t paint a flattering picture of hippie culture as it is depicted as overpowering as the last.
The band is at one of its greatest performances
It doesn’t take much to see the virtuosity on the record. This is probably the chief reason to listen to the album. Ian’s fluting, vocals, and guitar soar to new heights on the album. In comparison to Jethro Tull’s previous albums, Ian’s vocals see a dramatic shift from endearingly sloppy to precise and crisp. The flute playing is the same. We see a few improvisations here or there but we also see some clearly written out melodies–ones that are memorable and catchy. The acoustic guitar also shines through from the very beginning. Martin Barre’s electric guitar chops are dabbed all over the record and adds punches of excitement throughout. John Evans piano and keys skills are a prime show case on the record with rousing organs throughout (probably not the best choice of words 😉 ). Barriemore Barlow’s expertise at the drums shines through with his solo after the split in the record showcasing him as one of rock’s overlooked drumming prodigies. Lastly, this was the first album to feature Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (the hyphenation between the two same last names exist to show his mother and father were NOT of the same lineage) on the bass. His performance met the avant-garde music of the record while maintaining high musical standards after Glenn Cornick’s departure from the band.
All in all, the record is a masterpiece. Above all else, the music on the record is phenomenal and is definitely worth at least one listen. Through its highs and lows, the dips and riffs, the calmness and franticness, the record is one I have given many listens to and one that I encourage everyone out there in internet land to give a due consideration.