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Jethro Tull - Aqualung

Review No: 239
Added 19th August 2005

Jethro Tull (1971)

Ian Anderson:
Flute, Acoustic Guitar, and the Voice

Clive Bunker:
A Thousand Drums

Martin Barre:
Electric Guitars, and Descant Recorder (one of those silly things most of us at some point at school were forced to play with disastrous results)

John Evan: Piano, Organ, and Mellotron

Jeffery Hammond: Bass Guitar, Alto recorder and all of the odd voices on the album

Three facts about Jethro Tull: One, Jethro Tull is not the name of a member of the band, it is the name of the band. The chap that is always pictured leading the band is actually called Ian Anderson, who is still leading the band today in 2005 (in-between his main occupation now as a salmon farmer!). He is the rather odd looking chap usually pictured standing on one leg, wearing a rather shabby, ill fitting rain coat whilst playing the flute.

Number Two fact is that although Jethro Tull’s line up has been extremely mercurial, they have only ever had three lead guitarists. The first was the brilliant blues guitarist Mick Abrahams, who left after the first album, “This Was” (1968), to form his own band Blodwyn Pig, who were to have their moment in the spotlight in the early seventies. The next guitarist lasted only for a month before deciding that Jethro Tull’s take on the blues was not quite him and moving back to his old mates, and forming Black Sabbath - a certain Toni Iommi (Toni Iommi’s only real contribution was miming with the band to the band’s latest single “Witches Promise” on the Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus film). He was then replaced by Martin Barre, who is still with the band today, 37 years later.

Cross Eyed Mary
Cheap Pay return
Mother Goose
Wondr’ing Aloud
Up To Me, My God
Hymn 43 Slipstream
Locomotive Breath
Wind Up
Bonus Material
Lick your Fingers Clean
Wind Up (Quad Version, which sure makes your speakers rock)
Excerpts from and Ian Anderson Interview
Song For Jeffrey (Live)
Fat man, Bouree

Fact Number three is that their fourth album, written completely by Ian Anderson, who by now was definitely the leader of the band, is a five star classic that can easily be said to have changed the face of Rock music as we now know it.

Jethro Tull was formed in Birmingham, England in 1967, to cash in on the burgeoning British Blues Boom. They were an instant success with their first album going into the British Top Twenty. Their second album “Stand Up” (1969) reached the top of the British Charts, whilst also reaching the Top Twenty across the Atlantic in the good ole U.S. of A. Their third album, “Benefit” (1970), went straight to the Top Ten of the charts worldwide, by which time their reputation as a live act had put them amongst the rock giants of their day. It is actually quite surprising that they managed to record so much high quality music, taking into account the number of live concerts the band was doing in their early years.

In early 1971 Jethro Tull went into the newly opened Island recording studios for three weeks to record their new album (the other band in residence at Island at the same time was Led Zeppelin, who were laying down tracks for their fourth album). When they came out again they had recorded one of Rock’s great moments. “Aqualung” was released to its adoring public, and in reality gave Ian Anderson and his bunch the right to lifetime Superstardom.

Never mind how much the line up changed, and boy, did it; by the time of this release there was only one remaining original member of the band apart from Anderson, Clive Bunker the drummer, and he was to leave before the release of Tull’s next album “Thick As A Brick” (1972). But no matter how many bass players, keyboards and drummers they had, as long as Ian Anderson wrote, arranged and sang the songs, with his flute giving Tull their distinctive sound, and his right hand man Martin Barre sticking with him to give the band genuine rock credibility, the band over the next thirty years turned out a constant stream of quality albums and live concerts. But Aqualung was certainly a defining moment, and is crammed full of classic tracks, many of which are still in Tull’s live set today.

The album is split into two parts, in the days of vinyl, side one and side two, throughout which Anderson and Barre’s playing is inspirational, whilst the supporting musicians turn in fine performances.

Track one is the album’s title track, starting off with a typical Tull guitar riff before the band breaks in, and Anderson starts his story telling.

Aqualung is the album’s lead character, and is so named for his hacking cough and dishevelled appearance. Side one deals with his life story, full of seedy vignettes drawn from modern secular English life. The title track actually has three sections, and as the mood of the narrator unfolds the music changes accordingly. The first melodic statement sung in a harsh surly voice is ugly and jarring on the senses, it then turns into a completely different beast far gentler and easy on the ear before rising to a rockin’ finale featuring the first of the musical duels between Anderson’s flute and Barre’s mighty axe.

Side two, subtitled My God, deals explicitly with religion. There are more questions asked than answers given, which leaves the album topical and soul searching today. Again the structure of the songs is constantly shifting. There are stately hymnal changes, a jazzy flute break, and many pomp-and-circumstantial motifs which, when inverted, assume more chromatic and modern queasiness. Altogether a very satisfying and complete package.

With this new 30th Anniversary edition, not only do you get the entire original eleven tracks clearly re-mastered, all of the artwork reprinted (the front cover alone puts shivers up and down your spine) but also a bonus of five extra tracks including the glorious ‘Bouree’, delightfully credited to Ian Anderson/Johan Sebastian Bach, plus an excerpt of an interview with Ian Anderson on his recollections of recording Aqualung. All in all, it’s a grand package.

Mott the Dog resides at Jameson's the Irish Pub