dee palmer

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972, 50th Anniversary remixed, cut 1/2 speed vinyl edition)

Thanks to Aaron of the KMA for sending this record for my 50th birthday!  50th anniversary edition for my 50th trip around the sun.

 

JETHRO TULL – Thick As A Brick (Originally 1972, 50th Anniversary Chrysalis Steven Wilson remix, cut 1/2 speed vinyl edition)

This review is focused on the remix and packaging of the 50th anniversary edition.  For a more music-focused analysis, read our 25th Anniversary CD review.  That CD came out in 1997.  How does that make you feel?  Here we are on the 50th anniversary of this great album already.

Even those who dislike remixes often approve of those done by Steven Wilson.  In 2012, for Thick As A Brick‘s 40th anniversary, Wilson created new stereo and 5.1 mixes for the album.  Such remixes work best when you play the album and can’t quite tell exactly what has changed.  Such is the case for Thick As A Brick.  The bass sounds deeper and the album sounds bigger.  You may notice musical elements you didn’t pick up on before, but the remix was clearly done with respect and never deviates too far from what you know.

The 5.1 remix is scheduled for a reissue in the fall, as even the 40th anniversary edition will get a reprint after nearly a decade out of print.

This vinyl LP was cut at 1/2 speed at AIR Studios.  According to the front sticker, this was performed on “a fully customized Neumann VMS80 lathe with fully recapped electronics”.  According to the same sticker, the 1/2 speed cutting allows better recreation of high frequencies.  I probably can’t hear them anyway, but in short:  the record sounds amazing!  The nuances of the flute, the organ, the acoustics…all here.  All thick as a brick!  Punchy.  More three-dimensional.  Because everything is so clear and in your face, this is my preferred way to listen to Thick As A Brick.  There is no struggling to hear any of the parts.  It’s all there, with good separation too.

For this reissue, the newspaper packaging has been reproduced full size.  The actual sleeve of the album is a 12 page newspaper.  This was, of course, discontinued for most reissues over the past decades.  Like a real newspaper, this packaging include crosswords and advertisements, all fake and meticulously assembled to entertain and baffle those who stumbled upon it.  The outer page, which becomes the front cover, is of harder paper stock than the inner pages.  There have been complaints of bent and damaged pages inside the shrink wrap, but this copy was perfect upon opening.

In case you need to be told, Thick As A Brick is one song, split over two sides of vinyl.  “Thick As A Brick” sides one and two; there’s your complete tracklisting!  It must be said that though side two tends to get less appreciation, the last 10 minutes are pure progressive rock delight.  The album just gallops on side two.

Get your newspaper and a coffee, and sit down to enjoy the Steven Wilson remix of Thick As A Brick.  It’s a lovely way to spend your day.

5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – The Very Best of Jethro Tull (2001)

JETHRO TULL – The Very Best of Jethro Tull (2001 Chrysalis)

Every fan had their first Jethro Tull purchase.  Mine was 20 years ago, with their newly released Very Best of Jethro Tull.  Why not?  I was working at the Record Store when a used-but-mint copy dropped in my lap for only $8 (staff discount).  It was only right of me to ensure it got a good home.

Unlike some “hits” compilations, this one didn’t strike with clusters of songs I wanted to focus on in the future.  Other compilations can do that.  For example I decided to hone in on the Brian Robertson Motorhead album immediately after hearing a double best-of.  With The Very Best of Jethro Tull, I liked it all equally.  I just wanted to get them all, with no particular priority.  It all sounded great to me.

The album is non-chronological and contains some edit versions.  “Thick As A Brick” is cut down from 44 minutes to just three — makes sense.  They chose the first three minutes, which are ojectively the best known.   Other edits are the single versions of “Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die” and “Minstrel in the Gallery”, while “Heavy Horses” gets a new edit bringing it from nine minutes to a more single-like three.  The songs span the 1968 debut This Was to 1995’s Roots to Branches.  Several albums are not represented at all, such as Benefit, A Passion Play, A, Stormwatch, Under Wraps, Rock Island, Catfish Rising, and J-Tull.com.  Justifiable?  That’s up to personal taste.  Several non-album singles are included instead, such as the well known “Living In the Past” and the wicked string-laden “Sweet Dream”.

The album has an excellent flow, only interrupted with the synth-y “Steel Monkey” from 1987’s Grammy-winning Crest of a Knave.  Preceded by the savage “Locomotive Breath” and followed by the tender picking of “Thick as a Brick”, it doesn’t fit in except as a speedbump.  If I may be so bold, I believe “Steel Monkey” was included simply because it would be odd not to include something off that controversial Grammy winner.

While I enjoyed all the songs, the one that stood out particularly strong was “Bourée”. I never heard Bach swing like that before! The diversity of this CD, spanning all styles of rock from progressive to blues to folksy. Yes, the flute can rock and Ian Anderson is the Eddie Van Halen of the instrument.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972, 25th Anniversary “newspaper” CD edition)

“Quite hard to play, and a lot to remember.” — Martin Barre

JETHRO TULL – Thick As A Brick (Originally 1972, 1997 EMI 25th Anniversary CD)

Some albums are more famous for factors other than the music.  Chinese Democracy, for example.  Anyone reading this can say “that’s the one that took Guns N’ Roses 17 years to make.”  Meanwhile, the same can be said for Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick.  Even if you have never heard the album, you probably know “that’s the one that came with the newspaper inside”.  You might even know that it’s only one, long 44 minute song.

All true.  You had to flip the song midway on the original LP, and that side break still exists on CD as the song is split into two tracks.  The 1997 Anniversary edition replicates most of the newspaper too, and though you will be wary of completely unfolding it and getting it back inside the case again, it is still a marvel.  With campy articles, crosswords, horoscopes, ads and news stories, you could read this paper for as long as it takes to listen to the album.  It is certainly among the most fabulous extras ever included with any release, LP or CD.  Top ten album packaging list?  Somewhere near the top.

The main feature of the newspaper is the “fake news” story of Gerald Bostock, the fictional author of the “Thick As A Brick” lyrics.  After an “epic” reading of the words on the BBC one night, a flood of complaints rolled in, and young Gerald was disqualified from the poetry competition.  The concept of the album is that you are to think you are hearing this controversial poem that raised such a ruckus.  Of course, the words were really written by one Ian Scott Anderson.

It’s also one of the most storied Tull lineups to go with the epic album:  Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evan, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, and Barriemore Barlow with Dee Palmer.  Barlow was the new guy, replacing original drummer Clive Bunker.  The piece is credited solely to Anderson.

Opening with delicate picking, it is soon joined by light flute.  Then drums, electric guitar and piano, building bit by bit.  The first three minutes have been used as an edited version for compilations.  They are probably the most accessible three minutes of the song, but it is well worth hanging on!  A jazzy rhythm here, some wailing guitar there.  Sections of beautiful piano melody.  Absolutely stunning flute playing.  Vocals return, stronger and more forceful.   This holds together for a long time as a pretty singular work, with lengthy instrumental sections between the vocals.  Then 12 minutes in comes the organ solo.

The song bounces back and Ian returns to the front, ranting about class.  It’s a surprise when the familiar opening guitar figure returns, but it is all one song after all.  This ushers in a folksy section, which eventually comes back to the power of progressive Tull.  A loud, rhythmic guitar outro takes us to the end of the first side with a hefty serving of organ.

The second side could not possibly open with as much panache as the first, nor should it, being the middle of a song.  After a brief respite, we are back into the heavy progressive Tull, and then a drum solo.  Exotic melodies dominate the first few minutes, when the drums do not.  The acoustic guitars return as they eventually must, and the song resumes a path like the one that it began with.

From moment to moment, Tull are not at all shy of showing you how smart-guy they are.  Those who adore challenging rock music will be right at home, drinking in every sudden time change and rippling solo.  The second side is thick with daunting rock.  Those who find this too pretentious to take seriously are already out of the room.  They’ll miss the thundering timpanis and cascading organ/flute duos.  Their loss.

 

What makes Thick As A Brick special is not the packaging.  From section to section, the song remains compelling.  Every part has some kind of hook or performance that draws you back.  By playing the 3:03 version, you are missing too much action.  You can’t pretend that such an album isn’t ostentatious.  You either like it (usually admiring and aspiring all the while) or you are repulsed by it.

The 25th anniversary CD comes complete with a 12 minute live rendition from much later, in 1978, from New York.  That means it’s John Glascock on bass, as Hammond had left in late 1975.  This abridged version has some of the majesty of the album, coupled with the excitement of the live stage.  Finally there is a 16 minute interview with Anderson, Hammond and Barre.  They explain the organic construction of the music, and the painstaking process of the packaging.   Though you can also get the 40th anniversary boxed set remixed by Steven Wilson, if you are just looking for the original album on CD, this edition is the obvious one.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (remastered)

Next in line of my reviews from Record Store Excursion 2012!  Check out the video below if you missed it.  This one bought at HMV Yonge, as sort of a consolation prize, since they no longer sell Japanese imports (for shame!).  Bought at 2 for $25.

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO

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JETHRO TULL – Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976, 2002 remaster)

I’m far from a Tull expert; more a layman.  I know what I like though, I like the complexity of Tull, I love Martin Barre’s guitar, and Ian Anderson’s virtuoso flute.  I’ve always liked the title track from this album, “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die”, so it made sense to get the album proper.

It’s another concept album by the Tull, but I’m not too clear on the story details.  It seems to be about an aging rock star, which is funny considering that when Ian wrote it, he was a young man by comparison!  The concept album lends itself to recurring musical motifs, such as the melody from the title track popping up on “Quizz Kid”.

Like many Tull albums from the mid-70’s, there’s plenty of acoustics to go around accompanied by lovely flute passages and complex drum patterns.  There’s also some horns and orchestration courtesy of David Palmer (not yet a full member of the band).

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Personal highlights:

  • “Salamander”, a folksy number with intricate acoustics.
  • The harmonica riffing of “Taxi Grab”, reminiscent of an earlier bluesier Jethro Tull.  The guitar soloing (both electric and acoustic) is also divine.
  • “Big Dipper”, a playful yet complex number with plenty of flute and a fun chorus.
  • The masterpiece title track (obviously), lush with ochestration.
  • “Pied Piper”, one of the most obviously catchy songs on the whole album, albeit still complex with multiple parts and section.
  • The final track of the album, a slow but dramatic grandiose number called “The Chequered Flag (Dead or Alive)”.

As usual, Ian provides liner notes, and dedicates the album to late bassist John Glascock, who died way too young of a heart defect.

There are two bonus tracks included, fully realized songs called “A Small Cigar” and “Strip Cartoon”.

4/5 stars