thick as a brick

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

 

Part 167: VIDEO – Top Five Discs that Got Us in Shit at the Record Store

RECORD STORE TALES Part 167:

Top Five Discs that Got Us in Shit at the Record Store

featuring Uncle Meat

REVIEW: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson – TAAB2 Thick As A Brick 2

Jethro Tull’s IAN ANDERSON – TAAB2 Thick As A Brick 2 (EMI 2012)

Holy crap!  This is a great album!  I have no hesitation in ranking this among my favourite Jethro Tull albums.  And yes, I consider this a Jethro Tull album.  All that is missing is Martin Barre.  The story goes that Martin does not enjoy the studio process, and the album is billed as “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson”.  Something like that Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi disc.  Or, Blackie Lawless & W.A.S.P.  David Coverdale & Whitesnake.  The list goes on!

This is what I would consider quintessential Tull:  Lots of fluttery flute, nice acoustic moments, and very traditional sounding bits. All this with stunning electic riffs, and complexity of arrangement like a roller coaster.  And my God, what an album!  I have confidence in saying that Thick As A Brick 2 is a fine sequel.  Not The Empire Strikes Back, nor The Wrath of Khan…it’s more Aliens.  Catch my drift?  Don’t expect the same thing.  What you loved about the original might be here in different form.  This is a sleeker Brick, 40 years older, dealing with the modern age and the passage of time.

The concept is this:  Where would Gerald Bostock from Brick 1 be, 40 years after that newspaper?  Ian Anderson images five”might-have-beens”.  Perhaps Gerald would become a big money banker.  Or an opposite of that; homeless.  What forks might Gerald take in the road?  And where do they end?  This story inspired Anderson to write some excellent music.  And yes, the album is divided into songs.

There are numerous musical themes that recur, tying the album together.  There are also musical clues from Tull albums past.  The biggest hook on the album is the main riff in “Banker Bets, Banker Wins”, a stunning triumph.  “Swing It Far” is like harder Tull, and it’s splendid.  There are numerous excellent flute, organ, guitar, and piano solos, but also plenty of hooks and catchy riffs.  Just listen to “Old School Song” as an example.

Ian has assembled an excellent band:  David Goodier is the current bassist in Jethro Tull.  Also from Tull is keyboardist John O’Hara.  On guitars is the very talented Florian Opahle.  On drums is Scott Hammond, who has filled in with Jethro Tull.  You can see why it is easy to consider this a Tull album.

Of all the new albums released so far in 2012, Thick As A Brick 2 is one that I have played most frequently, it has simply captured me.  In spite of this, I still have not even watched the included DVD!  A 5.1 mix of this great album is included, as well as making-ofs and interviews.  I’ll have to get around to watching this (when the wife isn’t watching her damned sports).

5/5stars

Part 15: Dating a Radio Station Girl

RECORD STORE TALES Part 15:  Dating a Radio Station Girl

You would think a Record Store Dude and a Radio Station Girl would make beautiful music together.  (Sorry I couldn’t resist saying that…I promise I’ll never do it again.)

When I first starting dating Radio Station Girl in 2003, I was really excited.  She seemed pretty cool and she worked at a radio station, so how awesome was that?  We had the music career thing happening.

Disappointingly, she turned out to be so un-musical, it was crushing.  She worked at 1240 CJCS in Stratford Ontario.  They were in what she called the “oldies” format.  She also enjoyed cheesy stuff like Barenaked Ladies.

Our first date was the Kelsey’s on the main street of Stratford.  She was moonlighting at Blockbuster video, so I picked her up there and we went to Kelsey’s.  It was February and it was snowing but we were having a great time talking about our respective careers, food, and movies.

Then the Beatles came on.  I can’t remember which song.  Either way it seemed like a good topic of conversation.  George Harrison’s death was still fresh in my memory, as he was my favourite one.

“Elli, who’s your favourite Beatle?” I queried.

“I don’t know.  I can’t name any of them.”

Say what?  Whathefuck??

She worked at a radio station, and couldn’t name a Beatle?

John Lennon maybe?  Ring any bells?

I really should have known.  Honest.  But is bad musical taste enough to not date someone?  If it is, it’s a crime I’ve commited on numerous occassions.  I dated girls who listened to crap dance music, and no fewer than three who have seen New Kids on the Block live.  That I know of.  That is, there were three who admit it. 

I married one of them, but let’s not get into that now!  I love my wife dearly, in spite of and sometimes because of her flaws.

Anyway, the musical sins continued.  She made me download a whole bunch of crappy songs and burn them for her, because in Stratford in 2003, all they had was dial-up.  It was truly awful, like not even kidding awful.

We broke up three times total.  That is, she dumped me three times.

The first time we got back together, she emailed me saying she just finished eating a tub of Hagan Daas.  This guy I worked with says, “That means she wants you back, dude.”  She did, and we got back together.  I made her a mix CD with “Disturbing the Priest” by Black Sabbath on there.  Just a little surprise, you know?  Like a middle finger for dumping me in the first place and then eating a tub of ice cream and changing her mind.

The second time we broke up, I think she probably just got back together with me so she had a date to this one CJCS radio station charity event appearance.   That was actually cool, I got to throw a pie at her face.  Afterwards, I forced her to listen to Thick as a Brick in the car as sort of a retribution.  She had never heard Jethro Tull before in her life.  She didn’t get it.

There would be no third reconciliation.  She made up a bullshit story about moving to Vancouver, and I never saw her again.  The nice thing about that is that I’d never have to hear Moxy Fruvous, Puddle of Mudd, or fucking Gilbert O’Sullivan ever again.

Coda:

What followed this was actually one of the top five worst weeks of my life.  I was house and dog sitting for my parents, when I suddenly got a throat infection.  So I got dumped by this girl, I can’t swallow anymore, I’m taking care of two houses and a stubborn dog, that’s enough to handle already.  Schnauzers, you know how they are.  Well this one particular bad schnauzer is named Ani.  Ani pooped herself and got all the poop matted in her butt fur.  It was stuck in there so bad that I had to cut it out with a scissors, and then bathe her, all just minutes before I had to leave for work.  And then, just when I thought that the week was over and things would get back to normal soon, I busted my glasses.  I was scraping the ice off my windshield, and I slipped.  I somehow got caught onto the antenna which sprung loose and thwacked me right in the face.  My glasses, minus one lens, was down in the snow.  A fucking brilliant week.