on 9 October 2007
When I was getting into Jethro Tull in the mid-to-late 70s, I was drawn to both the newer albums of the time ('Songs from the Woods', 'Heavy Horses' etc.) as well as the classic earlier albums ('Aqualung', 'Stand Up' etc.), but wasn't sure if buying an album with my prized pocket money with apparently no track listing, and a newspaper for a cover was going to be a major disappointment or not. I'm pleased I took the plunge, because for me it remains their best album and the one I return to even in my older years!
Firstly, the whole thing just flows... from its classic acoustic guitar start through all the guitar and keyboard-orientated sections (some amazingly powerful) and then takes you back home right at the end. Great recurring themes and tunes (very melodic at times), a variety of time signatures, and an engaging lyrical theme - make this not only a Prog Rock concept album masterpiece, but a Classic Rock one too!
Do I follow all the lyrics? - well, not really. But I can see it's about a boy's journey towards adulthood (autobiographical by Ian Anderson?) into the world where freedom is despised and conventionality is praised. In fact, I always think Ian did a better job with this album than Roger Waters did with parts of 'The Wall' in expressing this anti-establishment sentiment.
What the album really benefits from are some really great tunes that stay in your head and have you humming the notes for hours after listening to them (something lacking in the likes of 'A Passion Play' and some later albums). However, I agree with an earlier reviewer that despite this melodic accessibility for a concept album, the album needs to be focussed on (rather than played in the background) to get the most out of it.
On the new CD version itself and in recent interviews, Ian likes to treat it as a humourous attempt to make the ultimate 'tongue-in-cheek' prog rock concept album. Well I just don't buy that (well not all of it anyway) and think for credibility reasons he's trying to distance himself (in hindsight) from what is often a mocked concept by the music industry (to be fair some concept albums deserve it!). The idea of 'creating' a concept might have been a fun one for the band at first, but you only need to listen to the complexity and exhurbence of the playing and most importantly the acidity and bite in Ian's lyrics to know they were well into the concept. Whatever the thinking behind it, it's a 70s masterpiece and well worth a few pounds of anyone's money, especially those younger listeners rediscovering 70s prog via Yes and Genesis reissues or the likes of 'Spock's Beard'. It's just a shame the CD can't give you all the 'Monty Pythonesque' newspaper articles - but long live Gerald 'Little Milton' Bostock (wherever he is!)
on 19 June 2001
I have been listening to my Dad's Vinyl collection and I asked my Dad about this particular record. He played it to me and I was astounded at how well the music was played. The strange time changes add to the superb playing of Anderson, Hammond, et al. The lyrics are so cleverly done (and in some places downright weird). I really like the sleeve that came with the vinyl, especially the way it really is like a local newspaper with poorly spelled words and bad typing, accompanied with a brilliant crossword (with which Me and my dad have struggled). Overall I have to say that this is, along with Aqualung, one of the best albums I have heard by Tull. I also recommend to any budding Tull fans to check out Gentle Giant ("In a Glass House" or "3 Friends"). Hope you enjoy this album (and others) as much as I did.
on 21 February 2000
One of Jethro Tull's most impressive, memorable, yet strangest albums from the early '70s. The concept of a continuous song (but suddenly changing here and there), was clever at the time. Based upon the theme of a young poet acclaimed then denounced because of his 'strongly-worded' entry in a competition. The replica newspaper describing both articles - and much more besides! - was included with the original vinyl version. Yet two more extras were added to the 25th Anniversary of 'Thick As A Brick - LATE EDITION' CD: 'Live at Madison Square Garden' and 'Exclusive Interview with...'; the former can also be found on Tull's 20th Anniversary Video, (the first Live Transatlantic Recording) while the latter concerns Ian, Martin Barre, and Jeffrey Hammond offering insight to the uncertain, sufferable times during its creation in '72. Following the success of 'Aqualung', Tull were by this time sunning in the limelight, having achieved tremendous popularity in the music world, with one of the most important albums of their career. I deem this a five star classic wonder because of the Anniversary Package bonus tracks - although Jethro Tull really went to town by designing the realistic 'St. Cleve and Herald' community newspaper! Thus proving themselves multi-talented, Ian insisted that live performances resemble 'Monty Python' sketches, and add a little humour to the throng. Although Britain's audiences were doubtless rolling in the aisles, it was met with much puzzlement in Europe and Japan where early 70's bizarre British humour hadn't yet caught on. But that didn't matter - the band was there to earn money, perform (in more ways than one) to eager fans, and enjoy the good old days!
on 21 March 2013
What can one say that has not already been said about this timeless classic of twentieth century popular music? A 40 minute long continuous piece of music, in two movements, TAAB represents the creative apex of the progressive rock genre, and is comparable in ambition and sophistication to the extended pieces written by Ellington and Gershwin in an earlier era. I will never forget the thrill of listening to TAAB for the first time in early 1974, at the tender age of 13, when my best friend lent it to me in cassette form. TAAB was on one side of a C-90 cassette, while Tull's 1973 successor album, 'A Passion Play', was on the other side. I can't remember whether I listened to both albums in one sitting or two, but what I can say with complete certainty is that I have never heard so much outstanding music in such a short period of time!
At the time of its release, TAAB certainly had its detractors in the music press. They accused Anderson of being pretentious. The same charges were levelled against Duke Ellington when he first started experimenting with extended form composition in the popular music field back in the 1930s. In the case of TAAB, you have to ask yourself why this album was so highly rated by the small minority of critics who did have a genuinely deep understanding of the history of twentieth century popular music - Derek Jewell being the most obvious example. He was the Sunday Times popular music critic in the 1970s, ran the weekly BBC Radio 3 programme 'Sounds Interesting', and was also the author of an excellent biography of Ellington. Unlike the critics who later jumped on the punk bandwagon, he thought TAAB was a magnificent example of progressive rock at its best. So who was right? The question virtually answers itself.
I think we can also safely dismiss Anderson's subsequent claim that TAAB was intended to be a spoof of the progressive rock genre. This sounds like an ex post re-writing of history, designed to conceal the seriousness of purpose with which he approached the making of the album back in 1972 and (by implication therefore) justify Tull's later retreat into commercialism in the 1980s. If TAAB was intended as a 'spoof', why did Tull attempt an even more serious, ambitious extended form work ('A Passion Play') the following year? It doesn't make any sense. Surely one parody would be enough? In fact, if you listen to TAAB, it rapidly becomes obvious that the band were genuinely trying to extend the boundaries of rock music. This was their conscious purpose, and they succeeded brilliantly.
If you are a Tull fan, you will already have this album and any new critical reviews will no doubt be superfluous. If you're new to Tull, or perhaps jaded with the lack of ambition and inspiration that characterises today's commercially driven music scene, you might like to try this album. In my humble opinion, it's the greatest of all the progressive rock albums of the 1970s. I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Ian Anderson and Tull superior to others in their peer group. In the end, it may simply be the absence of any obvious shortcomings. Yes were an amazing band, slightly let down by their confusing lyrics. Pink Floyd were another major creative force during this period, but personally I found their music a bit negative and depressing. I think they peaked with 'Dark Side of the Moon' and were less consistent thereafter. But with Tull we had the entire package - intricate, ambitious musical arrangements, beautiful melodic material, superb playing by first class musicians, and of course Ian Anderson's supremely literate lyric writing. We shall not see their like again.
on 5 October 2002
As the proud owner of a vast array of Tull albums most of which are all on vinyl, I have to say that without a doubt the most magical masterpiece of all was and still is Thick as a Brick. Tull is unique in the fact that if you work your way steadily through their albums, whilst there is a common characteristic which threads its way through the centre - each piece is amazingly quite different. Thick as a Brick encapsulates all the flexibilty, ingenuity and music genious of Tull and even 30 years after its production could still be mistaken for a brand new release. It is timeless and is as exciting now as it was when first created and I would say has to go down in music history as one of the top compilations ever produced.
Well everyone else was doing concept albums so JT decided they should too. According to the interview provided with the CD, IA made this up as they recorded it which just goes to show what he could do under pressure. In the latter years of JT it took five years between CDs to produce bland garbage. Ian Anderson's perception of an album often seems coloured by how hard he worked on it so he probably doesn't like this as much as his fans but for many of us this is surreal genius. Despite the music being produced on the hoof it also sounds very cohesive.
As for what the lyrics are all about I would venture that the opening verses describe the state of society and IA's inability to do much about it "my word's but a whisper, your deafness a shout". There is a lot of imagery of the ongoing battles and class divisions summed up by "And your wise man don't know how it feels, to be thick as a brick". The song then goes off into the past to let history tell the story of why things are as they are: basically we're conditioned to fight for everything from an early age and when we do achieve some status we use it to impose our rules on people we don't understand (much as adults do to us when we're children). The flights of fantasy in the latter stages of parts 1 and 2 deal with the romantic view people have of their own actions and the reality of the lack of support that they'll really get from others "so where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday". People aren't heroes, they are mainly greedy, lazy and selfish.
on 9 August 2007
When my brother first introduced me to Thick As A Brick in the early '90s (he had an LP) I was captivated by it. Sometime later I bought it on CD and one day, on my way to work on the train, decided to listen to it through my earphones. A special bond was about to be forged.
This will sound melodramatic, but I mean it: I tell you that album was made for that train trip. The first three minutes of the music and the train ride are calm and easy. Suddenly, both music and train become loud and frantic. At various times throughout both, the speed and energy rises and falls in close synchronisation. Although it's far too difficult and lengthy to go into all the details, I must say it was quite uncanny how well the music in my ears was so appropriate to the vision in my eyes.
I will always remember those days fondly, and Thick As A Brick will forever occupy a very special part of my heart and mind.
It's a very pleasant, positive sounding album in many respects, thanks to the chord progression and the use of flute, xylophone (or is it glockenspiel?), acoustic guitar and the synthesiser of the day (was it the Moog? I'm not quite sure). At the same time, if one examines the lyrics, one finds them to be less than positive and very metaphorical, as they are concerned with society and its often absurd rules and ways, and there is an inferred criticism towards these rules.
Instructions for listening:
You must not put this on in the background and do other things that distract you from the music: you absolutely must give it your undivided attention. It deserves nothing less, especially if you want to get the complete feeling and imagery it delivers. Immerse yourself in this masterpiece and you will be richly rewarded.
This album went to number one in the US and number five in the UK. It's widely regarded as perhaps Jethro Tull's finest work - their magnum opus - THE concept album. One of my favourite albums, closely followed by their next album "A Passion Play", an album that polarises people, but that's another story.
on 16 October 2009
This is by far my most favorite album of Jethro Tull. To be very honest I was mostly listening to entire albums of their music as they were coming out and I was growing up in the 70's and early 80's. Thick As A Brick was not only my first Jethro Tull album, but it was one of the very first albums in my collection. Thick as a Brick was a concept album, basically one song unlike anything else they have done, mixing hard rock with classical and folk music. It is a very strong piece of music of great structure and complexity and to me it is one of the most interesting pieces of its kind. Thick As A Brick was a true statement by Jethro Tull and it still speaks volumes today in 2009. Ian's vocals are great and the lyrics supposedly written by the 8th year old Gerald Milton Bostock are very intriquing. There is so much meaning in them that I find it hard to believe they were really written by an 8th year old...Anyway, if some of you are, like me, attracted to the softer side of Jethro Tull's music, you may like some of my favorite songs of Jethro Tull: Requiem, Elegy, From A Dead Beat To An Old Greaser, Thick As A Brick, Aqualong, Wond'ring Aloud, Moths, The Chequered Flag, Home, Fly By Night, Heavy Horses, Cheap Day Return, Nursie, Slow Marching Band, Cherio, Reasons For Waiting, Too Old For Rock'n'Roll Too Young To Die, Grace.
on 18 August 2008
I was born in the early 80s, so obviously would have had some trouble catching this the first time round. I first got this as a stocking filler aged 14 and immediately fell in love with it. What makes it so special is that it's unlike anything else I know. I own a lot of other prog rock, but nothing really is so hard to define as this. What is it? A rock opera? A concept album? One song or a hundred?
I really don't know, but what is evident is that it has stuck with me without diminishing in any respect in my view - it sounds fresh, creative, unbloated (which is unusual for prog rock) and always inspirational and I never tire of it. I will play it to my kids one day.
"We'll have Superman for president, let Robin save the day".
on 7 November 2011
What can be said about an album that contains two songs over 20 minutes long each?
Well, when this task undertaken by such rock aristocrats as Jethro Tull one can only expect the best. There is such a magical flow to the music, such an incredible talent in bringing to attention wonderful melodies. I don`t think that Ian Anderson`s ever sounded better. That warmth combined with his magical flute has always put Tull one step ahead of all the bands alike. If not their best album, this is for sure their most ambitious. But I would go ahead and say it anyway that I don`t think there is a better Tull record out there, may it be Aqualung or War child. A must have for any fan of intelligent music.