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Thick As A Brick 2
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138 of 148 people found the following review helpful
This is a hard album to judge in any objective way. If you are a newcommer it may be hard to understand and yet most people who are likely to buy the album are also likely to think it should have never been made in the first place, for several different reasons.

First of all, Jethro Tull's 1972 album Thick As A Brick is a beloved classic of the genre, that doesn't really need a sequel both because it worked on its own and because it was a deliberate send up of concept albums themselves. Besides that, the story of this sequel is about the life of the fictional writer of the previous album Gerald Bostock and not the lyrics of the actual album itself. Therefore in essence, this is more of a sequel to the album's artwork or meta-narrative than its narrative, which is a weird thought.

Secondly, this album is not released under the same Jethro Tull band-name that the previous Thick As A Brick was. This situation is almost like Roger Waters releasing The Wall 2 as a solo album, which is another weird thought, and sure to cause confusion when filing. You could find yourself thinking too much about whether you file it as an Ian Anderson album, a Jethro Tull album or under a new category called `Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson.'

Another point is "why now?" It has been so long since the first one. Ian's voice has changed so much, his playing style has changed so much and the music scene has changed so much. Surely Ian would know how defensive of the original everyone would be after this much time. No album will look good when it has to be compared to something that people have loved for decades.

Finally, Martin Barre, who has been on every single Jethro Tull album ever, except their debut, is absent. The album is called Thick As A Brick 2, but doesn't have Martin Barre on board. This is arguably the weirdest thought of all, but then Ian wrote so much himself that you can understand his decision, even if you don't agree with it.

With all those things stacked against it, some people will dismiss the album altogether and say that it should never have been made. However seeing as it actually HAS been made, the main question that people should be asking is how good is it?

In my opinion it is actually pretty good, but only if you allow yourself to get really objective about it. It in no way lives up to its predecessor, but then no one realistically expected it to. It doesn't much sound like the original at all, more like a mixture between Heavy Horses, Chateau D'isaster and Dot Com.

Tracks like `Shunt And Shuffle' are energetic and heavy, there is a mixture between tasteful moments (`A Change Of Horses'), humour and whimsical silliness (`Cosy Corner' and `Give Till It Hurts') and a lot of flute work, which is what I always like about most of Ian and Tull's work. Interestingly, the lyrics bring up A Passion Play and Locomotive Breath, make of that what you will.

Structurally, the album does not follow the same formula as the original album, specifically it isn't just one giant song from start to finish, although as it is still a concept album it does flow together a bit more than just a standard album would. 'Old School Song' actually sounds like the original album too and there are a few musical ques from the original; for example the album begins like the gap between sides one and two and the record ends with a completely unexpected reprise of the original albums `So You Ride Yourselves Over The Fields' bit, with the word `two' added on.

There are these few connections with the original, in addition to the lyrics and artwork but in all actuality most of the material, for example `Wooten Basset Town' and `Upper Sixth Loan Shark' are much more like the last two proper Jethro Tull Studio albums, Roots To Branches and the aforementioned Dot Com. If you stripped away all the Thick As A Brick elements, it'd still be one of the strongest albums with Ian on it in years. Basically, If you like Ian's newer talking-vocals and the big power chords and mid paced songs that pick up for the solos, then this is going to be right up your street.

If however you don't like Ian's solo albums or the sort of albums that Tull have been making since 1989's Rock Island, then this is definitely not going to be something that you enjoy.

Overall; if just being related to Thick As A Brick isn't enough for you, then maybe give Thick As A Brick 2 a miss. However if you do like albums like Dot Com and The Secret Language Of Birds, and if you don't feel too upset about the lack of Barre and the whole name situation, then by all means give it a shot. It is actually a pretty solid album with enough enjoyable songs to keep you interested, if you are willing to forgive its flaws.

*** If you should buy the special edition, this version is housed in a double-digipak and comes with a booklet featuring linear notes, the CD and a DVD which contains alternative mixes of the TAAB2 album (but not TAAB1 in case you were wondering.) You can pick the audio of the album in a choice of formats: DTS 5.1, Dolby AC3 5.1 or 24/48 Stereo LPCM.

Furthermore, this disc contains PDF files of the fake St Cleve site that this album uses as analogous to the original album's fake newspaper, as well as PDFs of the lyrics in various languages, a 15 minute making of video, a 15 minute interview video and a 20 minute lyric reading video in front of green screen backgrounds. Altogether, this is a neat DVD and is worth checking out if you can get the version for a reasonable price. ***
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2012
The central supporting pillar of the great rock edifice that is Jethro Tull has always been Ian Anderson. His is a signature sound and he's one of the best lyricists in the business. Following up 'Thick As A Brick' after so many years must have been quite a challenge, but the muse has clearly gripped Mr Anderson and inspired him to deliver this wonderful album. My God, this is a good listen! It's poetic, it's rock, it's prog, it's just superb. The musicianship is, of course, first class. Having seen Tull live in recent years, I have been a bit worried about Ian's voice. But there is no hint of weakness, age, or infirmity here. His rich dulcet tones, harmonies and mischievous vocal delivery are all there. Hammond organ, piano, flute, brass, guitars both electric and acoustic, drums, bass are all here too. This is a quality suite of songs that would do justice to the original album. There are snippets of music leaping out of the speakers that pay homage to the original 'Thick As A Brick', but these are welcome passages that greet listeners of a certain age like old friends. There is never any hint of "Here we go again, the same old stuff" because these bits and bobs don't quite go over old ground, but stride out with confidence into pastures new. And the old dog is still bothering God and has added bankers to his hit list. Tull fans should celebrate this release. New fans should give it a fair hearing, and rummage through Dad's music collection to get out the original 'Thick As A Brick' album and play it with the volume turned up. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2012
I have been a fan of Thick as a Brick since seeing the band play the full version at a Royal Albert Hall concert in 1972. Since that moment I was a lifelong Tull fan. The band are one of the few 'prog' bands of that era that have genuinely maintained their integrity and sought to develop a wide range of musical styles. For me though TAAB represented their high water mark. No album since has given me so much enjoyment. The concept was brilliant and the musicianship was always exciting and detailed being played as a genuine ensemble with no one musician taking centre stage. TAAB2 follows up on this tradition although the 'song-cycle' flow of the album does not match the original. It is more a collection of themed songs within the overall concept rather than a totally integrated piece of music. However, its good album up and for me is the best Tull studio album since A Passion Play (yes I remain a fan of this too.) . Its a must buy for any Tull fan and the CD/DVD is good value for money with 5.1 surround versions and a 24/48 LPCM version. The DVD also provides the appropriate lyric sheets as the song is being played which works very well. Compared to the over-priced offering from Pink Floyd recently TAAB2 offers fans good new material benefiting from new technology at a price that does not bring tears to the eyes.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Nine years after the last Jethro Tull album, seven years after the last Ian Anderson solo album, we have the strange hybrid "Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson" recording a follow-up to 1972's prog rock odyssey "Thick As a Brick". If we can feel our way past the (inexplicable) absence of Tull stalwart and guitar hero Martin Barre, there's plenty to like here. The classic newspaper concept of "Thick As A Brick" is here reproduced as a news website, with a self-mocking reference to Anderson as an "ageing rock star" playing a charity gig in support of an old people's charity. Ha-ha, and indeed, ho-ho. The album is subtitled "Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock?" and follows the possible futures of the fictional child prodigy behind the original recording, offering Anderson a chance to bookend his career nicely. "Thick As A Brick" was an angry album, satirically and sardonically condemning the world of early '70s Britain with its political humbug, religious hypocrisy, military histrionics and sexual hangups. The opportunity is here for "Thick As A Brick 2" to answer, where did the children of the '70s go? What happened to them? How did it all turn out?

Musically, this is all very much in the style of late Tull (since 1995's "Roots to Branches") and Ian Anderson's solo material, albeit with the world music motifs toned down. However, a serious attempt has been made to capture the musical textures of 1972 - that's a real Hammond organ in there and the mandolin and keyboard riffs deliberately echo the original. It sounds great, with exemplary production and even some old-school stereo flourishes so beloved of the late '60s and early '70s. Although billed as a set of discrete songs, it's a coherent piece with musical motifs being built, re-visited and amplified throughout. Stylistically, it ranges from delicate acoustic balladry through spoken word meditations, oompah-pah music hall nostalgia, synth-propelled soundscapes and crunching hard rock. And when it rocks, it rocks pretty hard. A rather fey young man called Florian Opahle is on guitar duties and manages to sound for all the world like a younger, slicker Martin Barre (which would be great if a certain inspired hamfistedness wasn't part of the charm that Barre brings to later Tull recordings and live shows). David Goodier (bass) and John O'Hara (keyboards) are from Tull's current roster and Scott Hammond (drums) comes to the party from a jazz background. It's a tight, professional outfit.

But what about the tunes? Well, it's a game of two halves really. There are stretches of great, driving hard rock that will satisfy the most jaded Tull fan and insist on being heard with the amp up to 11. These are knitted together with fussy acoustic passages which, frankly, just waste everybody's time. They might be very clever and, if I was musically literate enough I might detect all sorts of intricate time signatures, sophisticated chord progressions and mysterious tunings. But I'm a simple soul and I come to Ian Anderson for a melody. He is, after all, the author of some acoustic guitar passages of ravishing loveliness (like, oh, "Reason For Waiting", "Life Is A Long Song", "Wond'ring Aloud" or "One Brown Mouse"). However, his facility for this sort of thing seems to have deserted him completely. It's funny really, because you'd think that hard rock was a young man's game and gentle melodies were something composers settled into in their older, quieter years. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Anderson (alongside other '60s survivors like Robert Plant and Pete Townshend) can still rock like gods, but they can't compose an acoustic tune that will stay in your head any longer than it takes for the kettle to boil. Maybe it's something to do with the unabashed romanticism of youth or its lack of self-consciousness. Be that as it may, there's a definite lack of BEAUTY here which no amount of cleverness can really make up for.

In any event, this is a "concept album" so you might expect the music to be subordinated to the lyrics. The quieter passages are really opportunities to carry forward the stories of Gerald Bostock, punctuated by noisy rock-outs. So, to the lyrics then...

After a lyrically opaque preamble, we get short vignettes of two songs each, tracing the different possibilities for a middle class child like Gerald, born in 1964. Gerald's timelines divide; in one he becomes a fat cat banker, in another a homeless victim of sexual abuse, in another he's a war hero or an Anglican vicar or a humble shopkeeper. The timelines seem to converge at the end, with different versions of Gerald settling into essentially similar ruts of suburban recluse.

Now this is a great idea (although Gentle Giant did something similar in - ironically - 1972 with their prog rock concept album "Three Friends"). Unfortunately, Anderson doesn't entirely pull it off.

'Gerald the Banker', for instance, is a standard-issue fat cat nabbed by authorities in the end for cheating on his taxes. There's no subtlety in this caricature, nor any apparent awareness that the scope, influence and moral purpose of banking has been reviewed since 2008. The homeless Gerald struggles with his identity as a gay man, but tracing this to a childhood relationship with a pederast house master only flags up Anderson's discomfort with the subject: is Gerald's homosexuality a traumatic response to childhood abuse? Or was he, as Lady Gaga would say, "born this way"? The story suggests the former, which is an uncomfortable notion for many gay men struggling with very real issues of sexual identity. So, another big topic fumbled badly. Nonetheless, there's real pathos in "Adrift And Dumfounded" that makes it a worthy successor (conceptually if not musically) to "Aqualung".

'Gerald the Military Man' is another recording where Ian Anderson laments the waste of valiant youth squandered in corners of foreign fields (check out "Mountain Men" on "Crest of a Knave" for a fuller treatment). As a sub-Sassoonian view of war it's, frankly, a bit cliche and this pair of songs add little to the argument. With 'Gerald the Chorister' you'd expect Anderson to be on firmer ground since excoriating attacks on organised religion are his lyrical stock in trade. "Power And Spirit" is an interesting exploration of the psychology of faith from a not-entirely-cynical perspective. It works as a fine companion piece to "Roots To Branches". The ball gets dropped again with "Give Till It Hurts" which is a by-the-numbers satire on US-style televangelism (which seems an odd vocation for the none-more-English Gerald). Couldn't Anderson think of anything else to attack Christianity for since 1972? Not the resistance to the ordination of women or gay marriages? Not concealing child abuse or opposing birth control? It just seems a bit of a cop-out to be banging on about the collection plate in 2012.

In fact, the most successful story is 'Gerald, A Most Ordinary Man' which mixes satire with genuine tenderness and paints a complex, ambivalent picture of the morally upright but imaginatively destitute life of the market town and the suburb. The touching references to Fray Bentos pies and a life built around model railways is one of the most affecting things Anderson has written in years and it's perhaps no coincidence that the music here is the most varied, energetic and nuanced of the whole set.

The final movement brings all these stories together, somewhat incoherently, and rocks out gloriously. The coda, which closes with the familiar refrain from the original "Thick As A Brick", is inevitable, yet unfortunately showcases the lack of anything as musically simple and satisfying in this collection.

Look, if you're a Jethro Tull fan you'll have long before now come to terms with the fact that Ian Anderson's glory days are behind him and he'll never again compose anything as angry as "My God" or eccentric as "And The Mouse Police Never Sleeps" or as outright lovely as "Dun Ringill". So, with reduced expectations, there's a lot to enjoy in this collection, even if many of the conceptual possibilities have not been grasped as a lyricist of greater range or wider social concern might have done with a similar remit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
For me TAAB1 was the pinnacle of Tull's musical achievement - it had that wonderful proggy complexity and richness, combined with wit, fun, exuberance and melodic parts that will be forever memorable and that can be sung or hummed. In fact after that brief plateau when it was followed by the under-valued Passion Play, for me things went downhill thereafter despite, some impressive peaks around Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses. However rising from the plains again after all that time comes TAAB2 to show that Ian Anderson hasn't lost his touch.
Is it as good as TAAB1?
Does it miss Martin Barre?
Is it just more of the same Tull ?
Actually NO in all cases. It is not as fully unified as a musical composition as the original but the overall concept works through some references from the original album and anderson's lyrical themes.
Florian's guitar work is really very good, at times like the master himself, but always on the money, fluent and not overindulgent. If anything I miss John Evan more that Barre. (But then i still miss Cornick and Bunker !)
There are some nice new touches - influences from Anderson's solo work, accordion parts, spoken lyrics, some celtic-like airs on flute and the contemporary socio-political lyrical content, sardonic and witty as you'd expect.
And there are the moments when you are taken back to early 70's Tull driving rock and lots a breathy flute.
So what's not to like? Well, maybe not as many of the singalong stuff or the invisible instrumental joins between songs but it's still unlike any other music out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2012
Thick as a Brick 2 is categorised under Ian's own Solo work, rather than Jethro Tull and quite rightly to. Many may be saying where is Martin Barre, but this is not a Jethro Tull album even if it does have references to the sequel of the 1972 Classic Prog Rock Album after some 40 years.

There is no way TAAB 2 comes close to TAAB 1. For one thing it's not one complete piece of music in the format of one track like the original. Neither is it a Prog Rock for that matter. I suppose the nearest way to describe what we have here is more like a collection of Ian's history from the album War Child back in 1974 up to Roots To Branches in 1995. Perhaps in some respect like the album Nightcap released in 1993. But, and I must stress, with a far better collection of songs along it's path.

Though TAAB 2 is in the form of a concept album in telling the story of Gerald Bostock's life as he grows up from an 8 year old child into a 50 year old man, the story line does not cut the mustard with the original spoof of the 1972 classic that's for sure. But never the less there some damn fine lyrics along the lines of this album that do put together a story worth telling. The musicians on the album do a good job without a doubt and are quite capable to do so. Ian's own work is pure class.

Ian as very much struggled with his voice since Crest of a Knave back in 1985, which was the last decent solid studio album Jethro Tull made in my own opinion, though I do very much like the 2003 Christmas Album to to be honest. But there are moments on this album where Ian's voice does come across exactly as it did in 1974 on the album War Child which is quite remarkable, because I have so much missed it for many years.

TAAB 2 is a damn good album by Ian Anderson, it's by a milestone the best solo album he as made under his own name, it's way better than the Jethro Tull albums Stormwatch/A/Under Wraps/Rock Island/Catfish Rising/Roots To Branches and DOT COM, because them albums are far from solid output albums and only have a couple of tracks each which are really any up to standards with Jethro Tull well written material that's for sure.

TAAB 2 is very much a solid album with it's written and performed material along it's path. It's perhaps worthy of 5 stars in reality, because it's by far the best thing I have heard from Ian regarding studio work of this class since Crest of a Knave. I highly recommend it, because it's got class along it's path that's for sure, and to me it's the best present and surprise I have had for many of years regarding class albums.

Gave the 5.1 version a blast last night, and have to say Steve Wilson done a damn fine job on the mix. Making this purchase even more worth the reason to get it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2012
I've listened to TAAB2 several times now and I have to say it's exceeded my expectations by several magnitudes. It's not TAAB1 revisited, although there's enough sly references to it, musically, to give a genuine sense of it being a sequel, but what comes across most of all is how, in 40 years, Ian Anderson has matured as a lyricist. He was always bitingly satirical, scornful even, of the contradictions of society, but TAAB2 is a surprisingly tender, gently-yet-acutely observed, quietly optimistic piece. I find it's stirring an emotional response at several points as he draws you into the central concept. It's a deeply mature piece of work that Anderson could never have produced 40 years ago - it needs those 40 years to be able to reflect back on what genuinely might-have-been. The fragility of the path we tread and the radically different lives we might have lived is explored in some truly lovely poetry set to music that is classic Tull, regardless of the musicians playing it, (there's been some controversy over the fact that Martin Barre is not featured on this album). Although labelled as an Ian Anderson solo album this is in every sense a Jethro Tull record and, to be honest, one of the very best. Frankly I can't wait for the UK live shows this month as I think the complete performance of TAAB2 is going to hold up VERY well against the equally complete TAAB1.
Highly recommended and it just goes to show the concept album is anything but dead...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2012
I bought this album before going to see Ian Anderson perform both Thick as a Brick albums. The first album came back to me immediately but the second album did not seem to be as inspired. I enjoyed the concert but was not minded to listen to the album very often. A friend said that he felt the album grew on him, so I have listened a few more times and he is right, the album really is a grower.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2012
Like most oldies, when I heard this was coming out I expected it to be no more than the ramblings of bored old ageing Mr Anderson. There is a natural temptation to write this one off before even giving it a chance and there seem to be a number already in this camp. I have to be honest I fall into the other camp. This is actually a surprisingly good piece of work with consistent quality from start to finish right until the humorous last lyric. It is certainly not an all time classic, but it is unfair to compare it directly to TAAB1. What it is however is an album that is up there with any of Tull's mainstream offerings and it definitely ties in sufficiently with the first version to be called a true sequel. Each track is well written with everything a Tull fan would hope for along with superb musicianship to boot. I am not surprised people will go on the defensive and call this self indulgent etc, but can't feel this myself seeing as I have been playing it non- stop since it came out. So nice to have you back! Lamb Lies Down 2 next Mr Gabriel?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2012
I just didn't understand the original album for a long time but started to really listen to it in preperation for the recent Manchester TAAB concert, I found that the sequel was, dare I say it. much better on first listening than the original.

I know that this is going to invite lots of contensious replies from the die hard Tull fans but for me it is true. It took many years and lots of listening before I started to like the first album and now, I wonder why I didn't like it in the first place. I had not heard the TAAB2 album before I saw it performed live but I enjoyed it at first hearing. I was probably one of the few people who was hoping it wasn't too much like the original and I wasn't disappointed. The music sounded fresh with some excellent playing from every member of the band. The additional vocals from Ryan O'Donnell compliment Ian Andersons voice in a completely unexpected way.

Too many people are expecting a clone of the original which is the only reason this album gets bad reviews. These people are judging this album on a 40 year old classic that they have listened to countless times instead of as a completely new album with a totally different concept idea. The album examines the life of the ficticious Gerald Bostock from his disqualification to the present day whereas the original was the musical interpretation of the poem written by Gerald.

The Thick as a Brick album still holds good 40 years on and is perfectly complimented by the addition of Thick as a Brick 2. Do not look at the new album as a sequel to the first album, listen to it with an open mind and you will realise that this album is just as strong as the original.
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