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Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson - Thick As A Brick 2
on 2 April 2012
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. ***