8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Spin me back down the years and the days of my youth...,
This review is from: Thick As A Brick (Audio CD)
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.