Monday Muse: How to become a Jethro Tull fan in Four Albums or Less.
Step One: Aqualung.
If you are an average Gen X listener and you have heard any Jethro Tull before today, its is likely a track off of this 1971 album, the band’s fourth, most likely on your local classic rock station. The title track, a hard rock dirge about the life and death of a homeless man has one of Martin Barre’s most recognizable guitar riffs and immediately sets a serious tone for what many critics mistakenly consider a “concept album”, something Ian Anderson always denied. The tenth track, Locomotive Breath, is a harrowing gallop through one mans adultery inspired breakdown. It’s also one of my favorite karaoke songs, In between these bookends, Ian Anderson heaves some lyrical bricks at the hypocrisy of church and churchgoers in Hymn 43 and My God. And don’t overlook two lovely little pieces, Cheap Day Return, a wry little verse about an aging rocker, and Wondering Aloud, a simple love poem that gives the listener a delightful break between the heavier tone in the rest of the album.
While it is not a concept album per se, Aqualung is crafted as a whole piece, and in my opinion sounds best when played as an album, in the order intended and in one sitting. This style is not only a departure from the bands bluesy roots, but foreshadows their next two studio releases, Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play, both of which discard the idea of tracks altogether and between them embody the best of the prog rock era and its worst indulgences.