Jethro Tull

Capitol Records, 1971

REVIEW BY: Riley McDonald


Nineteen seventy-one is probably best known (musically speaking) for the release of three magnum opuses (opi?) by three of the greatest rock and roll bands ever to grace vinyl. They are, of course, Led Zeppelin's IV, Black Sabbath's Paranoid, and Jethro Tull's Aqualung. The former two are probably the most famous, yet, in my honest opinion, Aqualung is head and shoulders above them both.

This would be Tull's breakout album. They had gained a fairly large following in Britain with their three previous releases, This Was in 1968, Stand Up in 1969, and Benefit in 1970. However, with the release of Aqualung, they would explode into the rock scene, not only in their native England, but also into North America.

The album starts off with probably one of the most renowned prog-rock anthems of all time, the title track. The musical composition is simply astounding here. It shifts from balls-out rock, to a more placid pop sound, to speedy, melodic rock, and followed up with one of the greatest guitar solos in musical history. In all, the album starts off with one of the pinnacles in rock and roll.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Anderson and co. had a very obvious message on this album. They believed in the Christian God, but were not for the church. This is very apparent on such songs as "My God," "Hymn 43" and "Wind Up." The album seems to be divided into two separate parts. My understanding (which isn't a lot) is that the first half is devoted to the Aqualung, a fictitious group of people made up by Anderson, and his quest for love; while the second half is all about the faults of the church.

Definitely one of the best aspects of this album (and there are a lot) is the trademark flute. Some of Anderson's best passages would be on this album, seen in tracks like "Cross-Eyed Mary," "Mother Goose" and "My God."

To me, every song on the album is brilliant in its own way, but there are highlights even among them. Track seven, the epic "My God," starts out with a haunting acoustic guitar line, followed with Anderson's dark and mysterious singing. It rapidly builds up, and then takes the listener onto a wild, twisting ride, filled with chorus backgrounds and flute solos aplenty.

However, the absolute best moment on this album would be track ten, "Locomotive Breath," which begins with a jazzy little piano intro. What follows is probably one of the best rock songs to date. The memorable palm-muted riff, Anderson's fantastic singing, and some of the greatest lyrics ever (okay, now I'm just being biased, but who doesn't get a goosebumps every time you hear "In the shuffling madness/of the Locomotive Breath…"?) make this song a pure, undiluted masterpiece.

The album then winds down with the last track, ironically titled "Wind Up." It's another classic tune that starts out slow, builds up momentum, and then slows down once more.

In the 1996 re-release (which I have), there are a nice couple of bonuses on the album. They include a nice prog track called "Lick Your Fingers Clean," a polished and better-sounding version of the This Was hit "A Song for Jeffery," and an interview with Ian Anderson on the making of and his thoughts on Aqualung. The only extra track that I find unnecessary is a poorer-quality version of "Wind Up."

To me, as well as tens of thousands of others, this is Tull's best album. While they would come close to it a couple other times ( Thick As A Brick and Minstrel In The Gallery), they would never quite top this album, which is arguably the best album of the 70s, and also one of the best albums ever.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



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