Album in Depth: Aqualung by Jethro Tull

I’m so fucking sick and tired of reviewing albums I don’t really care. I actually prefer reviewing albums that are complete garbage, because that actually amuses me. I really enjoyed reviewing DragonForce, Justin Bieber, Helloween… because I get to know excellent tracks from these guys. So, I could review an album I really despise…

Or I could do complete opposite. Fuck that, I want to do something I enjoy. And this is my 40th review! And to celebrate, I’m going to review Aqualung by Jethro Tull. Who are Jethro Tull? A little background is required:

The year is 1971. Fiddler on the Roof is the highest grossing movie, but doesn’t get the academy awards, and Snoopy Dogg is born. Eat the Document, Bob Dylan’s documentary, sees the light of day, Queen is formed and Nirvana disbands… not Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, but an UK Nirvana of the time… next review, Nirvana, the UK group. Kamen Rider started out (okay, I like Kamen Rider), and unfortunately, the Ed Sullivan Show comes to an end.

Ian Anderson had a band called the Blades that slowly became Jethro Tull. In fact, the group that released Aqualung is just the Blades with a different guitarist. They had its hits and misses financially speaking, and after some decisions coming from Ian Anderson, Aqualung was born. Basically a media for his discontent with organized religion. Discontent that honestly, I share. So, this album actually hit me very deep. It’s their most recognizable work, with some choices that they always play in concerts: and in the concert I went last year, they still played Aqualung, Locomotive Breath and Up to Me. I always had this album and always listened to it, although I didn’t realize that until I was sixteen, I believe.

One of the differentials of Jethro Tull is the flute. Ian Anderson plays the flute. While singing. He plays a mean flute and sings. Jethro Tull is the perfect music to hear to put your mindset to medieval folk song and I really dig that. I’m not really that into those metal bands that do the same, but Jethro Tull really hits the right spot.

The cover is awesome. It’s the character retracted in the eponymous song, a street drifter that had too many day offs. He’s a disgusting old man, but strangely, you have this sympathy, just turn over the album. Also, there’s a story on the back that claims who really created god: men in general. It’s well drawn, well painted and it suits the album perfectly and it’s also my shield when I DM. The album runs for 42 minutes, with the longest song My God running for just about 7 minutes and the shortest one, Slipstream, going for 1:13.

Everybody loves this album, including me, so what you’ll see is just me praising eleven tracks. The only guy who I could find downgrading it with a C- was Robert Christgau, but honestly, that’s to be expected. More on him later on the blogs. Let’s dig right into Aqualung by Jethro Tull.

1st track: “Aqualung” – You probably already heard this tune. It’s their most recognizable work and starts describing who this mysterious fellow known as Aqualung is. I don’t know why he chose that name, since looking back, it is a silly name, but it works. Lyrically, the song is awesome. Melodically, this song is awesome. Instrumentally, this song is awesome. This song is awesome. The guitar solo is amazing, the pacing of it is sensational, and there is possibly the most awesome verses to ever hit a prog rock song: “Do You Still Remember/December’s Foggy Freeze/When the Ice that clangs on to your beard is screaming agony/And your snatch your rattling last breaths/with deep-sea-diver-sounds/and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring”. Does it make sense? No. But just imagine Flowers Blooming Like Madness In the Spring and your head may explode from its socket. Definitely a must hear song, and after that, you will be humming “da-da-da-da-Da-da” for the rest of your life. And the worst part is that if you enjoy this song, tough luck, because this is the only hit song I remember without the trademark flute. So, if you don’t care for the Tull’s flute, check this song out.

2nd track: “Cross Eyed Mary” – This song is more for the strange side. After an intro mixing piano with the flute (the gate is open, beware), the song could be seen as his POV on rich and poor matters, like rich men controlling poor men, but honestly… the song doesn’t make that much of a sense looking at the lyrics. The vocals are top notch sound like a story telling madmen of your medieval town, which is mostly the idea. By the way, Aqualung is mentioned. And although I forgot, in the song Aqualung, it kind of mentions a pedophile side to him that is revisited in this song again. Strange that of all his traits, this is the most used throughout the album (two tracks). This album was considered on his time to be a concept album, but it isn’t. Jus’ saying.

3RD track: “Cheap Day Return” – This song is short, but it gives you a sample of what mood you have to be in to fully grasp Jethro Tull’s style. It’s a folk song with a modern lesson. He said in an interview that I read long time ago that it was written because Ian realized his father’s nurse was just doing her job to get an autograph out of Ian, and was doing a poor job at that. So he got pissed, told her to go jump on a lake, and wrote a song about it. They did this a lot! Not telling girls to jump on lakes, but doing stuff related to their personal lives. In the concert I attended, Ian said he did a song for a rabbit he found on his garden, played it, and then told the audience that “although cute, he was remember more as delicious, after eating it on the next dinner”. Creepy, Ian. I love you, but you’re a creepy guy.

4th track: “Mother Goose” – After some tracks of balanced songs, a more upbeat folk song comes along, this time around with lot of one of the best mythos of all time: ours! Yes! Mother Goose is around Hampstead, since apparently Ian Anderson adds that particular part of London to most of his song when in need of a geographical location. It mentions a lot of our finest child book and give a somewhat inventive feel to it, and to be honest, I would feel quite proud to sing this song to my son. The songs are heavily focused on the flute and are a real trip of a feel, with Jethro Tull doing what it does the most. It has that Robin Hood fair feel to it, and it is awesome.

5th track: “Wond’ring Aloud” – Short song, and honestly, it doesn’t leave much of a impression. It has the Jethro Tull feel to it, but it’s so downplayed that honestly, I only serves to “connect” the previous song to the next. There is a wonderful piano and strings, but as it have only 1 minute and a half, it really doesn’t stay on your mind, even with the creepy ending. Although short, it’s long enough to have a somewhat creepy ending.

6th track: “Up to Me” – This song is definitely the most crazy ass song I’ve heard from any band… and it rules. It really sounds as a bar song gone horribly wrong… kind of like a Irish drinking song from whose line, that has to end with “up to me”. It is a great song, with some fun piano and some fun flute… with a hell of a flute and a cool flute riff that should be applauded. However… the lyrics are crazy and don’t make that much of a sense. The guitar tries a solo but it fades away before combining some notes. It is one of the best, and as one of the best, it doesn’t deserve much explanation whatsoever.

Side 1 is over. Let’s dive right into side 2. What should be considered is this: many people consider this album as the ultimate transition album. The first half is their more folkish side, and the second half is their more religious protestor kind of side. I don’t really see it that way, but I can see why people may. Moving on.

7th track: “My God” – This song is the ultimate slap to the face for the religious people in general. I don’t see how an album with a song like this could sell so much, going so far as too be a household item in the US, a country that is mostly people that have a Christian faith. Even the Beatles had a more responsive reaction to their attempt to “overthrow” god, and they weren’t even trying. Melodically, it’s awesome. It starts as a slow piano song and it builds up bit by bit, becoming a full-fledged Jethro Tull song. Its length only reflects its awesomeness, it has a great guitar solo, an awesome flute solo, and that’s without mentioning the bridge. Oh my god, the bridge is awesome. I don’t have the slightest idea of how it was made: I don’t know what they did for that. It’s sounds as a real church choral singing, kind of like a Gregorian chant, and god, fucking god, it works awesomely. Dare I say it, it’s one my favorite songs out of the album, and should be listened by all people who have a relationship with any upper being. Definitely a must hear.

8th track: “Hymn 43” – This song is long, but honestly, it was one of the songs that never really did anything for me. Melodically, it’s a try to be gospel hymn, but it’s not exactly that good. There’s no intro, the song just starts out of nowhere, which is kind of cool, trying to be kind of the 43th hymn played, not only one song played out of nowhere. The lyrics are more of a direct jab to the Christians, so I get why it didn’t flew up for me that well… after My God which is a jab to all religions, a more direct jab to a smaller part of religion is something that didn’t impress me. Yeah, I like polemical songs, even more if they go hand in hand with my beliefs.

9th track: “Slipstream” – Again, another song just like Wond’ring Aloud, together with the creepy ending. This one is even less remarkable. Frankly, I think this album is going downhill from here. The signs show it. The creativity is gone, the best songs are over… it’s time to just turn off the record, you know? After all, there are only two measly songs left, they can’t be the best songs out of the entire album, can they?

10th track: “Locomotive Breath” – This song is the second best song of Jethro Tull’s career. The song starts with beautiful piano, playing it discretely until it reaches a crescendo that helped by a sax and a guitar turns the song into a rock and roll anthem for the ages. This song can’t be forgotten. This song rule houses. I believe this song shines a black shadow upon the mechanization of the work force, but I’m not really sure. It may be also the lust of mankind to always get better things in a way that it can’t be stopped down. Under heavier scrutinized view, you can see that what can really slow down is time itself. It’s mainly, IMO, about a guy who really seen his life that he worked so much to be on the tracks going to the shitter, and there was no way to slow down. No way to slow down. No way to slow down! It also mentions the bible, but honestly… I don’t care. This song is awesome without that.

11th track: “Wind Up” – The review is over. This song is my all-time favorite Jethro Tull song. Check the link and see it for yourself. It’s their best song ever, and there’s not much I can talk about it. See for yourself. The piano rules, the vocals are great, the guitar solo is inspired, the drums are excellent, the lyrics are awesome… The song is so perfect that I find it strange that people still try achieving any level of glory. This song is just completely great. The lyrics are about a boy finding more about his religious beliefs after going to church school.

What will follow is my personal experience with this song in particular. This song is about a kid who was taught is whole life about religion and was sent to a religious school (most likely a catholic school) and in midst of the classes realized that they got the whole idea wrong. And well… that’s the story of my life, kind of. You see, I come from a catholic family. Not so much as I’m not baptized, my parents believed I should have a say in that department, but my father’s family is hardcore Catholics. And I was raised mostly believing in God, in some things out of the bible, eternal life, soul, heaven and hell, that sort of thing. But after so many religious classes, I realized “Christians got the whole damn thing all wrong”! They follow this guy that is personification of love, while believing that he made a place for eternal punishment. A guy that existed previous to churches in general, while at the same time demands you to go to a praise place every Sunday morning. People that believe in the bible literally, while it should be seen as a fairy tale, combined with his morals, be it good or bad. Jesus came to prove a point: to prove that it’s bad for a giant group of people to have the same beliefs without questioning it, and what does people do? Start a giant group with beliefs and not questioning them.

So, how does it all hold up? This album is just perfect. If you find it being sold somewhere, do yourself a favor and listen to it. It’s one of the best albums ever and inspires you to cross mountains. Maybe your experience may differ, but trust me, even if you hate the album, the emotional response will be an inspired one. I don’t think it’s a love or hate album, it’s just a love or love album. It’s a master piece of the seventies, a decade where attempting at a masterpiece was something everyone was doing. It stood the test of time and honestly, this is one of those albums that I won’t carry to the grave: I hope someone will listen to it and keep it for himself. One of the best albums produced by mankind, definitely a must check.

This is JotaKa, celebrating number 40 with style and signing off.

“In the beginning Man created God: and in the image of Man created he him.

2. And Man gave unto God a multitude of names, that he might be Lord over all the earth when it was suited to man.

3. And on the seven millionth day Man rested and did lean heavily on his God and saw that it was good.

4. And Man formed Aqualung on the dust of the ground, and a host of others likened unto his kind.

5. And these lesser men Man did cast into the void. And some were burned; and some were put apart from their kind.

6. And Man became the God that he had created and with his miracles did rule over all the earth.

7. But as all these things did come to pass, the Spirit that did cause man to create his God lived on within all men: even withing Aqualung.

8. And man saw it not.

9. Bur for Christ’s sake he’d better start looking.”

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