Jethro Tull – A Passion Play Review

Posted: September 3, 2011 by kingcrimsonprog in Music Reviews, Prog, Prog Studio

Jethro Tull - A Passion Play

Jethro Tull - A Passion Play

A Passion Play is one of those real `love it or hate it’ albums that can get really bitter critiques and really impassioned defenses at the same time. The record is essentially a very long and interesting song, a song about death and the afterlife from several different perspectives with a mixture of humor, clever observation and inventive lyrics.

This was the band’s sixth studio album and had the unenviable task of following up the pair of unstoppable classic albums Aqualung and Thick As A Brick. Historically the album has not only been seen as inferior to both, but altogether as a step too far. It can be seen as too pretentious, overambitious and the sound of a band disappearing up their own backsides. If you have ever disliked an album because it was too pretentious, then stay away!

I am in the camp that sees it as a masterpiece. The album is a bastion of superb musicianship, powerful creativity and features some of singer Ian Anderson’s finest ever vocal performances. The piece is split into two tracks, into four movements, into sixteen sections. Some CD versions will let you skip between the sixteen individual sections while some will feature only the two tracks to replicate the two sides of the original vinyl. There are recurring themes, from funereal piano sections, to the hard rock riffs of `Critique Oblique,’ and `The Memory Bank,’ to the ghostly twinkling of `Forest Dance’ and `Life Beats.’

The standard of musicianship, performance and complexity is unmatched by anything else in the bands career except the similarly structured Thick As A Brick record (possibly the best album of all time) and this is a record you can really fall deeply in love with, absorbing every little nuance and detail.

The album expands even further if you listen to their next album `War Child’ and their `Night Cap’ collection, which shows all the various directions the band could have taken with the material they had written at the time (possibly making a film like Pink Floyd’s The Wall), the inclusion of many now omitted Animal themes etc.

Overall; The idea of one, incredibly dense, heavy and solo filled song may seem a little too intimidating and the inclusion of sax parts may not fit with your ideal vision of the Tull sound. If not, this may not be the album for you. If however you like the heavier parts of the Tull sound and are up for a challenging but rewarding grower of an album that unveils more and more creativity with each listen, then pick up a copy of A Passion Play.

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