Thursday, January 24, 2008

No. 337: Aqualung

Band: Jethro Tull
Album: Aqualung
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: An almost concept album (side one is six character sketches, side two is an anti-religion tome), the band's fourth album is Tull's career highlight. It wasn't the full figure of Tull's progressive situation, but it certainly had the seeds of it. Ian Anderson's voice is gritty, tough and convincing while the band is tight and complex. All in all, a simple equation: Hard guitars + flute solos = awesome.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Save for Pink Floyd, there isn't a lot of love for progressive rock on the list, so I'd suggest that this album should be higher.
Best song: "Aqualung" doesn't have a bad song on it. As for best, let's say... "Up to Me?" "Cross-Eyed Mary?" "Locomotive Breath?" "Hymn 43?" "My God?" Any of them, really.
Worst song: "Wond'ring Aloud" is a little soft, but still amazing.
Is it awesome?: Yes, yes, yes yes.

Let's go with a list here:

  • The song "Aqualung" is about a transient, possibly a free spirit, written mostly out of Ian Anderson's guilt about homelessness. Anderson and his wife had seen a homeless man and Anderson concocted a character sketch, eventually putting it onto paper. Of course, the man on the exceedingly creepy album cover is, in fact, supposed to be said man. The actual aqualung was an underwater breathing device and the character is nicknamed as such because he has a breathing problem.

  • The album's second side -- "My God" through "Wind Up" -- are a string of songs conceptually connected by the idea that "God" had been corrupted by man. Each song is interesting in its own way; Certainly "My God" with its heretical lyric ("And the graven image you-know-who/with His plastic crucifix/he's got him fixed") is amazing.

  • To my father: No, Jethro Tull is not a person. It's a band.

  • It goes without saying that the folk/prog combination is quite interesting and the band's signature. The flute solos in many of the songs are the distinctive aspect of the band.

  • "Locomotive Breath" was recorded almost entirely through overdubs because Anderson couldn't explain the song properly to the rest of the band. Since then, of course, the song has become a live staple of the band.

  • For about a year, this was one of, maybe, five albums I listened to. I spent all of my senior year digging on Tull. This album still holds a place in my heart because of this period.


kellydwyer said...

Apparently my Dad's friend Charlie (and, to a lesser extent, my Dad) used to go to Tull shows dressed like the Tull. I guess there was a uniform: boots and fur and old-timey weirdness.

kellydwyer said...

Oh, and I like "Stand-Up" and "Benefit" better than this (awesome) album.

I do have to thank Jethro Tull for their role in making sure I grew up in a secular household.

fft said...

This one is like Meatloaf for me, and maybe like Steely Dan for you. I have never met a Jethro Tull fan.

Anonymous said...

Jethro Tull invented the seed-drill, (the person, not the band!) :)