“In the mid-seventies, during the wholesale slaughter of rock’s ‘dinosaurs,’ Tull provided an easy target. Everything they stood for was passé – extended solos, complex time signatures, jazz-styled improvisations” PR served up by “hairy prog-rock philosophers…[who managed] to incorporate flute solos” RS500 into FM-radio hits with “riff-heavy songs.” AMG However, in dismissing “dinosaur rock,” many critics overlooked the quality of the music.
In the case of Jethro Tull, they hit their peak with Aqualung, “an accomplished, intelligent, skillfully structured and eloquent collection of tunes.” PR The album was their “magnum opus and defining epic.” JD “The record was extremely profound…one of the most cerebral albums ever to reach millions of rock listeners.” AMG As one reviewer said of “captivating pied piper Ian Anderson” ZS and his “dour musings on faith and religion,” AMG, “He wants to make us think!” CRS
“Anderson insists to this day that it is not a concept album,” JD but each half seems devoted to one prevalent theme. “The first half is largely devoted to portraying the faces from the urban underground that most people never see: homeless men, prostitutes, assorted freaks and geeks. The flip side (these still being the days of vinyl albums) is a bitter, angry, and sustained attack on the hypocrisy of the Church of England, which gives such people false hope.” JD Specifically, the second half offered commentary on “how organized religion had restricted man’s relationship with God.” AMG
“Released at a time when a lot of bands were embracing pop-Christianity (à la Jesus Christ Superstar), Aqualung was a bold statement for a rock group, a pro-God antichurch tract that probably got lots of teenagers wrestling with these ideas for the first time in their lives.” AMG
“The title track (and arguably the vibe of the whole album) was inspired by Anderson’s first wife, Jennie, a photographer who’d been shooting images of destitute men living on the streets of London.” JD “The ‘poor old sod’ of the title cut is so-named because his labored breathing sounds like a scuba diver sucking from an oxygen tank (‘You snatch your rattling last breaths, with deep-sea-diver sounds/ And the flowers bloom like madness in the spring’).” JR “This one track encapsulates all of Jethro Tull’s musical variety and complexity in one handy package, intertwining three distinct parts: the nasty, hard-rock intro and exit powered by that monstrous, indelible guitar riff; the quiet, sympathetic acoustic interlude marked by Anderson’s distant, treated vocals, and the majestic, pseudo-orchestral build-up that links the other sections.” JD
“Like Led Zeppelin, …Jethro Tull had mastered the art of dramatic contrasts and swelling dynamics, shifting with seeming effortlessness from thunderous grandeur to quiet, folky introspection…The rollicking, undeniable classic-rock-radio staple Locomotive Breath, the vituperative Hymn 43, and the viciously grooving Cross-Eyed Mary are as close to heavy metal as Tull ever got (the band’s infamous 1988 Grammy for Crest of a Knave to the contrary).” JD
- one of the top 1000 albums of all time
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- Top 100 Classic Rock Albums
- one of the top 50 prog-rock albums of all time
- one of the top 100 albums of the 1970s
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB page for Aqualung
- DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry for Jethro Tull
- AMG All Music Guide review by Bruce Eder
- JD Jim DeRogatis, The Great Albums (11/18/01)
- CRS Tim Morse (1998). Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Rock Songs of All Time. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin.
- PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London. Page 141.
- RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
- ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY.