Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#691 in the Series) is Ian Anderson’s, Thick as a Brick2 (aka TAAB2)
The question certainly could be fairly posed as to whether I am a suitable person to review this most recent outing from Ian Anderson (notably not Jethro Tull, a point itself worth addressing given the original’s importance to the band’s 44-year history). I say this for a reason. All of the following would be true of me: A fan of the band since 1970, and an out-and-out fanatic since one night in 1972 after viewing their staggering performance of the original in Chicago, an individual who, until cutting back to maybe three in the past six years has seen any tour of Ian Anderson, be it with Tull or one of his solo ventures between one and four times between the years of 1972 and 2007 (usually annual affairs). In addition, I am a participant in three Tull web sites, and three times visited the Isle of Skye in the early and mid-eighties where he ran a salmon farm called Strathaird successfully and in 1983 having my half-hour interference in the man’s life as he worked on salmon nets. But trust me, I can be objective, I believe I even yawned in his presence, definitely lower case fanatic.
Using that objectivity, I believe I can make this point…forcefully. The following summations can be made of this effort from Anderson. At 64, 40 years past the original, it is marked by most as being one of the prime examples of the years sometimes known as progressive rock most usually bookended by 1969 thru 1974. The first observation is, if you are one who never has been a fan of the man’s work, I would not think there is anything new here to dissuade you.
However, if you are one of millions who may not be particularly aware of his work in the past 30 or so years, (I am amongst that smaller percentage of Tull fans who would mark those 30 years as containing some of their best output), or have been put off by the marked changes in Ian Anderson’s voice over the past 30 years, herein is an effort that seems to be bringing old fans back into the fold while continuing to generate people in the audience 45 to 50 years Anderson’s junior.
To set the table as to how an album so closely linked with Jethro Tull could come out under Ian Anderson’s name has been a surprise to many, most usually those for whom Tull may have been a favorite many many years ago, but may be less aware of their doings recently or even that they yet exist and always have.
Probably since about 2002, between 30 and 40 percent of Ian Anderson’s live performances, which still must be well over 100 per year all over the globe, have been with a five piece with a little more emphasis on the acoustic and more esoteric, and seldom or never played, articles in the catalogue. Therein, the individuals playing on the new record have deep experience playing with Ian Anderson. Two of them, bassist David Goodier and keyboardist John O’Hara have also been in Jethro Tull for about six years, and the other two, drummer Scott Hammond is the new boy in the Ian Band at two or three years, and guitarist Florian Ophale, if memory serves now in his eighth year in Ian’s side projects.
But, understandably I suppose, folks see the title and decide for themselves, no, this is a Jethro Tull record, which begs the question of where is the man who has held down the guitar position in Tull for all but their first 8 months, Martin Barre?
Well, the simple answer is, it’s not Jethro Tull. But such as I know of the facts, Ian did offer this project to Martin first, apparently to limited interest. Ian encouraged him to explore his own avenues in this time period, which Martin is doing to great effect with his band A New Day with intent of the reconvening of normal Tull operations in 2014, if everyone sees that year still above ground! Sorry to be morbid, but simply not a given by this stage of life.
Thick as a Brick 2 concerns the alleged writer of the first Thick as a Brick, a nine year old schoolboy named Gerald Bostock, and just what may have befallen him in the forty years now past.
Anderson’s vivid imagination take us through a list of possible guises for Gerald including that of a loan shark, financier, homeless person, priest, evangelist, corner shop operator, military man, with musical references to the first Brick at four or five intervals.
I would list standout tracks, but truly front to back I do not think it is stretching my assessment (after ten listens or so) to mark this of a magnitude standing right alongside the original as the greatest creations in the entire catalogue. But I can mark those tracks that are likely to have more instant appeal, and A Change of Horses likely heads that list, a piece that has been in both the Ian Anderson Band and Jethro Tull repertoires for about 3 years. It was originally conceived as an instrumental called “Celtic Cradle,” dating to Tull’s last tour of India which happened right during the attacks on Mumbai when they were performing alongside Anoushka Shankar’s ensemble, so it was conceived with her and hers in mind. Others of more instant appeal include “Banker Bets Banker Wins,” and two back to back, “Old School Song” and “Wooten Bassett Town” that many are marking as a classic antiwar statements but I am quite certain they are missing the mark. Ian Anderson’s gift for wordplay and drama though is very evident as I believe he tries to describe that lure for many, say post-911, of “gung ho lets go take it to the bastards” to the deafeningly sad reality of a young life slowly dying long from home under Allah’s skies with no God or loved ones to comfort him, and ending in the stately processions of the funeral hearses through the English town of Royal Wooten Bassett with people from all walks of life lining the processional route “crying other people’s tears.”
The UK leg of this tour began a couple of weeks ago, to quite sparkling reviews, very like the original tour which remains 40 years on the single finest night of entertainment I have ever witnessed. Both of the albums are being performed in their entirety, with no encore. Those familiar with Anderson’s vocal difficulties in recent decades may be interested to know of a young stage actor taking on about a third of the singing roles. Ryan O Donnell is his name, he appears somewhat more sparsely on Thick as a Brick 2 but his inclusion is crucial for those several notes at the higher end that Anderson can no longer reach, particularly in the first Thick as a Brick. Also included is some of the singular stageplay and humor evidenced in the first Brick, an odd guest or two.
– Raymond Brettman
All songs written and composed by Ian Anderson.
- “From a Pebble Thrown” 3:05
- “Medley: Pebbles Instrumental / Might-Have-Beens” 4:21
- “Medley: Upper Sixth Loan Shark / Banker Bets, Banker Wins” 5:41
- “Swing It Far” 3:28
- “Adrift and Dumbfounded” 4:25
- “Old School Song” 3:07
- “Wootton Bassett Town” 3:44
- “Medley: Power and Spirit / Give Till It Hurts” 3:11
- “Medley: Cosy Corner / Shunt and Shuffle” 3:37
- “A Change of Horses” 8:04
- “Confessional” 3:09
- “Kismet in Suburbia” 4:17
- “What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens” 3:36
- Ian Anderson -Composer, Flute, Guitar, Vocals
- David Goodier -Glockenspiel, Guitar (Bass)
- Scott Hammond – Drums, Percussion
- Pete Judge -Flugelhorn, Horn. Trumpet
- John O’Hara -Keyboards, Organ, Piano
- Ryan O’Donnell – Vocals
- Florian Opahle - Guitar
- Official Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson Website
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Here’s the Official Trailer
Check out Ian interviewing Ian below.
Here’s the album in it’s entirety
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