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I had the great good fortune of seeing Jethro Tull live when they were doing the original Aqualung tour - they were hardly known at the time - and as great as the album is, their performance was even more electrifying. It was at Madison Square Garden and I was up front, a few feet from the performers.
As the show started the house lights went down and the stage went black. Silence. Long pause. Then, hobbling out of the blackness a single spotlight caught Anderson dressed extravagantly like the old man on the album cover, bent over and leaning on his flute, which he used as a cane. Leering maliciously, slowly creeping up front, he finally stopped, silently grinning out at the house as the audience howled with delight. Then he threw his flute straight up, high, and the spotlight went up with the flute, shining and sparkling as it twisted its way up and then down, the only thing visible in the darkness.
When the flute came back down it was met by Anderson's upraised hand, and at the instant he clutched it all the stage lights came up and the band struck the thunderous opening notes of the album. And it got better and better and better as the show went on, Anderson leaping and snarling and playing flute at the same time, a truly athletic performance. Whew! I can still see it.
If you've somehow denied yourself owning this remarkable work of art and music, get it now! I wish you many hours of enjoyment listening to this treasure.
In part, that's because it was misdescribed. No sooner was it released than the rock press started hailing it as a "concept album" (prompting Ian Anderson to go to work on the surreal and Pythonesque _Thick as a Brick_ so as to give everybody, tongue firmly in cheek, a _real_ "concept album").
"Concept albums" are frowned on these days (although I like them just fine); nevertheless this isn't one of them. Sure, there's a lot of thematic unity; the first half ("album side") involves homelessness and lechery, and the second Anderson's reflections on the religious upbringing of his adolescence. But a "concept album"? Not really.
But it does reflect a critical stage in the development of Jethro Tull. Bassist Glenn Cornick had just departed and been replaced by Anderson's boyhood friend Jeffrey Hammond; as of the next album (TaaB) Barrie Barlow would replace Clive Bunker on drums and percussion. And crucially, two things were happening on this album that would affect Tull's direction for the remainder of its still-ongoing career: Anderson was developing both his songwriting and his acoustic guitar chops, and Martin Barre was successfully finding his "voice" as a guitarist.
It's something of a cliche among Tull fans that Anderson's songwriting had taken a darker, more cynical turn as of _Benefit_ (the album preceding this one). Well, on _Aqualung_ that bitter fruit is really starting to ripen. There's the title track, of course, for which Anderson credits the lyrics to his first wife Jennie (he lifted many of them from her notes on the back sides of her photographs of homeless people). There's "Cross-Eyed Mary".Read more ›
The first "side" of the album, entitled "Aqualung" after the first and title track, offers nothing overt other than the idea of dismissing organized religion as "salvation à la mode and a cup of tea." However, the second side, "My God," makes its argument in earnest from the opening verse: "People - what have you done/locked Him in His golden cage/Made Him bend to your religion/Him resurrected from the grave." The Church of England is explicitly condemned for having supplanted the authenticity of the Christian religion with plastic crucifixes. "Hymn 43" continues this line of argument by suggesting that: "If Jesus saves - well, He'd better save Himself from the gory glory seekers who use His name in death." "Slipstream" offers a metaphorical look at sinners trying to save themselves at the last moment: "And you press on God's waiter your last dime/as he hands you the bill." That "Slipstream" comes right before "Locomotive Breath" makes sense when you look at the latter's lyrics in light of the former.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
cds pretty much same as 40th anniversary ed. two extra tracks. listened to album on first dvd very good just not sure if it was worth buyingPublished 14 hours ago by philip a smith
I feel like I need to start out with that I am a huge Steven Wilson fan, both of his own work, and of his remix work that he has done for Jethro Tull, Yes, XTC, etc. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Bruce Dawson
Shocking set of songs for the time they were released in. Themes range from homelessness to atheism. Folksy, rocking and gutsy; Aqualung is a deservedly classic album. Read more
Back in the tenement fog of Monday the 31st of October 2011 – I got terribly excited about the 2CD variant of the '40th Anniversary' Reissue of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung". Read morePublished 7 days ago by Mark Barry
Glorious Multi-Channel Masterpiece with the magic touch of Steven Wilson! This is the one I have been waiting for. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Growler Bob
Had this on cassette years ago - having grown up with many of their albums. I still consider this to be one of their best!Published 9 days ago by Scott Grove
I still remember one night as a teen a song came on my digital clock radio
that was of a kind of English folk style, and yet had echoes of what was to
be known as hard... Read more
It stands the test of time. If possible, Mr. Ian Anderson sounds even better now that I am older!Published 1 month ago by dianety
many songs that haven't been heard by me for years.entire album plays well and is better than i rememberedPublished 1 month ago by elheffe52