Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972)

It always seems somewhat bizarre that “Thick As A Brick” is regarded as one of the quintessential Prog Rock concept albums, when in fact it is without doubt a mocking parody of the whole genre. Band leader Ian Anderson had flatly denied that the bands previous offering, “Aqualung”, was as many music critics cited, a complex concept album. Anderson always stated the album was just a “Bunch of songs”, and this may have influenced his writing for the mix of Rock and Folk set to a single poem that runs throughout the album. The story of the poet who wrote “Thick As A Brick” is entertainingly printed on the superb 12 page spoof newspaper that forms the cover of the original vinyl record. The album and cover vividly creates the character Gerald Bostock, or “Little Milton”, a schoolboy who possesses an astonishing ability to write intense, dark prose about the trials of growing up. Frankly, the poem makes very little sense, but that’s not the point or indeed the strength of “Thick As A Brick”.

What lies at the heart and remains the undeniable dynamic of the album is the astonishing studied “tight” sound of the band as they seamlessly drift from one musical timepiece to the next. Their effortless time signal changes are largely symphonic, as they switch from standard 4/4, to 5/4 and 6/4 time, and yet still manage to maintain an ability to exhilarate the listener by creating a wholly unique and an incredibly compelling experience. At the heart of the music is a gentle folk acoustic Guitar passage that opens the album and reappears at various intervals throughout, interrupted only by powerful Rock crescendos that highlight the outstanding musicianship of the band and ultimately makes for one of the best albums of its time. Fans agreed, and the album would reach number 1 in the U.S. album charts.

Ian Anderson and his band took the concept album a stage further than anyone of their time. Far from settling on producing just a comedic surrogate of the genre, they created a wholly unique identity and for that “Thick As A Brick” remains one of the greatest collections of both outstanding musicianship and utmost musical creativity.

9/10

A Thick as a Brick (Part 1) 22:45
B Thick as a Brick (Part 2) 21:05

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