Keeping The Blues Alive

Making A Genre-Defining Album By Accident

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Jethro Tull were so much more than just a progressive rock band. Yes, they are obviously musicians first and foremost, but they are also poets, story-tellers, and fantastic performers. The lead singer and main songwriter, Ian Anderson, was one of the first rock musicians to introduce the flute into his music. Behind powerful rock riffs and explosive energy, you would normally hear a guitar solo as the main feature. However, with Jethro Tull, you hear the flute in a very unique, and probably unintended way. Ian Anderson shows his technical prowess on the instrument and also shouts into the instrument, creating amazingly crazy sounds while dancing around the stage in a way that reminds me of a magical musical wizard.

Out of their many years of touring and recording, Jethro Tull released an impressive 21 studio albums. They started more as a blues-rock and folk band and steadily were placed into the “progressive rock” genre. One of their greatest albums Thick As A Brick not only musically mind-blowing but was conceptually brilliant and powerful. The album was approached as a continuing story, or “a single forty-four-minute piece.” In this way, the album felt like one moving part that told a complete story instead of individual segmented tunes. To the masses, the album was focused on “a fictional schoolboy named Gerald Bostock who submitted a poem to the ‘Thick as a Brick’ contest,” which was a play on British humor. However, like many other albums of the era, this one had a deeper, and hidden story.

Even though the album was greatly hailed as a beginning guide to progressive rock music, and is still highly regarded today, the band claims that it was a spoof album. “Thick As a Brick” was “gently lampooning the prog-rock genre,” but as lead singer Ian Anderson states: “parodies are sort of comedic masks for things that are quite serious.” This goes to show that people love crazy fantasy journeys, even in music. So, ironically, Anderson wanted to “poke fun at progressive rock as a whole” and ended up creating the album that helped to “pave the way for modern progressive rock.” Prog Magazine listed the album at 5 in “The 100 Greatest Prog Albums of all Time,” Rolling Stone listed it at 7 in their “Top 50 Prog Albums of All time,” and Geddy Lee of Rush listed it as one of his favorite albums. Thick As a Brick was even certified Gold in 1972 and was number one on Billboard’s 200 List for two weeks in a row.

By any account, this is purely a great album from the music and story it told, to the packaging and the influence it had on the music world. So there you have it, one of the greatest rock bands created one of the greatest albums in a genre they didn’t feel they belonged in and even joked about.

 

Patrick Ortiz

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