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Jethro Tull

Aqualung

Review by Gary Hill

If you’ve only ever owned one album by Jethro Tull, the odds are this is it. It’s one of those all time classic discs. The thing is, over the years I’ve come to realize that as classic as a lot of this stuff is, there are people out there who grew up beyond it and have never really heard it. This review is for them – and those of you who have forgotten this a long time ago.

Certainly, unless you’ve lived under a rock you have probably heard at least a couple songs off of this. The truth is, this album might be less progressive rock oriented than some Tull. It rocks out more consistently than a lot of the band’s catalog. There’s an interesting lyrical concept that comes across the whole disc and there are some musical themes that show up here and there along the ride, too. This is really a great CD and holds up really well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Aqualung

The familiar hard rock riff leads this off and we’re on our way with a crunchy jam. Certainly this is one of those songs that just about everyone reading this have heard. It drops back to a mellower section and this might not be the most proggy thing we’ve ever heard from Tull, but as they build it back up there is definite prog rock in the midst. The fast paced, but more melodic jam that takes it after this is great, too. This song (and indeed the whole album) has established itself as a real classic and despite the oversaturation still holds up quite well. There is a killer guitar solo later in the piece. It drops back beyond that to another balladic take before powering back out into the song proper.

Cross-Eyed Mary
Flute starts off and leads this into a cool prog rock jam. They take it out from there into a harder edged jam and I swear there’s a bit of “Day Tripper” in the music to this song. This is a more proggy cut than the opener. It’s also a great piece of music. They take us through a number of cool changes and alterations in this great journey.
Cheap Day Return
Here we get a balladic number based on guitar and voice. At less than a minute and a half in length, this is a short interlude. 
Mother Goose
The mode is not all that different from the last track, except some other instruments are added to the mix. This is a more energized tune and it’s quite catchy. It gets fairly involved as it carries forward, though. There is still a definite 1960’s styled folk rock texture to a lot of this. 
Wond'ring Aloud
Here we get another track that’s based on what is essentially a ballad approach. This gets quite involved and is one of the more purely prog rock journeys here. It’s also got a healthy dosage of 1960’s sounds. It’s another that clocks in at less than two minutes in length.
Up to Me
Starting with soundbites that make me think of Pink Floyd, this moves out to a hard rock chord progression (in fact this is essentially the same riff as “Locomotive Breath” which comes later) this is played in a fairly mellow motif. It’s got a folky nature to it, yet still rocks out. They work through several killer segments and this is a less obvious highlight of the disc. 
My God
I’m sure the lyrics to this one don’t sit well with a lot of religious people, but I think that they should really listen to them and think about the state of “religion” versus the love of God. This is a powerful track. It starts with a piano based balladic arrangement but screams out in a crunch guitar driven section later. This has always been a favorite of mine and it holds up every bit as well today. There are some intense musical moments and while this is perhaps less diverse than some other Tull music it’s every bit as poignant. We get a cool flute solo, too. They take it through a few alterations and variations on the central theme. At over seven minutes in length this is the longest cut on show. 
Hymn 43
We find that “Locomotive Breath” riff here, as well. It’s a chugging little guitar bit that’s alternated with a gospel kind of jam. There’s also a cool rock and roll bit that reminds me a bit of The Beatles or George Harrison solo. This is another where the lyrics might give pause to some especially religious folks. 
Slipstream
Less than a minute and a half in length, this is a sedate little folk oriented ballad. It’s a good track and gets a bit involved with a rather symphonic arrangement. 
Locomotive Breath
And here’s that riff we heard in a couple songs before in all its glory. A piano based jam sets the tone and after a while this powers out into some serious rock. This is another song that’s been all over the radio at times. We get an extremely tasty flute solo on this piece. 
Wind Up
This has always been another of my favorite cuts on the CD. It starts off with a mellow, rather folky jam. This holds it for a while, but after a time they power out into a crunchy hard rocking prog jam.
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