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Jethro Tull

A Passion Play

Review by Gary Hill

I don't think anyone will argue with me if I say that A Passion Play is Jethro Tull's most ambitions and prog rock based album. It is essentially one long song that was done in two parts to fit across the two sides of a vinyl record. That said, it is also divided into various movements. This is unique and often challenging music. Still, it does have sections that feel like trademark Tull. This has a pretty steep learning curve, but it's worth the effort to get to know it.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
A Passion Play, part I
This comes in very sedate and builds upward with some trippy elements and effects. That gives way to a fast-paced and prog-based jam. There are definitely some of the trademark Jethro Tull Celtic elements at play as this builds upward. It drops to music that has a classical bent for a nearly acapella vocal section. The music builds upward as Anderson's vocals continue. They work through a fairly trademark Tull movement before firing out into a killer prog jam from there. That instrumental movement gives way to another section that's more what you expect from the band. They continue to build and grow the tune as it continues. There is a rather chamber music like section that features acoustic guitar soloing. Organ and other elements bring more of the rock angle to it, but the Spanish guitar sound is intriguing. That eventually gives way to a new movement that has plenty of trademark Tull elements at play. The vocal sections are punctuated by bursts of prog jamming. There is some killer jamming further down the road that is both trademark Tull and almost fusion-like. It twists to some stuff that makes me think of Frank Zappa for a short time. The song keeps twisting and turning. There are parts that are more standard Tull and others that are much more purely prog. A piano movement takes over later. The cut builds outward again from there. I dig the almost Tangerine Dream like movement that comes out from there.
A Passion Play, part II
A rather screamed part begins this movement. Then a playful bit of music that has a lot of classical concept to it serves as the backdrop for a spoken story reading that feels like a child's story. That section continues to evolve, but eventually gives way to more of a prog jam after the four-and-a-half-minute mark. More standard Tull sounds eventually take over. I love the jazzy jam that emerges later. It really brings some intriguing melodies and grooves to this thing. Some killer prog stuff takes over from there as the extended instrumental section continues. The song continues to evolve with different movements taking command. It gets into more purely Tull-like zones at times, but there is still a healthy helping of the prog angles. This has some particularly cool movements. There is a rather abrupt shift toward a cool rocking jam later that really explodes into some proggy zones before settling back into more standard Tull sounds. Powerhouse prog jamming that takes on some traditional and unusual Tull textures emerges later. A crescendo gives way to a piano and voice movement near the ending. Weird jamming rises up and seems ready to burst forth with a jazzy abandon, but instead it fades down the end the album.

 

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