Sound: Thick as a Brick is Jethro Tull's fifth studio album, released the year after their famous album Aqualung. Aqualung was considered by many people to be a work of progressive rock, or a concept album. Band leader Ian Anderson (main composer, lyricist, vocalist, acoustic guitarist, and flautist), however, disagreed with these claims. He decided to show the public a "real" concept album. The result was the album Thick as a Brick.
The album is just over forty minutes long, and consists of one track. That's right, this album only has one song. The song, Thick as a Brick, is split into two parts because it was unable to fit on only one side. Now before you brush this off as a lame attempt to be a progressive rock song, give it a listen. I was skeptical at first, and to be honest it became one of (if not) my favourite albums - er, songs - of all time. It was created to somewhat make fun of other prog bands, but the result is amazing in almost every way, and although its forty minutes long, it changes enough to always keep you interested and on your feet.
If you're familiar with Jethro Tull's other work, this stuff isn't too different. Somewhat a folk rock sound at times with lots of flute, and at others a hard rock band with some intese electric guitar solos. This time around there's a lot of keyboards as well, just to give it that proggy sound. The song starts off pretty soft, but if that's not your style don't let it turn you off. A few minutes later you're going to be bombarded by crazy electric guitar solos and intense beats.
Right away you're going to notice how tight this band is. You get the feeling that they know each others styles perfectly and have been playing together for ages. It's rare to hear a band this tight, and the result is a sound that's fantastic. The balance is perfect, there wasn't a single time where an instrument was too loud or another was too quiet.
The song, joking about progressive rock, is understandably full of time, dynamic, key, and genre changes. Although this sounds like it would be overwhelming, it really changes seamlessly from one thing to another, making it enjoyable to listen to, rather than giving you a headache.
The actually playing of instruments on this album is no less impressive than the rest of it. Ian Anderson's flute playing is instrumental to the band and is fantastic. It doesn't end up sounding like a crappy soft pop rock band, but actually fits great into hard rock settings as well. His acoustic guitar play is also great, his work with chords and arpreggios is pretty wicked. Martin Barre's electric guitar playing is also superb. His solos are powerful and impressive, and the rest of his playing is just as great. John Evan's keys playing is important to the sound of the band, and fits in perfectly without overdoing it and taking the focus away from the rest of the band. There's also some pretty amazing keyboard solos. Jeffrey Hammond's bass playing is also great: audible, and also pretty intense. Barriemore Barlow makes his first appearance to the band here, and his playing is nothing less than spectacular. FINALLY, David Palmer's arranging of the brass and string parts that appear is also great.
In conclusion, this album is a masterpiece. It is not anything less than one of the best progressive albums, or any album for that matter, to ever have been created. Although at the start of the second half of the album there's a bit too much of bringing back earlier parts, that's the only flaw I can think of, and it's not even really a flaw. There isn't a single other thing I can complain about. I would go as far as calling this album perfect. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics contain a fairly simple message, but also many underlying meanings that might not be outwordly apparent. Generally, the lyrics are critizing society and humanity in general. They are also about how children are brought up being told "do this" or "don't do that", and how society corrupts children and limits them, forcing them to grow up before they're ready. I could go on and on about the different themes in this song, but a lot of it is really up to your own interpretation. Overall, fantastic lyrics, often seeming very light with an underlying dark message. Interesting to read, and even better to listen to.
Lead vocals are performed by Ian Anderson, and are actually terrific. Personally there have been times where Ian Anderson's voice has annoyed me, but during this album I actually quite enjoyed his vocals. Edgy when they need to be, and perfectly normal when they need to be. This is definitely my favourite vocal performance by Ian, he does a great job. // 10
Overall Impression: It is very rare that I will ever give any band on any album a perfect 10-10-10 score anymore, and this is the only time I've done it where I feel that it deserves it completely. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to this album only to hear something new I didn't pick up on, and I've yet to become bored with it unlike most really long songs I know. Ian Anderson said "I will give you the mother of all concept albums." and I don't think he let down one bit. I know that it sounds like I'm exaggerating, and maybe upon hearing it you won't like it as much as I did, but it is an amazing album. It's accessible to those of you who aren't as interested in prog, yet deep and complex enough to satisfy the biggest proghead. It's heavy and loud, soft and quiet, and everything in between. This album is in my mind, without a doubt, perfect. // 10