Review Summary: "This is the story of a hare who lost his spectacles!"
“Who is Michael Corleone?”Almost any connoisseur of film will instantly say that he is the principle character of The Godfather Trilogy
, beginning as an innocent civilian, ignorant of his family’s “business”, but eventually rising to power and becoming a ruthless crime boss. “Who is Fredo Corleone?” Now this question is a bit more difficult, but far from impossible. He’s Michael’s brother, never very important, always in his superior’s shadow, and frequently quite a nuisance, but rather entertaining and competent. Jethro Tull’s album, A Passion Play
, greatly resembles Fredo, as it sits in the shadow of it’s younger, better brother, Thick As A Brick
, and is frequently overlooked, even by fans of the band, despite being a very enjoyable listen.
A Passion Play
, like Thick As A Brick
, is an ambitious work consisting of one forty minute-long song. Like the title suggests, this work indeed resembles a passion play, depicting death, ascension to heaven, and reincarnation, with a frivolous interlude separating two halves of the work. The lyrics are, as is to be expected of Ian Anderson, are impossibly overblown and theatrical, but, surprisingly, rarely come across as being overly pretentious.
Soft acoustic guitars, playful pianos, jovial keyboards, frantic flutes, and passionate vocals intertwine intricately throughout A Passionate Play
, playing some of Jethro Tull’s prettiest melodies. Ian and his merry minstrels choose to make the tone a bit more gloomy and dark (while still maintaining their typical lightheartedness), but aside from this, the songwriting remains largely unchanged. And yet, none of it is quite as potent or enthralling as albums like Thick As A Brick
or Songs From The Wood
. Frankly, the catchy parts aren’t as catchy as the former, and the beautiful bits aren’t as beautiful as the latter.
A Passion Play’s
biggest fault, although, is how unfocused it can be. Occasionally, the music descends into meandering, directionless drivel, which seems entirely superfluous. Long, drawn-out, uneventful segments with no purpose and few interesting melodies lie among lush flute solos and tender singing.
A Passion Play
comes incredibly close to becoming tedious, but one thing alone saves it from this fate: The Story Of A Hare Who Lost His Spectacles
. This brief interlude splits the composition into two halves and provides a light, carefree break that gives the listener some time to relax. Without this short intermission, the mammoth album would become an overwhelming affair that would only tire the listener. As it stands, although, not only does this small tale make A Passion Play
more manageable, but it is also one of Jethro Tull’s most comic moments. Jeffry Hammond-Hammond and his pompous accent narrate this aimless yarn, emphasizing every other word (except for the ones that should be emphasized). Overly grandiose orchestral arrangements accompany a simple tale of hares, owls, and newts, causing the whole affair to be so overelaborate that it becomes impossibly amusing.
Despite being almost overly overwhelming and frequently aimless, A Passion Play
certainly deserves the attention that it oh-so-rarely gets. Fans of progressive rock should give this at least one listen, if only to hear the Bee say (of the hare’s spectacles) "You probably ate them thinking they were a carrot."