Review Summary: Doesn't approach the quality of the original but still a worthy chapter in the annals of Gerald Bostock.
When Jethro Tull released 'Thick as a Brick' in 1972 it was presented as a parody of the progressive rock genre and its prediliction for bombastic concept albums. Notwithstanding this tongue in cheek approach it has become one of the essential progressive recordings of all time. At the beginning of 2012 Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson announced that there was to be a sequel entitled 'TAAB2: Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock?' which would continue the story of the fictional 8-year old boy whose poetry inspired the original album. According to Anderson it would be 'a full length Progressive Rock concept album worthy of its predecessor. Boy to man and beyond, it looks at what might have befallen the child poet Gerald Bostock in later life. Or, perhaps, any of us.'
Obviously the first thing of note with respect to this sequel is that it is not a Jethro Tull album. Although the mercurial Ian Anderson was, and always will be, the heart and soul of the band none of the other members of Tull perform on this release. While that may leave some people lamenting the absence of Martin Barre on guitar Florian Opahle, who has performed with Greg Lake in the past, does an admirable job of filling his shoes such that for all intents and purposes this might as well be a Jethro Tull album. After all, Anderson was always the primary songwriter and his unmistakeable voice, acoustic guitar and contributions on the flute always dominated their sound.
TAAB 2 explores what may have happened to Gerald Bostock forty years on from his first appearance. This takes the form of five diverging parallel life stories which converge to a mutual conclusion. The music includes passages which repeat some of the musical themes on the original, as in 'Old School Song' which explores one of Gerald's possible lives as a naive young soldier introduced to the battlefields of the Middle East 'from playing fields to killing fields: just one small step of madness'. Anderson's voice pretty much packed up as far as its higher register is concerned back in the 80's but he still has a pleasing velvety undertone to his delivery and introduces some of the songs with poetry delivered in his usual whimsical music hall style. 'Power And Spirit' tracks another possible past for young Gerald as a sanctimonious preacher and leads into the far too brief 'Give Till It Hurts' which features an infectious acoustic guitar melody recalling the classic Tull of old. As mentioned previously each of the possible life stories for our hero seem to end with a common theme. Unfortunately for Gerald it is a theme of tragedy and solitude. 'Kismet in Suburbia' acts as a recap of the separate possible strands of his life as a businessman, a priest, a soldier and an ordinary soul who runs a corner shop all culminating with 'Gerald the homeless' as his life falls apart. Anderson ties things up nicely with a wistful look over the shoulder at the possible pasts in all of our lives on 'What - Ifs, Maybes And Might - Have - Beens'.
This album doesn't really approach the classic 'Thick as a Brick' neither in boldness nor inventiveness. There is however a pleasing traditional feel to the whole affair which has been aided by the fact that Anderson chose to record the album using the same set of instruments that were present on the original. The melodies are quite transient and indeed some of the more memorable pieces of music are far too short but Anderson has done an admirable job in capturing some of the essence of the first installment in the life of Gerald Bostock. Highly recommended to any prog-folk fans out there.