There are so many great characters and their fantastical realms in the world of the arts. Each are so memorable, and lovable, like Macbeth, a jolly fellow who becomes the ruler of his country through his good deeds, but the malice, and evil of his fellowmen prove to be his downfall. Or Lennie Small, a slow-witted man that proves that there is a place in society for men of his mental handicap with hard work, and determination. On the musical side of spectrum, there are many striking characters, Johnny B Goode, a rock star who dreams of a simpler life in the country, or Ziggy Stardust, a Martian who travels to Earth to show peace and love through clean living, and getting high off Jesus. But the most memorable has to be Aqualung, a homeless alcoholic with pedophilia. No, I'm serious.
Okay, maybe Aqualung isn't so lovable, but his song and of the same name album certainly deserve some love. Perhaps not from Pope Benny anytime soon, but there will be love nevertheless. The common misconception is that Aqualung
is a concept album, either because the booze hound hobo Aqualung is also mentioned in Cross-Eyed Mary
, or because side 2 is mostly an amalgam of all of Ian Anderson's sceptical, vicious views on organized religion. Despite the accumulation of religion hating on side 2, lead singer, songwriter and iconic flutist Ian Anderson has always maintained that they're "just a bunch of songs." Ironically, the Tull's next album would be Thick as a Brick
, the first LP to be one continual song, and, surprise, is
a concept album. This was a result of Ian Anderson's love-hate relationship with the critics, who were the ones who branded it as a concept album. Despite this, it was much love, and little hate for Aqualung
Another misconception, from ones who've never heard it, is that Aqualung
is one of those crazy classic progressive albums. Of course it's not, it's not even a concept album! It can't be pigeonholed into just a classic rock album either, it's somewhere in the middle. There are plenty of hard hitting riffs from Martin Barre, the most famous being Aqualung
, an ominous one dipping the album immediately into a dark mood. But, like the album itself, the song goes through a melodic acoustic and piano lulls, then picking itself up again. None of the songs follow a structure, but Anderson's finely crafted melodies based on a mixture hard rock and folk maintain a familiar mood throughout each song. While earlier Jethro Tull was based on more traditional blues, here it's gritty, in a strange relationship with the gentle folk.
All the grittiness aside, the base of the songs is almost always just an acoustic guitar and a piano, like their other works of the surrounding time. It even sounds somewhat old fashioned, I kept expecting to hear a synthesizer or ridiculous amounts of percussion at some point, but the album stays true to its signature Jethro Tull sound. Despite the "wimpy" instruments being the base of Jethro Tull's musical pyramid, Aqualung
is packed with energy. The apex of the energy is of course when Anderson whips out his firm, noodling rod and begins to fiddle about with it, emitting shrill bursts of energy in the passion of his touching... Uh, you know, the flute solos... They're short and somewhat unexpected, peeping in for a second like in the epic My God
. Amidst the intensity of the song, a mixture of the distorted guitars and John Evans' booming piano, Anderson's flute pokes in and out, until finally the music comes to a halt and finally shines in a solo backed by Gregorian-like chants. Unlike Jethro Tull's other flute-oriented songs, the instrument's performance is less based on melody and more on sheer vigour.
Going through musically moody, dark songs, or the short solely acoustic ones, serving like interludes, and not focusing on the subjects of social outcasts or religious orders, Aqualung
is neither a conventional, "classic" rock, or a conventional progressive rock one. Whichever anyone would want to classify it, it's in its own category of Jethro Tull's unique socially-charged fusion of folk, progressive, hard/blues rock. Maybe it's because everyone makes fun of Ian Anderson's flute that it gets misunderstood. They just wish theirs' was as big as his...