Review Summary: Jethro Tull wrote an extremely ambitious and unique album... and it worked astonishingly well!
At the end of the 60s, the Psychedelic wave that had hit it was showing the earliest signs of changing. It would not disappear, however, and would instead manifest itself into a genre both remarkably similar and completely different; Progressive Rock. This genre was new and exciting, taking the expert musicianship and mysticism and expanding on them in a much more structured manner. The genre gave rise to many new bands, each of which was completely unique and moulded the genre in different, interesting ways. Perhaps the most interesting of these was Jethro Tull, and perhaps their most interesting album was Thick as a Brick.
Thick as a Brick was the first song to span an entire album, reaching a previously unheard-of time of 43:46. This album would have seemed impossible to many of the other bands of the time; the song would get boring, or they would run out of ideas, or they would just not be up to the task. Not Jethro Tull. They took on the task, and produced what I believe to be the best concept album of the 70s. Supposedly written by 8 year old 'Little Milton', the album centres mainly around the difficulties and pleasantries of growing up, but was also written as a satirical take of all the other progressive rock albums being written at the time, as Ian Anderson dismissed them as 'pretentious' and 'obnoxious'.
The album starts with some soft acoustic guitar playing, then joined by Ian Anderson's fantastically fitting voice, and some flute playing. The band then joins, and this continues for a few minutes, until we see the rock side of the band join in, with an Aqualung-esque beat with a more complex guitar and bass riff and some wind instruments for good measure. We see lots of solo play between the guitarist and the organist, but each instrumentalist shines in the first half of the album, and there are multiple variations in the tune, keeping you captivated throughout the entire half.
This captivation is maintained throughout the second half as well, as the parts segue perfectly into each other, again blending their folky backgrounds with their later rock, and their newly discovered progressive sound creating the unique mixture the era thrived on. We see a reprise of the Aqualung-esque riff, followed by an incredible drum solo by Barriemore Barlow. This is followed by a long break, then some more excellent folky moments, before launching into the emotional finale of the song. This is the verse that really deals with the morals of the song, in a brilliantly worded and expertly played flurry. Afterwards, we see a reprise or two of some earlier points of the song, before being left with how the album started, and finally being left with the lines that are the namesake of the album 'and your wise men don't know how it feels to be Thick as a Brick'.
Overall, Jethro Tull have delivered what they promised in an interview all those years ago; the mother of all concept albums. And they did so with such style, and such prowess, that you can't help but be left reeling by it. Definitely one for the ages.