Jethro Tull
A Passion Play


4.5
superb

Review

by e210013 USER (76 Reviews)
November 21st, 2016 | 50 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A Passion Play remains as one of the best albums of Jethro Tull. However, it’s often seen as a shadow of Thick As A Brick.

“A Passion Play” is the sixth studio album of Jethro Tull and was released in 1973. The line up on the album is Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evan, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and Barriemore Barlow.


Pleased with the critical and commercial success of his previous megaproject, Ian tried to keep up the music of Jethro Tull’s next musical project even further than the previous one. Perhaps it will not be an exaggeration to call “A Passion Play” the most bombastic musical project of Jethro Tull ever. It took a lot of gall, ambition, and pretence, not to mention, of course, hard work and trained musicianship, to fulfil it. And yet, it was partially a failure in terms of popularity. Well, except one sense, of course, the album reached number one in the United States, just like its predecessor. The critics hated it. “A Passion Play” was the album that definitely defined Jethro Tull in the world. From now on, rock music listeners became segregated with their music. Some are fanatically dedicated, hardcore Jethro Tull followers and other refused to listen to the band any longer. From now on, except for a few surprisingly accessible albums, the Jethro Tull legacy is definitely an acquired taste, an acquired taste especially for all progressive rock fans.

“A Passion Play” is another conceptual album of Jethro Tull. The story is about a man’s spiritual journey in the afterlife and is narrated by their bass player, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond. It does represent a young man who’s died and gone to hell, and it supposedly deals with problems of life, death, regeneration, life in the other world. “A Passion Play” takes us away from the lovingly British interplay between the medieval and the modern on the previous album and plunges us into the esoteric deeps of Anderson’s “metaphysical vision”, a much more dark and complex vision, indeed.

Like its predecessor “Thick As A Brick”, “A Passion Play” has only one long track split across both sides on the vinyl LP version. However and unlike with “Thick As A Brick”, this album is interrupted on the end of the side one, by the reading of a strange but funny tale, “The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles”. Unfortunately, the album had to be interrupted in the middle, as with “Thick As A Brick”. It was a shame, but as all we know, in those times of the vinyl music, the records were unable to store more information than 30 to 35 minutes, on each side of the disc.

“A Passion Play” like “Thick As A Brick”, is another very ambitious album. Lyrically, as it title suggests, it seems to be a truly passion played, depicting death, ascension to heaven and reincarnation. The lyrics are, as is to be expected of Anderson, impossible, excessive and theatrical, but surprisingly, rarely come across as being too pretentious. Musically, we can listen on it soft acoustic guitars, playful pianos, jovial keyboards, frantic flutes and the usual passionate vocal work by Anderson. Here we have some of the Jethro Tull’s greatest melodies ever made by them. Anderson and his band mates chosen to make the tone a bit more gloomy and dark, while still maintaining their typical light heartedness, but behind this, the song writing remains largely unchanged. The instrumentation is pretty diverse, of course, maybe even more diverse than on “Thick As A Brick”, with more reliance on synthesizers. Perhaps also Ian must have been listening to a lot of Van Der Graaf Generator’s albums lately, so he brought in some saxophones and played them himself. The use of the saxophones on the album, somehow replaced a bit the usual and traditional sound of his flute on the album. However and fortunately, the flute does stand out and remains great as always, though.

Finally, some words about “The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles”. As I said before, the piece was broken up in the middle by the childish fairytale “The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles” in an attempt to make a more soft broken in the lengthy album storyline and an attempt to bring some humour to the album too. It’s a nice story narrated with a very funny English accent. Jeffrey’s pompous accent is absolutely wonderful, emphasizing each word on the story.


Conclusion: “A Passion Play” is a great album and remains as one of the best works from the band. It’s much darker than “Thick As A Brick” and is one of the most progressive albums of them. It’s, musically and lyrically one of the most eclectic albums that progressive rock has ever produced. However, it has been view as a shadow of “Thick As A Brick” and considered a clone of it. I completely disagree. It surely doesn’t deserve that. “A Passion Play” certainly deserves the properly attention of all fans of the progressive rock world by its own merits and not to be a copy of their previous album. This is a very mature album displaying some very delicious progressive moments. For those wanting to hear Jethro Tull at their most progressive, this is one of the best albums to get, a real must. “A Passion Play” is a chock full of excellent musicianship and in thirty years on, it still manages to intrigue delightfully, “artsy and pretentious”.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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"This is the story of a hare who lost his spectacles!"...



Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Let's finally return to one of my favourite prog bands with one of my favourite albums from them.

Your comments are welcome as usual.



Divaman
November 21st 2016


1583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I'm a huge Tull fan, but much like my reaction to Yes' "Tales of Topographic Oceans", "A Passion Play" was just a bridge too far for me. While there are parts of it that are beautiful, I just don't find that it works as a whole. Good job of making a case for it, though. Always glad to see Tull get some love.

Digging: Neil Cavanagh - City of the Sun, Valley of the Moon

e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, Divaman.

As you can guess, I disagree in relation to this album and with "Tales From Topographic Oceans", too. If you have time and patience, you can read what I think about it, too, because it was one of my first reviews here on Sputnikmusic. However, I can understand what you mean about both albums. Perhaps too much ambitions in both cases. Anyway and as you know, both albums are a case of love or hate. There is no other way of seying them, I think. And in my case I love both.

TwigTW
November 21st 2016


2852 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I can't believe I've never listened to this album--gonna fix that today.

Digging: Exquirla - Para Quienes An Viven

e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great man. I'm very happy that somehow I'm responsible for that. Do it Twig. Then, tell me what you think about it. However, I can tell you that this is a little bit a controversial album.

Cheers.

TwigTW
November 21st 2016


2852 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah, I see Divaman's comparison to "Tales of Topographic Oceans." Not my favorite, but I will keep an open mind.

e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah. Many say that this is a clone of "Thick As A Brick".

smaugman
November 21st 2016


4476 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's stranger than taab, not as much sing along

e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I agree.

Friday13th
November 21st 2016


6161 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I successfully forced myself to love Tales, but this one is still a bit iffy. TAAB is obviously the greatest album, so it's odd that TAAB's younger sibling is so distant. Prog is more appealing to me in the winter though, so maybe I'll change my mind with the next jam! haha

Digging: George Russell - Ezz-thetics

Divaman
November 21st 2016


1583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I don't know about hate -- that's too strong a word. There are parts of both "Passion Play" and "Topographic Oceans" that I like, but I just find each of them to be too much of a good thing. I know that each has always had fans who absolutely love them, though, so it's all a matter of taste. I think maybe I'm a little too ADHD for both of them, heh heh.

e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice Friday. Maybe you can try even much harder, in the next jam. Ah, Ah, Ah.

e210013
November 21st 2016


1613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, Divaman, it's all a matter of taste. Good taste, of course. Ah, Ah, Ah.

Jethro42
November 21st 2016


15140 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm pretty sure that Tales is more easy to appreciate compared to A Passion Play. The latter may sound dissonant and compacted in places with all its start/stop patterns. The first disc is more enjoyable with great melodies and one can breathe more easily. Second side is more irregular. As for Tales, it's more easy to digest as a whole. Songs are both more spacey and more structured. Its only flaw is obviously the lenght of the songs. They have at least 5 minutes too long in each.

Review was well written, mate. Pos'd.



TwigTW
November 21st 2016


2852 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"I successfully forced myself to love Tales"



You have succeeded where I have failed. Although, goodness knows, I try. I drag it out every few years and listen again, but the more I listen the more I see how it could be edited down to a great Close To The Edge/Relayer type album.



--back to A Passion Play, This is more like music I listen to now than music I listened to then: no verse/chorus/verse song structure, little extensive soloing, and no outstanding riffs. I like it so far, although I am only on my first listen. I can see this is the type of album that takes a few listens to get your head around.



I was wrong about never hearing it at all. I know "Overseer Overture," so that surprised me--must have been on the greatest hits?

smaugman
November 21st 2016


4476 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

meh i never got to like tales. too long, too strange. got its pretty moments tho

bnelso55
November 21st 2016


1266 Comments


Pos for the review. Always happy to see Tull on the front page. Also, I have to agree with Jethro's thoughts. My greatest struggle with Tales is wading through the bloated passages that would have benefited from a little editing. It's well-structured and I don't find it too difficult to wrap my head around the music. Jethro Tull dipped in to some pretty challenging territory with this record, especially in its latter half. Overall, I feel like it asks more of me as a listener, even if it is not as lengthy as Tales.

OmairSh
November 21st 2016


14340 Comments


Ian Anderson is a genius

Jethro42
November 21st 2016


15140 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Twig, have you listened to Nightcap? The song might be on that release under a different title. Nightcap was the band’s original attempt at A Passion Play. CD 1 has lots of brillant, original tracks (all from the 70's) mixed with songs found into A Passion Play. e21, I suggest you to listen to that CD if you haven't already. CD 2 contains unreleased songs from 80's to the early 90's and is less interesting.

''Overall, I feel like it asks more of me as a listener''

I couldn't agree more, bnelso.

''Ian Anderson is a genius''

Yes Omair, since he's an exceptional lyricist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and a gifted showman.

OmairSh
November 21st 2016


14340 Comments


Saw him tour for TAAB2, and he still had as much energy as when he was in his 20s.



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