Review Summary: One of the better releases of Anderson paying a reverent homage to the original masterpiece.
“Thick As A Brick 2”, subtitled “Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock?”, is the fifth studio solo album of Ian Anderson and was released in 2012. The line up on the album is Ian Anderson, Florian Opahle, John O’Hara, Pete Judge, David Goodier, Ryan O’Donnell and Scott Hammond.
Forty years have passed since “Thick As A Brick” was released, and as most of you can remember, when the album was released it was involved in some controversy. The album was a collaboration between the band and an eight year old child, who wrote a complex poem that talks about the challenges of to get old, for a contest, about a fictional kid (Gerard “Little Milton” Bostock). In that time, and even today, many believed that Gerald Bostock was a real person. The child was disqualified because the judges considered that the poem, had little moral, and talked about the sexual life of father and son and the problems of their relationship. So, the judges preferred give the prize to a twelve year old girl, who wrote a simple essay about the Christian ethical values entitled, “He Died To Save The Little Children”.
According to Anderson, when he was thinking, forty years later, about the original concept of the album “Thick As A Brick”, he thought: “I wonder what the eight year old Gerald Bostock would be doing today? Would the fabled newspaper still exist, even today?” It was in this context that appears “Thick As A Brick 2”. So, the album is focused on Gerald Bostock, the fictional boy genius author of the original album. It presents five divergent hypothetical life stories for him, including a greedy investment banker, a homosexual homeless man, a soldier in the Afghan war, a sanctimonious evangelist preacher and a most ordinary man who runs a corner store. By the end of the album, all the five possibilities of live seem to converge in a similar concluding moment of gloomy of pitiful solitude.
So, and as its name indicates, “Thick As A Brick 2” is a sequel of the original Jethro Tull’s classic album of the 70’s. However and despite this is really true, the two albums are conceptually quite different. The lyrics on the first album didn’t explicitly refer to Gerald Bostock. To understand who the boy was you’d have to have read the article on the front cover of the fake newspaper, as well as all the other articles inside referring to him. This time, the album is no longer a fictional poem, but Anderson thinking in what becomes Bostock forty years later. The lyrics are quite topical and much more direct than the first edition, which was more esoteric. Musically, the original album had only one solid piece of music spit across the two sides of the vinyl disc. This time, we have music spit into seventeen tracks, despite we have a few segues here and there. Lovers of long tracks may became a little bit disappointed, but the relaxing of the concept along with the decision to keep the tracks short ensures that the album doesn’t sounds the least bit contrived.
It’s also important to be said that Anderson and his fellow musicians delivered a finest progressive piece of music with this release. Certain musical themes taken from the original album make this second part very recognizable, but you never get the idea that the music sounds outdated. A modern approach and new recording facilities prevent you from listening to a 70’s album. The flute playing of Anderson has always been his trademark and also this time it’s prominent in the music. Maybe he doesn’t sing as good as forty years ago, but the way he sings nowadays actually suits the music quite well. Compared to almost of the albums of Jethro Tull recorded after “Crest Of A Knave”, the music has much more progressive rock elements. For instance, outstanding keyboard and electric guitar parts can be enjoyed throughout the album. Just like the first part of “Thick As A Brick” the music sounds as if it’s only one solid piece.
Conclusion: I became very apprehensive when I knew about the existence of this album. It was very risky to make a sequel of a cult and charismatic album such is “Thick As A Brick”, which is also one of my favourite prog albums ever. Luckily, my deeper unpleasant fears prove to be unjustified. Anderson made a great job hear. Inevitably, comparisons will be made with the first edition of “Thick As A Brick”, recorded forty years ago. Personally I think that this sequel has to be judged on its own merits. It’s a very valuable successor of the first one and a wonderful addition to the already extensive JethroTull’s collection. But, what made Anderson release “Thick As A Brick 2”? I think that are two main reasons. First, his great love for music and his consciousness about the importance of “Thick As A Brick”. Second, there is the philosophical existential question, which many of us have done for so many times. What would happen to me if I had followed another path in my life? Who would I be today? Of course, there aren’t answers for these questions. However, I think I’m able to answer to one question. What would happen to progressive music if Anderson had followed another path? Surely, the progressive world was poorer, today. So, god bless you Ian, for you are what you are.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)