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21 May 1971
There was a time when Jethro Tull could do no wrong. They were novel and a good name to slip in when referring to 'progressive Bands'. They made music which was both creative and entertaining, and were dominated by a lead singer who also played the flute and, on stage, wore an old overcoat, perpetually raised one leg in the air like a giant, hairy, lame hen, and made dry, amusing, irreverent announcements between numbers. And they became very very popular.
And then there came a time when they could do nothing right. They had become sterile, they were just a backing group for Ian Anderson whose songs were tedious and sterotyped, they were only interested in making money, they had sold out to the States, the frolics had taken over from the music.
And as if to redress the balance again, along comes 'Aqualung' which will probably be very successful for them and also maintains high aesthetic standards. One side is called 'Aqualung', although only a couple of songs seem to relate in any way to the old man in question, and the other 'My God', although only the first two and last tracks emphasise the distortions and illusions which surround the contemporary pantomime of religion, and the fact that Anderson's God "is not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays".
The instrumental work has considerable strength and symmetry, with Anderson playing rather more acoustic guitar than flute, though what remains retains its distinctive qualities. 'Aqualung' is undoubtedly the most perfectly rounded track, making skilful use of climaxes, menacing when he himself appears to be, with sympathy conveyed through subtle shifts of work, voice and tempo. It includes an exceptional and savoury guitar solo from Martin Barre who also cuts across 'Cross Eyed Mary' and 'My God' with a choice sense of drama to complement the commendable lyrics. Elsewhere — 'Cheap Day Return', 'Mother Goose', 'Wondering Aloud' — there is the indication Anderson may have been listening to too much Paul Simon, often employing the same tone, phrasing and elements ... you'll see what I mean.
Nevertheless 'Acqualung' [sic] is a striking, honest and compassionate piece of work which deserves most, if not all, of the attention it will receive. I still have a few reservations, but they probably won't last another listen .....