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11 March 1972
JETHRO'S HOLLOW THREAT
One of the most disillusioning experiences of my musical life occurred when I saw Jethro Tull for the second time. It was three weeks after the first time, when Iíd enjoyed them a lot — they were musically strong, and lan Anderson had a fine stage presence, cracking lots of little comments and asides. I took it for a clever spontaneous performance.
Then I saw them again, and everything was exactly the same — practically every note of the music (bar the goofs) and all the jokes and asides. I can't help feeling that someone who has his ad-libs rehearsed that carefully needs watching a little carefully, and Iíve been a little wary of Jethro Tull ever since, especially when I found successive albums breaking little new ground, and doing little more than refining down and adjusting slightly a concept stated on the first album. Ian Anderson has borrowed and created his own cliches, and stays with them — even on this new album.
Apart from him, the band is completely changed from the first record, and thereís no doubt that itís good — but limited, I think, by the Tull format. Martin Barre and John Evan especially come through with some fine playing, but they donít really break any new or particularly exciting ground; they get so far and seem to hit an undefined but quite recognisable wall of Policy. I get the feeling that the band is being used as an effects box, as sidemen to a central idea that isn't really strong enough to justify its role.
That central idea is Ian Anderson's new monster work Thick As A Brick, a long, related sequence of songs which reflects a bitter, cynical view of the world around him and the people who run it — businessmen, the Church, schools ... you know the things. That obviously is a vast over-simplification of the work, but I think Ian Anderson too is guilty of over-simplification — somehow Thick As A Brick sounds to me like a bit of an empty gesture, a hollow threat.
There's nothing in there that hasn't been said before — though he does put it quite well — and I don't find much in there to jolt me, to catch my imagination. Maybe these things need saying over and over again, but does it really need a whole album to say it? I think not, but doubtless thousands will disagree.
Advert for the new album included in this issue.
Note: this appears to be the stinging review to which IA replied with the song 'Only Solitaire' (composed circa August 1972), echoing the above complaint that "every night his act's the same." The Official Lyric book also identifies 'Steve' as Steve Peacock. This wasn't the only bad press from Sounds, either: see the following review of the stage show.