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1 April 1972
TULL EXPOSE THE WORKS
There was a due sense of occasion at the Royal Albert Hall when Jethro Tull played their monsterpiece Thick As A Brick last Tuesday [21 March]. It was a full house, which is a tribute to the pulling power of a band which by now must rate pretty highly on the credit side of Britain's balance of payments.
So it is with some sorrow and a little trepidation that I have to report that Jethro bored me rigid. From Ian Anderson's opening chords on acoustic guitar, a black cloud of depression lowered itself over the press box and did not lift until the end of the Thick As A Brick set, over an hour later.
A quiet and restrained American gentleman, not noted for extreme or unfair judgements, shook his head doubtfully and muttered, "Very weird music"; a brash blonde lady exclaimed, less tactfully, "Utter crap!"; but from the floor and from the vast circular gallery above, the audience rose to its feet to cheer as one man.
Even Ian Anderson himself, who must find standing ovations a bit old hat by now, was moved to a little speech as the applause finally died away through the sprouting mushrooms of the Albert's lofty dome:
"This is the only country where we could do a new piece like this straight off. In America they would jump all over us."
Now jump all over Jethro I don't want to do. It's pretty pointless when a lot of people have had a lot of fun. An Albert Hall-full of fans can't be wrong. I suspect that the audience loved them for the very same things I found excruciating: the precision of all the instrumental work, the control over light and shade in the texture of the music, the smartly-rehearsed ad-libbing and the slapstick gags, above all Ian Anderson's jabbering flute and prancing antics.
I admired the perfectly-drilled changes when the band suddenly swoops from one section to the next, admired Barriemore Barlow's relentlessly-paced drumming, Martin Barre's gutsy guitar work, John Evan's swelling, churchy organ piece. I marvelled at Ian Anderson's agility and the curious warbly sounds he conjured from the flute, raised a faint smile for the routine with the telephone, frowned at the rather tasteless parody of a television news bulletin (with the lightest of hearts, Vietnam still isn't funny).
No, the real give-away happened when Martin Barre [Jeffrey Hammond in fact - ABJ] stepped forward to the mike to make another announcement-link, and described exactly how Tull were going to reach the next "final orgasmic conclusion". Sorry mate, but the joke's on you; if you want to show everyone exactly how the music is put together, either you're guilty of demystification or of cynicism. You can't go around exposing how the machine works.
That's what Tull came across as — a music machine, well-oiled and in perfect working order. The original inspiration — impossible to deny that it's there — has been gradually drained away in the search to perfect the show, just as happened to Townshend's 'Tommy'. And the heaviest criticism is that, with all the perfectly-rehearsed different sections, Thick As A Brick ended up sounding all alike.
Note #1: this issue also contained the following reader's letter, in response to Steve Peacock's previous LP review ....
It may have all been said before,
And now Tull add their sum,
But truly the flaunting peacock,
With its hundred eyes
Can but see through none.
(Sam the Milkman, Kirkwall, Orkney Isles)
Jeffrey's speech referred to in the above review ran as follows:
"Ian is playing a rhythmic link sequence consisting of alternating bars of C minor suspended 4th and F Major. This very quiet and pleasant interlude preceeds an entry by John's organ which then unites with the guitar to provide a textural overlay rich in percussive counter-rhythms. Young Gerald Bostock's poem is then taken up once more, sung of course by Mr. Anderson, and then after a further ten bars the guitarist, the drummer, and I myself blend and aspire towards eager participation in anticipation of the orgasmic sensation to follow."