CD Review: Jethro Tull

(Rhino)
(Rhino)

Jethro Tull
A Passion Play: An Extended Performance
Chrysalis
by David Chiu

It would be too easy to say that Jethro Tull merely milked the success of 1972’s Thick as a Brick by doing another concept album of one long song broken into two record sides on the follow-up A Passion Play the following year. But that’s not the complete story, as this new reissue of A Passion Play – newly remixed by Steve Wilson – tells. In actuality, the Thick as a Brick lineup of the Ian Anderson-led band went to France’s Chateau d’Herouville to record Brick‘s follow-up as an album of different songs; however the studio environment proved to be a disaster and instead the band members aborted the recording sessions and returned home to record in their native UK. Those recordings from the Chateau – deemed as Tull’s lost album over the years– have finally seen the light of day on this special edition – fans will recognize two of the tracks from those sessions, “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day” and “Only Solitaire,” ending up on the War Child record.” The material from the Chateau seemed more straightforward compared to the eventual recording of the extravagant A Passion Play, which pretty much followed Brick’s playbook with its shifting time signatures, dazzling playing, and ornate production – the only difference being in that the concept on Passion dealt with the afterlife. The highlight of this over-the-top work is the whimsical segment “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles,” spoken by bassist Jeffrey Hammond. While this doesn’t rank as a classic among Tull’s earlier works – even the former band members today acknowledge its weaknesses, according to the liner notes – it still stands as an example of prog rock at its grandest and is a fascinating document the band’s then still at the height of its popularity. Along with the remixed version of the studio album and the Chateau sessions, the set also includes 2 DVDs containing the audio versions of the collected recordings as well as archival video footage for “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.”

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