Thick as a Brick 2 [CD/DVD] by Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) (CD, Apr-2012, Chrysalis Records)

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Thick as a Brick 2: Forty Years in the waiting!

Jul 11, 2012
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Thick as a Brick 2 is completely worthy as a sequel, forty years later.

Cons:Why isn't Martin on this CD?

The Bottom Line: 400,000 hours have come and gone since the original Thick as a Brick, and TAAB 2 is totally worthy as a sequel.


Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson’s Thick as a Brick 2: Forty Years in the waiting!

By

James Paul Zaworski

I am an avid Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson fan, and have been since I first heard my older siblings playing “Benefit” when I was five years old.  Also deeply embedded in my musical memory is the forty-five minute, adventurous, “concept album” titled “Thick as a Brick”.  That forty-five minute song has remained not only as one of my favorite Jethro Tull songs, but as one of my favorite albums overall (as well as a single “song”, as it were).

Thick as a Brick was a progressive rock parody of the concept album, which was then quite a new thing being experimented with by a variety of rock and progressive rock bands.  Both musically and lyrically ambitious, Thick as a Brick tells the story of a certain Gerald Bostock, a twelve year old boy, and his life and adventures.  The music is progressive rock fused with elements of jazz and classical music, and is full of thematic changes throughout.  It is, at times, like a party or a circus, and is really smashing.

Forty years later, Ian Anderson (the front man of Jethro Tull, the one who is virtually indistinguishable to most), has put out the “sequel”, or follow up recording to the original masterpiece.  Why do a sequel/follow up to Thick as a Brick after such a long time? Apparently, Ian Anderson met with Gentle Giant’s Derek Shulman, who suggested the sequel.  Reluctant at first, Mr. Anderson eventually agreed, and Thick as a Brick 2 is the result.

What follows is a personnel list, a track list, and review of the highlights of each “song” (or group of songs) on this CD, and an appraisal of the follow up, as compared with the original contained herein. 
Please note well, Ian Anderson is the only member of Jethro Tull who is on this CD.

Personnel:

Ian Anderson – vocals, flute, acoustic guitarDavid Goodier – bass guitar, glockenspielScott Hammond – drums, percussionFlorian Opahle – electric guitarJohn O'Hara – Hammond organ, piano, keyboardsPete Judge – trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor horn, E-flat tubaRyan O'Donnell – additional vocals

Track List:

1. "From a Pebble Thrown"                                    3:05
2. "Medley: Pebbles Instrumental / Might-Have-Beens"                      4:21
3. "Medley: Upper Sixth Loan Shark /              Banker Bets, Banker Wins"                          5:41
4. "Swing It Far"                                                  3:28
5. "Adrift and Dumbfounded"                                      4:25
6. "Old School Song"                                                  3:07
7. "Wootton Bassett Town"                                      3:44
8. "Medley: Power and Spirit / Give Till It Hurts"   3:11
9. "Medley: Cosy Corner / Shunt and Shuffle"              3:37
10. "A Change of Horses"   8:03
11. "Confessional"   3:09
12. "Kismet in Suburbia"   4:17
13. "What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens"   3:36

Total length:53:45

Review/Highlights.

1. From a Pebble Thrown.  

From the beginning track, we are brought right back to the beginning of side 2 of Thick as a Brick, with the slow tempo, “da, dad um”….repeated again and again.  And very much like that part, we get some progressive rock instrumental introduction and yes, changes.  Ian Anderson’s acoustic guitar and singing, at once familiar and comforting, but voice has changed somewhat over the years, and we are on our merry Tull way.
Both the lyrics and music are very much Ian Anderson of late combined with the Jethro Tull of old.  There is at once, continuity and change.  Ian’s flute playing has become more “pure” over the years, and much more proficient.  He is now a virtuoso flute player, and among the best in the world and recognized as such.

2. Medley: Pebbles Thrown/Might Have Beens.

The instrumentals are poignant, touching, and at times, ambitious.  They are also much less raw, as compared with the original Thick as a Brick.  The addition of an accordion brings in something new and interesting.  The guitar work is very good, but not as moving as Martin Barre’s playing of old.  One wonders why Martin, good dickey old chum to Ian, and on every Jethro Tull recording since his inception, was not asked to perform on this recording.

This one ends with a poem titled “Might Have Beens”.  Ian here, contemplates the “what ifs, maybes and might have beens, why nots, perhaps and wait and sees”.  

3. Medley: Upper Sixth Loan Sharks/Banker Bets.

The third track is very much in the style of Ian Anderson’s solo projects, and much less reminiscent of the Jethro Tull of Thick as a Brick.  This one reminds me strongly of “Rupi’s Dance”, and would be very fitting on that CD rather than TAAB 2 (Thick as a Brick 2).  

With that said, it’s a decent track, and has elements of Tull: flute, Anderson’s voice, and the like.  The music is less ambitious than the first two tracks.

4. Swing it Far.

Another poem brings us into this song, and it seems, a change in theme.  TAAB 2 is organized into “sections”, which seem to chronicle different possible futures for good old Gerald Bostock.  This change marks another possibility.  Swing it Far is full of changes, and is much more ambitious and energetic than the previous third of the first section.  It goes from mild and mellow to some good old Tull rock with some good singing by Ian and harmonies by background vocalists, and some of the irreverent British humor (Monty Pythonesque) in the lyrics: “…if you don’t like it, right up yours!”

5. Adrift and Dumfounded.

This is the meat and potatoes of this section, and has some of the best Tull-like music, a bit harder edged and soft edged at the same time.  The electric guitar player shows off a bit here, is very polished and clean and almost sounds like Martin, but doesn’t quite attain Martin’s harmonic distortion on the electric.  Ian, of course, gives the soft edge with his superb acoustic guitar and flute playing, and his singing is top notch on this one.  It is also very well written, this piece, both musically and lyrically.  This track is one of my favorites on TAAB 2.  “He’s our little man, adrift and dumfounded, head on heart, pillow waiting for sleep”.

6. Old School Song.

Here we go, right into the “march” from Thick as a Brick!  This one really jams, and melds so well with the original and Ian’s new sophisticated sound.  This is another of my favorites on TAAB 2.  I love the refrain:  “Wrapped in the old school song, we fly our colors high/bravo!/the old school song/harsh reality, by and by”.

7. Wootton Town Bassett.

This one rounds out this section, and is full of endings and conclusions.  It is less ambitious than the previous two, less exciting, and much more reflective.  It’s still good.

8. Medley: Power and Spirit/Give ‘Til it Hurts.

We mark a whole new section, one that chronicles yet another possibility for Gerald.This section, and this song, has a bit of a cynical perversion about the lyrics and is pointed towards the hypocrisy of organized religion.  It has some good observations on not just the current economic situation in the world and everything that has happened since the first Thick as a Brick.  Cool.

9. Medley: Cosy Corner / Shunt and Shuffle

This one is a bit like a poem sent to the music of a marching band, and wholly different than the music or songs previously presented.  It is reminiscent at times of Ian’s solo album tracks, at least the introduction.  He mentions “locomotive breath” in the introduction poem, Cosy Corner.
Shunt and Shuffle is more fun, and throws in elements of the “old Tull”, and one can imagine Ian as the “one legged pop flautist” of old.  Good stuff.

10. A Change of Horses.

And onto my favorite track on TAAB 2, A Change of Horses.  This one is so Tull, and really sets a fantastic mood from the beginning with Ian’s flute.  It is mysterious and dark,And full of both wonderful lyrics and singing, and really good Tull music.  It’s an 8-minute track, and is the longest one of the CD.  I especially love the lyrics: “….it’s way past 2 AM, I feel the lateness in the hour, and I’m 50 long years from home…….it’s time to chart new courses, and head for safer houses; no more empty towers of this unholy Babylon; some 400,000 hours have come and gone”.  Ian proves himself just as much, if not more, of a wordsmith as in the days of old.

11. Confessional.

A poem accompanied by harpsichord sets the stage for this song.  Again, it hearkens back to the song Adrift and Dumfounded, and has elements that remind me of Tull’s Passion Play album (another concept album, by the way).  It’s contemporary:  “packed in boxes sold on ebay….sold on ebay”.

12. Kismet in Suburbia

Tull is back in this track.  More exciting than the previous track, this song is more hard edged and rocks out rather well.  Well-written and full of changes, syncopation and counterpoint, I like this song second only to Change of Horses on TAAB 2.

13. What ifs Maybes and Might Have Beens

The last track on TAAB 2 resembles a combination of the third track and the first track on this CD.  But, I especially like the ending, that repeats the original Thick as a Brick lyrics: “So, you ride yourself over the fields, and you make all your animal deals, and your wise men don’t know how it feels, to be thick as a brick (two)”. It’s nostalgic and a nice ending.

So, does Thick as a Brick 2 live up to expectations after 40 years?  My answer is a resounding ‘yes’!  Is it the same?  No.  After all, it has been 40 years, and Ian Anderson has matured from a young to an  old man, complete with the wisdom and progressive advancement that maturity should bring.  This is reflected in all aspects of his musicianship, his composing, and his playing.  Does he retain the irreverent sense of humor, the creativity, and the sarcasm and cynicism of early Tull? Yes and no.  He has mellowed a bit, as one would expect, with age and wisdom.

I am completely satisfied with Thick as a Brick 2, and the only thing that I would like to see added would be Martin Barre playing alongside with compadre Ian.  

I am satisfied with the price I paid for this CD, and actually bought it as a digital MP3 download from Amazon.com  

There are two versions available, a USA and a UK version, as well as a deluxe version that has a DVD about the making of TAAB 2.

If you are a Jethro Tull fan, a fan of Ian Anderson, progressive rock music and just general good music overall, Thick as a Brick 2 is for you.
Ian Anderson is on tour this year not only supporting this CD, but is also performing the original Thick as a Brick album in its entirety on stage, which is something that has never been done before.

References.

jtull dot com


Recommend this product? Yes

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