Ian Anderson Thick As A Brick 2- 2012
RMR Album Rating- 8
You really will “mind if you sit this one out”…
Thick As A Brick 2 is the follow up to Jethro Tull’s 1972 seminal concept album Thick As A Brick. The original is not only one of Tull’s finest works (which went to #1 on the US billboard charts), but it is also considered by many fans to be one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time.
Because of the massive success, illustrious history, and rabid fan following of the original album, it is a tremendous understatement to say that Thick As A Brick 2 has a lot to live up to, for it is an album that has 40-years of anticipation built into it, and for it to be considered a success, it would need to not only keep the spirit of the original album intact, but also present new ideas that are relevant in today’s musical climate—a climate that is much different than it was in 1972.
Personally, I didn’t think there was any way Thick As A Brick 2 would do the original justice, and I certainly didn’t think that it would have any relevance in today’s music scene, but I am ecstatic to admit that it exceeded my expectations on both fronts, in that it absolutely keeps the spirit of the original version alive, but it still somehow manages to sound completely fresh, innovative, and modern at the same time.
Although both albums share the same format and structure, in that they both flow as one continuous 40+ minute piece of music, the concepts of the two albums could not be more different. In the early 70’s, Ian Anderson thought that some progressive rock and concept albums were becoming overly pretentious, so he wrote the original Thick As A Brick album to somewhat mock the idea of concept albums and progressive rock, and he filled the album with loads of tongue-in-cheek lyrics and Monty-Python style humor. As part of the spoof, he even went as far to claim that an 8-year old fictions character named Gerald Bostock wrote the lyrics. Gerald does make a return on Thick As A Brick 2, but rather than being credited with the lyrics, Gerald takes on the role of the central character, and instead of the album being filled with tongue-and-cheek lyrics and humor, Ian Anderson maps out the different possibilities that Gerald’s life could have taken with very germane lyrics. The album’s concept chronicles what Gerald’s life would be like as an investment banker, a homeless man, a military man, an evangelist, and an ordinary modest man. On the surface, Anderson’s lyrics simply tell the story of Gerald’s life in each of these scenarios, but if you view the concept on a deeper level, you could make a case that the album actually has nothing to do with Gerald at all, once again making Gerald just a spoof, for the album could be interpreted as commentary on our most poignant social and political topics: wall street, the homeless, the military, and the middle class. This alternate concept might not have been by design, but because Anderson’s lyrics are typically open to interpretation, it is a fun alternative to think about. All in all, either way you choose to interpret the concept, Thick As A Brick 2 is conceptually engaging, and Anderson– as always, makes us think.
In addition to the lyrics, the music is also brilliant. The album rolls along with the same style of heavy folk rock that the original had, but it adds a modern touch. So, the spirit of the original is maintained, but it is certainly not plagiarized— with a few appropriate exceptions. “From A Pebble Thrown,” the opening section of this album, uses the same music that closed the first half of the original album. “Old School Song,” borrows the military march section from the first album as well. Lastly, the album concludes with one of the most famous verses from the original: “So, you ride yourselves 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.”
Click here to listen to listen to that verse from TAAB- 2
Click here to listen to listen to the same verse from the original TAAB
These unforgettable melodious lyrics opened and closed the original album, and they are synonymous with the Thick As A Brick concept, so they had to be included somewhere in this sequel. Anderson could have easily used these lines all throughout the album. But, he didn’t. He saved them. He built up the anticipation for them, and he uses them only once to close the album, and this creates a completely euphoric and climatic ending for any fan of the original who has sung along to those lines countless times over the last 40-years: pure genius.
As mentioned, both albums do play as one continues 40+ minute song, but Thick As A Brick 2 is indexed into 17 sections, so you can skip around unlike the original. My only criticism of the album is that a few sections drag a bit toward the end, but this is a minor complaint because the record finishes with reminiscent polish and class by closing with the signature verse mentioned earlier. Plus, the rest of the songs are outstanding. The highlights for me are “Banker Bets, Banker Wins,” which features great heavy guitar work by Florian Opahle and a great chorus delivered by Anderson. “The Old School Song,” is also a standout, which I already mentioned. Lastly, I’ll point out “Give Till It Hurts.” Ian’s vocals are flawless on this section, and although his voice is not what it used to be, he sounds perfect here, and his vocals sound redolent of something from Songs From The Wood or Heavy Horses.
Click here to listen to Banker Bets, Banker Wins
Click here to listen to Old School Song
Click here to listen to Give Till It Hurts
Thick As A Brick 2 certainly does not trump the 1972 original, but it is an amazing follow up. It not only pays tribute to the first version of Thick As A Brick, but I think it would be a completely enjoyable listen for someone who had never heard the original.
It is important to point out that Thick As A Brick 2 is not an official Jethro Tull album; it is an Ian Anderson solo album, and the album is promoted as “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson.” Some avid Jethro Tull fans feel like it should have been released as a Jethro Tull album, or it should have at least included long time Jethro Tull guitarist– Martin Barre, but that is irrelevant to me; Jethro Tull has always been Ian Anderson’s band, and the core Jethro Tull line-up that played on the original Thick As A Brick album has not been together since 1979. Plus, Barre has several solo projects of his own in the works right now (2012).
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