Recently one of the most influential rock acts in music history decided to hang it up for good. And while not all of the original band members are still playing with the group, they have toured and made music for all of us to enjoy. In honor of these guys splitting and moving on to solo careers, I want to highlight one of the most significant albums in progressive rock – one that inspired the next generation of musicians.
Ian Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond and John Evan all went to grammar school together in Blackpool, England. With The Beatles being the most prominent group in the world at the time, the guys were inspired to start making music of their own. Initially they toured local clubs as a three piece band—a singer, drummer and a Spanish guitarist. Over the next half a decade, they would add and subtract band members, and their sound covered everything from soul to Motown covers.
They were really getting a feel for their musical passion and how they wanted to make their mark. The band wasn’t making money and the story is that Anderson was very much on the verge of starvation. It wasn’t until a history enthusiast booking agent offered a new name, after an 18th century agriculturist that they finally had a name that stuck. At that moment, Jethro Tull was born.
The focus today is 1971’s Aqualung, Jethro’s fourth studio effort. It was the first album released in Island Records in London, and it was recorded at the same time Led Zeppelin was recording IV. Zeppelin got the better studio, while Tull was in the connected larger room which was a converted old church. The acoustics were awful, and the record would get remastered years later, but it was out.
The band got to show off this album by opening for the best— Jimi Hendrix in Europe and Led Zeppelin in the U.S. Between this newfound sound and playing in front of major crowds for the first time, the band generated a huge following. Aqualung would go on to sell nearly 10 million copies, putting the band on the map for good.
I think you can label any progressive rock album from the 70s as a concept album, but this was the one that really set the standard. Members of Tull argue it isn’t a concept of any kind – but was based on what they’d done previously. However, with its overall theme of religion and faith, it definitely fits into the concept category.
Instrumentally, this album is incredible. That you’re hearing elements of so many sounds, none of which were common in music at that time—or currently—is refreshing in and of itself. When is the last time you heard an epic flute solo? This album has an amazing one. Total escape record, you can put this on and just drift away, I truly love it.
Music history, that’s the best reason I can give you to give this a whirl today. On top of that, it’s really good. It’s certainly not something you’re hearing in modern day, so go ahead and give yourself a treat with something new. Five bucks is a small price to pay for variety.
Top 3 Tracks: