A Passion Play
|A Passion Play|
|Studio album by Jethro Tull|
|Released||6 July 1973 (UK)
23 July 1973 (US)
|Recorded||March 1973, Morgan Studios, London|
|Genre||Progressive rock, Art rock|
|Jethro Tull chronology|
A Passion Play
|New Musical Express||(unfavourable)|
A Passion Play is the sixth studio album by Jethro Tull, released in 1973. Like its predecessor, Thick as a Brick (1972), it is a concept album with a single song (which was split into two parts on the original vinyl LP release). The theme of the concept is apparently the spiritual journey of one man in the afterlife.
Upon its original release, it received generally negative reviews. Nevertheless, it sold well enough to reach No. 1 on the charts in the United States. In the United Kingdom it reached only #13.
Subsequent to the original 1973 release, the album was released on CD. Later, in March 1998 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a CD, which indexed tracks along the lines of, but not quite matching, the radio-station promo (see below) and in 2003 a remastered CD version with an additional video track was released.
- On the original release of this album, as well as the original CD release, side one of the album ends in the middle of "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", and side two begins where it left off. However, on the 2003 remastered CD, the second part begins with the full story so that it doesn't get cut off in the middle.
A Passion Play is described in the album's liner notes as though it were a "play" in four acts over the span of a single, continuous song (which is split into two album tracks). Of this album, "the lyrics themselves are extremely complicated, the story is often unclear, and much is left to the individual's interpretation." Such obscurity is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that, in the entirety of the lyrics, only one of the characters (Lucifer) is ever actually mentioned by name. There are also many purely instrumental segments of the album, in which the tone or style of the music alone implies possible action of the "play". Because of this vagueness, most of the knowledge of the characters and setting actually comes less from the music itself and more from the few brief words in the satirical, six-page Linwell Theatre "programme" included in the original album, which names Rena Sanderone (an anagram of "Eean Anderrson") as the author of A Passion Play.
A Passion Play begins with the everyman protagonist Ronnie Pilgrim’s recognition of his own death and unnoticed, ghost-like presence at his own funeral. Pilgrim next finds himself traversing a purgatorial land of "icy wastes", where he is visited by a guiding angel who smiles sympathetically (Act 1). Pilgrim is soon admitted into a video viewing room by a Peter Dejour. Here, events of Pilgrim's life are replayed before him by a projectionist and he is questioned before an anonymous, demanding jury. After a bizarre and long-winded evaluation process, the sardonic jury concludes that Pilgrim has led a mostly decent life. The implication, ultimately, is that he will be admitted into Heaven, which corresponds with the sudden start of a cheerful, instrumental "Forest Dance" tune (Act 2).
The main plot is interrupted at this point by an unrelated, spoken-word comedic interlude backed by instrumentation. Presented as an absurd fable, the interlude details (with much wordplay) the failure of a group of anthropomorphic animals to help a hare find his missing eyeglasses.
The "Forest Dance" melody resumes and Ronnie Pilgrim now appears, two days after his judgment at the viewing room, in Heaven. Here, Pilgrim's unexpected alarm and discontent are communicated by two figures of speech: "I'll go to the foot of our stairs" (an expression of surprise) and "pie in the sky" (an expression of scepticism about the fulfillment of a reward). Pilgrim's discontent with Heaven appears to be linked to Heaven's mundane atmosphere: most of its other residents endlessly reminisce, chronically obsessing over the living. Therefore unable to adapt, Pilgrim goes to G. Oddie & Son to frankly request a relocation to Hell, which is passively granted to Pilgrim. Instantly, descending into Hell, Pilgrim is confronted by Lucifer (named "Lucy" in the album's fictitious Linwell Theatre programme). Lucifer asserts his utterly cold control over his subjects and his own submission to no authority (Act 3). Having left Heaven to seek excitement, Pilgrim immediately finds Hell even worse with his loss of autonomy. Fleeing from Lucifer's clutches, Pilgrim now understands himself as suitable for neither domain, because he is neither completely good nor evil. He talks to Magus Perdé (a character whose role is never quite made clear) about his desire to go back to where he came from. Having sampled and rejected both extremes of his afterlife options, Pilgrim invents a third option: he now stands on a Stygian shore, apparently prepared to return to the realm of the living, as a "voyager into life". On this beach, other people and animals, who "breathe the ever-burning fire", also wait to "renew the pledge of life's long song". The play ends thus, with a heavy suggestion of eternal rebirth (Act 4).
These titles were provided by Anderson for the 1973 DJ pressing of the LP, though they were not included for the standard pressing. The gold Ultradisc Original Master Recording CD of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (1998) contains cueable tracks for each title, but the standard CD releases contain only one or two tracks, depending on the version.
All songs written by Anderson unless stated otherwise.
|1.||"A Passion Play, Part I"
Act 1 - Ronnie Pilgrim's funeral - a winter's morning in the cemetery.
Act 2 - The Memory Bank - a small but comfortable theatre with a cinema-screen (the next morning).
|2.||"A Passion Play, Part II"
Interlude - The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.
Act 3 - The business office of G. Oddie & Son (two days later).
Act 4 - Magus Perdé's drawing room at midnight.
|1.||"The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"||The 2003 release includes this additional 7-minute QuickTime video, which was used in the original APP concerts.|
|Gold CD Edition (1998)|
|3.||"The Silver Cord"||4:29|
|8.||"Forest Dance #1"||1:35|
|9.||"The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"||4:18|
|10.||"Forest Dance #2"||1:12|
|11.||"The Foot of Our Stairs"||4:18|
|13.||"Flight from Lucifer"||3:58|
|14.||"10:08 to Paddington"||1:04|
|1973||Billboard Pop Albums||1|
|1973||U.K. album charts||13|
- Ian Anderson – flute, acoustic guitar, saxophones, vocals
- Martin Barre – electric guitar
- John Evan – piano, organ, synthesisers, vocals
- Jeffrey Hammond – bass guitar, narrator on "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"
- Barriemore Barlow – drums, percussion
- Eder, Bruce. Album review - A Passion Play (bonus tracks) at AllMusic. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Welch, Chris (21 July 1973). A Passion Play, Melody Maker
- Clarke, Steve (21 July 1973). A Passion Play, New Musical Express
- Holden, Stephen (30 August 1973). A Passion Play, Rolling Stone
- Scaruffi, Piero (1999). "Jethro Tull". pieroscaruffi.com. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
- Billboard chart info A Passion Play at AllMusic. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- "UK chart history of Jethro Tull A Passion Play". www.chartstats.com. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- The Ministry of Information: The core narrative of Jethro Tull's 'A Passion Play'. http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/app/story.htm
- "A Passion Play - Linwell Theatre Program". www.j-tull.com. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- The Ministry of Information. http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk
- An excellent line-by-line annotated interpretation of the lyrics can be found at The Ministry of Information.
- A Passion Play at Ground and Sky.
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