Aqualung (Jethro Tull album)
|Studio album by Jethro Tull|
|Released||19 March 1971|
|Recorded||December 1970 – February 1971 at Island Studios, Basing Street, London|
|Genre||Progressive rock, hard rock|
|Producer||Ian Anderson, Terry Ellis|
|Jethro Tull chronology|
Aqualung is the fourth studio album by the rock band Jethro Tull. Released in 1971, Aqualung, despite the band's disapproval, is regarded as a concept album featuring a central theme of "the distinction between religion and God". The album's "dour musings on faith and religion" have marked it as "one of the most cerebral albums ever to reach millions of rock listeners". Aqualung's success marked a turning point in the band's career, who went on to become a major radio and touring act.
Recorded at Island Records' studio in London, it was their first album with John Evan as a full-time member, their first with new bassist Jeffrey Hammond and last album featuring Clive Bunker on drums. Something of a departure from the band's previous work, the album features more acoustic material than previous releases; and—inspired by photographs of homeless people on the Thames Embankment taken by singer Ian Anderson's wife Jennie—contains a number of recurring themes, addressing religion along with Anderson's own personal experiences.
Aqualung has sold over 7 million units worldwide according to Anderson, and is thus Jethro Tull's best selling album. The album was generally well-received critically, and has been included on several music magazine best of lists. The album spawned one single, "Hymn 43".
After an American tour in 1970, bass player Glenn Cornick was fired from the band, and was replaced with Jeffrey Hammond, an old friend of Ian Anderson's. Aqualung would be the first recording Hammond would do with the band. It would also mark the first time John Evan had recorded a full album with the band, as his only prior involvement was to overdub several keyboard parts on the previous album, Benefit. The album was one of the first to be recorded at the newly opened studios of Island Records in Basing Street, London. Led Zeppelin were recording their untitled fourth album at the same time. In an interview on the 25th anniversary edition of the album, Tull's bandleader Ian Anderson said that trying to record in their studio was very difficult, because of its "horrible, cold, echoey" feel. There were two recording studios at the location; Led Zeppelin worked in the smaller studio while Tull got the larger, which was the main body of a converted church. The orchestrals were arranged by David Palmer, who had worked with the band since 1968's This Was, and would later join as a keyboard player. Aqualung would be the last Jethro Tull album to include Clive Bunker as a band member, as he retired shortly after recording to start a family.
The songs on the album cover a variety of musical genres, with elements of folk, blues, psychedelia and hard rock. The "riff-heavy" nature of tracks such as "Locomotive Breath", "Hymn 43" and "Wind Up" is regarded as a factor in the band's increased success after the release of the album, with Jethro Tull becoming "a major arena act" and a "fixture on FM radio" according to AllMusic. Even so, "Aqualung" cemented the exaggerated image, especially to those only casually acquainted with the band, that Jethro Tull was a "heavy rock" group. Years later, a Grammy for best heavy metal album (Crest of a Knave) would officially sanction the misconceived stereotype. In a stylistic departure from Jethro Tull's earlier albums, many of Aqualung's songs are primarily acoustic. "Cheap Day Return", "Wond'ring Aloud" and "Slipstream" are short, completely acoustic "bridges", and "Mother Goose" is also mostly acoustic. Anderson claims his main inspirations for writing the album were Roy Harper and Bert Jansch.
Aqualung has widely been regarded as a concept album, featuring a central theme of "the distinction between religion and God". The album's "dour musings on faith and religion" have marked it as "one of the most cerebral albums ever to reach millions of rock listeners". Academic discussions of the nature of concept albums have frequently listed Aqualung amongst their number.
The initial idea for the album was sparked by some photographs that Anderson's wife Jennie took of homeless people on the Thames Embankment. The appearance of one man in particular caught the interest of the couple, who together wrote the title song "Aqualung". The first side of the LP, titled Aqualung, contains several character sketches, including the eponymous character of the title track, and the schoolgirl prostitute Cross-Eyed Mary – in which Anderson explores the struggles of the less fortunate in our society (together with the song "Up to Me"). The lyrics of "Wind Up" and "Mother Goose" reflects on teenage angst and formal education difficulties. There is also a autobiographical track, "Cheap Day Return", written by Ian Anderson after a visit to his critically ill father.
The second side, titled My God, contains three tracks—"My God," "Hymn 43" and "Wind-Up"—that address religion in an introspective, and sometimes irreverent, manner. However, despite the names given to the album's two sides and their related subject matter, Anderson has consistently maintained that Aqualung is not a "concept album". A 2005 interview included on Aqualung Live gives Anderson's thoughts on the matter:
I always said at the time that this is not a concept album; this is just an album of varied songs of varied instrumentation and intensity in which three or four are the kind of keynote pieces for the album but it doesn't make it a concept album. In my mind when it came to writing the next album, Thick as a Brick, was done very much in the sense of: 'Whuh, if they thought Aqualung was a concept album, Oh! Okay, we'll show you a concept album.' And it was done as a kind of spoof, a send-up, of the concept album genre. ... But Aqualung itself, in my mind was never a concept album. Just a bunch of songs.
Drummer Clive Bunker believes that the record's perception as a concept album is a case of "Chinese whispers", explaining "you play the record to a couple of Americans, tell them that there's a lyrical theme loosely linking a few songs, and then notice the figure of the Aqualung character on the cover, and suddenly the word is out that Jethro Tull have done a concept album".
The thematic elements Jethro Tull explored on the album—those of the effects of urbanisation on nature, and of the effects of social constructs such as religion on society—would be developed further on most of the band's subsequent releases. Ian Anderson's frustration over the album's labelling as a concept album directly led to the creation of Thick as a Brick (1972), intended to be a deliberately "over the top" concept album in response.
"Lick Your Fingers Clean" was recorded for Aqualung, but was not included on the album. The song was drastically re-worked as "Two Fingers" for Tull's 1974 album, War Child. "Lick Your Fingers Clean" was eventually released in 1988 on the 20 Years of Jethro Tull collection. It was then released as a bonus track on the 1996 and 2011 reissues of Aqualung.
Another song, "Wond'ring Again" was recorded in early sessions in 1970 and considered for release on the album before Anderson decided to drop it from the final tracklisting. It was subsequently released on the compilation album, Living in the Past, in 1972. However, elements of the song—essentially its coda—were included on Aqualung as "Wond'ring Aloud". Glenn Cornick played bass on the song and says it is his favourite song he recorded with the band. Cornick also played bass on early studio recordings of "My God" and "a couple of other songs", though he did not say, which they were.
The album's original cover art by Burton Silverman features a watercolour portrait of a long haired, bearded man in shabby clothes. The idea for the cover came from a photograph Anderson's wife took of a homeless man on Thames Embankment, and Anderson later felt it would have been better to have used the photograph rather than commission the painting. Ian Anderson recalls posing for a photograph for the painting, though Silverman claims it was a self-portrait. The artwork was commissioned and purchased by Chrysalis Records head Terry Ellis. Artist Silverman claims the art was only licensed for use as an album cover, and not for merchandising; and approached the band seeking remuneration for its further use. Silverman and Anderson have different accounts of level of enmity involved in this. The original artwork for both the front and back covers are now privately owned by an unknown family, apparently having been stolen from a London hotel room.
In April 1971, Aqualung peaked at number 4 on the UK Album Chart; when the CD version was released in 1996, it reached number 52. It peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Music Charts' North American pop albums chart; the single "Hymn 43" hit No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album would go on to sell over seven million copies, and is the band's best-selling album. Aqualung was one of only two Jethro Tull albums released in quadraphonic sound, the other being War Child (1974). The quadraphonic version of "Wind Up", which is in a slightly higher key, is included on the later CD reissue of the album as "Wind Up (quad version)".
The album's only single was "Hymn 43", which was released on 14 August 1971. It reached number 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, spending two weeks in the chart. The song was the first single released by the band in the United States. It was later included in the video game Rock Band 2 as downloadable content; which also featured the album's title track.
The album was re-released in a fortieth anniversary edition on 31 October 2011. The release contains a new stereo and 5.1 surround remix of the album by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, and comes in two different editions—a "collector's edition" containing the album on LP and two CDs, as well as DVD and Blu-ray discs and a hardback book; and a "special edition" containing the two CDs and an abridged version of the book. Justifying the remix, Steven Wilson said: "Jethro Tull’s Aqualung is [...] a masterpiece, but was sonically a very poor-sounding record. So, some didn't rate it as highly as they should have. What we did with Aqualung was really make that record gleam in a way it never gleamed before. I think a lot of people, including myself, have come around to thinking that the album Is a lot better than they even gave it credit for previously. So, there is certainly something very gratifying about being able to polish what was already a diamond and making it shine in a way it never has before".
Aqualung received favourable reviews from contemporary music critics. Rolling Stone magazine's Ben Gerson lauded its "fine musicianship", calling it "serious and intelligent", although he felt that the album's seriousness "undermined" its quality. Sounds said that its "taste and variety" made it the band's "finest" work. Aqualung was voted the 22nd best album of 1971 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Robert Christgau, the poll's creator, was more critical of the album in a 1981 review, in which he gave it a "C+" grade, and found Anderson's undeveloped cultural interests and negative views on religion and human behaviour both boring and pretentious.
In a retrospective review, Allmusic's Bruce Eder gave Aqualung four-and-a-half out of five stars and called it "a bold statement" and "extremely profound". Steve Harris, the bass player for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden, has called Aqualung "a classic album", lauding its "fantastic playing, fantastic songs, attitude [and] vibe". Iron Maiden would go on to cover "Cross-Eyed Mary" as the B-side of their 1983 single "The Trooper". In a review of the album's 40th anniversary re-release, Sean Murphy of PopMatters gave it a score of 10 out of 10 and said that Aqualung "is, to be certain, a cornerstone of the then-nascent prog-rock canon, but it did—and does—exist wholly on its own terms as a great rock album, period". Murphy also praised the additional material featured on the release, finding that the new content was "where a great album gets even better".
Aqualung has also been appraised highly in retrospective listings. Rolling Stone included it on their list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", at number 333, whilst UK magazine Q listed it a number 7 in their "40 Cosmic Rock Albums" countdown. Martin Barre's solo on the album's title track was included in Guitarist magazine's list of "The 20 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time" at number 20.
All songs written and composed by Ian Anderson, except where noted.
|Side one – Aqualung|
|1.||"Aqualung" (Ian Anderson, Jennie Anderson)||6:34|
|3.||"Cheap Day Return"||1:21|
|6.||"Up to Me"||3:15|
|Side two – My God|
Note that original North American Reprise Records pressings of Aqualung contained a slightly edited version of the title song, with its first three seconds (i.e., the first repetition of the song's signature riff) removed. These pressings correspondingly list the song's length at 6:31.
1996 CD release
|The 1996 and 1999 remastered CDs added six bonus tracks and extensive liner notes:|
|12.||"Lick Your Fingers Clean"||2:46|
|13.||"Wind Up" (Quad Version)||5:24|
|14.||"Excerpts from the Ian Anderson Interview" (Mojo Magazine)||13:59|
|15.||"A Song for Jeffrey" (BBC)||2:51|
|16.||"Fat Man" (BBC)||2:57|
|17.||"Bourée" (BBC, written by Ian Anderson, Johann Sebastian Bach)||3:58|
2011 40th anniversary release
|The 2011 remixed and remastered version by Steven Wilson added the following tracks to the original album track listing:|
|12.||"Lick Your Fingers Clean"||2:49|
|13.||"Just Trying to Be"||1:37|
|14.||"My God" (Early Version)||9:42|
|15.||"Wond'ring Aloud" (13th December 1970)||1:51|
|16.||"Wind Up" (Early Version)||5:21|
|17.||"Slipstream" (Take 2)||0:54|
|18.||"Up the 'Pool" (Early Version)||1:12|
|19.||"Wond'ring Aloud, Again" (Full Morgan Version)||7:07|
|20.||"Life Is a Long Song"||3:19|
|21.||"Up the 'Pool" (New Mix)||3:12|
|25.||"US Radio Spot"||0:52|
- Ian Anderson – vocals, acoustic guitar, flute
- Martin Barre – electric guitar, descant recorder
- John Evan – piano, organ, mellotron
- Jeffrey Hammond (as "Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond") – bass guitar, alto recorder and odd voices (and backing vocals on "Mother Goose")
- Clive Bunker – drums and percussion
- Glenn Cornick – bass guitar (played with the band at rehearsals for the album in June 1970, some of which may also have been recording sessions – especially in the early versions of "My God" and "Wondring Again/Wondring Aloud" – although he is not credited on the album).
- Additional personnel
- John Burns – recording Engineer
- David Palmer – orchestral arrangements and conduction
- Burton Silverman – album artwork
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- Album online on Radio3Net a radio channel of Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company
- Aqualung (1971) at AllMusic