Aqualung 40th Anniversary Special Edition

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis, 2011

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


Recently, someone asked me about what I thought some of the most menacing riffs in rock were. Instantly, the first thing that popped into my head was “Aqualung.” Those six notes instantly conjure up the image of the down-and-out grimy bum depicted on the album cover. The rest of the song absolutely lives up to its intro, even featuring a flute solo that somehow manages to be just as menacing as its riff.

Aqualung wasn’t Jethro Tull’s first or last brush with mainstream success, but it was their biggest, and perhaps most enduring one. To this day, “Locomotive Breath” and the title track still enjoy heavy rotation on classic rock radio, and no Jethro Tull concert is complete without them. Still, while those are the main points of entry for those looking to dive into Aqualung (or Jethro Tull in general since this a very common starting point for folks looking to try this band), there is a lot more to the record than just those two tunes. “Cross-Eyed Mary” continues the homeless-bum theme from “Aqualung” and is nearly as good. Front-man Ian Anderson’s trio of religion-criticizing epics “My God,” “Hymn 43,” and “Wind-Up” may be a little ham-fisted lyrically but are musically top-notch. This album just oozes brilliant riffs left and right, and uses them in a heavy rock context that is uniquely Jethro Tull. One aspect in particular that often gets overlooked is how strong the acoustic tracks are. Jethro Tull had never really done songs like “Cheap Day Return” and “Slipstream” before, but they are all quite lovely and provide healthy breathers between the meatier tunes.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For its 40th anniversary, this album has been given a major face-lift. This reissue features a brand new mix courtesy of Steven Wilson (best known for his work with the band Porcupine Tree). This is one of the few cases where the remix isn’t simply an alternate mix to be listened to only for curiosities sake; it is leagues better than the original. Wilson deserves some major accolades for the job he’s done here. The formerly muddy sound has been cleaned up remarkably. His remix brings out elements in the sound previously obscured, and gives a newfound clarity to the material without sacrificing any of the warmth or dynamics of the original. If you’ve only ever been familiar with the old mix, it is absolutely worth it to seek out this one. It’s like listening to the album for the first time all over again. I doubt many will go back to their old CDs (or records or tapes) once they hear this remix; it is simply definitive.

The two-disk Special Edition CD also has a wealth of bonus tracks, including some fascinating early versions of many tracks, alternate takes and mixes, as well as some other excellent non-album tracks from the era. Of particular interest are an expanded version of “My God” and a version of “Wond’ring Aloud” that more than triples the length of the original!

If this Special Edition isn’t enough to satisfy you, there’s also a Collector’s Edition. It’s a little pricey but it justifies the much higher price by including the remixed album on vinyl, as well as several hi-res versions of the album on Blu-ray and DVD, and a lengthy hardcover book. Thankfully both sets contain all the bonus tracks, so I would recommend that most folks stick with the smaller more affordable set, as only the most hardcore Tull fans and audiophiles will find the additions exclusive to the Collector’s Edition truly worthwhile.

I withhold giving this reissue full marks simply because there are several Jethro Tull albums I consider to be better, and my fingers are crossed that one day soon those will be given the same treatment as this one. Take note other classic rock bands: this is how you reissue an album.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis, and is used for informational purposes only.