REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/08/2012
“If someone had suggested that I might release a “prog” concept album in 2012, I’d have thought him seriously, dangerously even, off his trolley.”
- Ian Anderson, 2012
Well, Ian, the trolley has arrived, and it’s headed for St. Cleve.
St. Cleve of course, being the home of Gerald Bostock, author of the epic masterpiece of ’70s progressive rock, Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick. When Ian arrives he’ll surely bring a copy of his new album, a follow-up titled TAAB2. If Gerald is in the mood for some very classic-sounding Jethro Tull, he'll be in for a treat.
In 1972, Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull released a progressive rock concept album, which was actually a parody of progressive rock concept albums, poking fun at the excessively long and ponderous (some would say pretentious) works of bands like Yes, Genesis and Emerson Lake & Palmer, to name a few. The album featured a single 45-minute track. Among the many aspects of the concept (which leapt off the vinyl into one of the best album art concepts ever) was the fictional author of the “epic poem,” an eight-year-old boy named Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock, who won (and was subsequently stripped of) a local poetry competition prize. The contents of the poem constitute the lyrical portion of the album.
Gerald is of course not real, but Anderson had a jolly time creating him, and a fake biography and other tidbits of info that peppered the expansive liner notes of the original LP. His “life” is similarly the focus and creative center of TAAB2. Rather than continue, repeat or otherwise play off the concept of the original, TAAB2 is a concept album about the fictional Gerald. Looking 40 years down the road, what might have happened to the child prodigy?
I was pleased to find the new album succeeds on every level. As a concept album, Anderson creates an engaging tableau for each of his Gerald personas. Five separate alternate realities for Gerald are explored, each with a short song cycle. Musically, it’s a home run for Tull fans -- decidedly up-to-date, but still flush with the colorful and unique styling of Anderson/Tull’s particular musical idiom. Tiny snippets of the original album appear as flavor, but the album is all new compositions that ring true to the Tull legacy in both sound and lyrical quality. None of the original musicians are on hand, most of them being long retired, but Ian gathered a group of talented players who sound absolutely stellar. Anderson himself, at 64, is in great voice.
This album is really a love letter from Anderson to his fans at its core. Playing off the historic fictional character, and the strong musical connection to his ’70s sound should please his long time followers. I’ve been a fan for most of my life, and this new chapter in Ian’s body of work is a brilliant addition.