Saturday, January 5, 2008

Aqualung, Jethro Tull (1971)

I've always had a penchant for rock musicians who have the singular ability to paint vivid pictures and tell what seem to be specific stories in their songs. The more particular the story, the more universality it achieves. One of the first longer songs I remember in this category was Aqualung. As a college student in the throes of social consciousness, a song that shined a light on someone so completely outside the mainstream of society as I knew it was mesmerizing.

At 6-1/2 minutes, Aqualung was like a tiny theatrical play, so intoxicatingly atmospheric with Ian Anderson's madman-like delivery of its in-your-face lyrics and pastiche of heavy electric and acoustical passages. Readers of Guitar World rated Martin Barre's solo here one of the 100 greatest guitar solos of all time. It's possible that the lyrics would not have been so well-received had the elaborate musicality of the song been less seductive, but that's what it was, and as far as I'm concerned it accomplished its goal.

Released in March of the year, the month in which I officially become bone-cold from the excessively long winter, the imagery of someone on society's fringes barely surviving on the streets during "December's foggy freeze" brought the issue closer to home, however peripherally. A tour de force at the time.

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