Ultimate prog rock opus gets an ultra-tribute – reflected in, or rather refracted through, in über-aficionado’s perspective.
There’s been many a homage paid to JETHRO TULL over the years – in the shape of single songs, stylistic figures and entire cover ensembles – yet not albums set in this hugely influential collective’s universe. Or in parallel universe for that matter, because imitating Ian Anderson‘s idiosyncratic art or inhabiting the worlds he created feels both futile and nigh on infeasible… at least one could think so. The veteran seemed to have proved as much himself by shifting 1972’s “Thick As A Brick” in time and delivering "TAAB 2" four decades later. Only multi-instrumentalist Lutz Meinert decided to defy such a notion and set a challenging task of relocating the concept to a different place while keeping it within the same sonic framework, the result being a record titled “Still Thick As A Brick” – based on the familiar blueprint in terms of arrangements and presentation, up to the newspaper-like packaging of the platter.
Whereas less inspired composers would not avoid quoting their heroes in a work like this, the Berliner and his international team of kindred spirits – guitarist Nils Conrad, flautist Ulla Harmuth and singer Paul Forrest – never descend to the level of simple copying the much loved motifs; the foursome’s affection for and respect to the prog milestone is profound enough as to outline a passionate play on the easily recognizable aural palette that’s almost indistinguishable from the original. The 11-part suite, which unfolds in Rellington Town rather than St. Cleve, may allude to Anderson’s lyrics in several spots, yet its plot and flow don’t bear any similarity to the album he concocted as a parody of his peers’ proclivity for long form, and Meinert’s words and music are close to the socially charged symphonic folk of yore.
From the orchestral uplift of “Prelude” to the woodwind-driven comedown of “Look Across The Sea” which is the record’s anthemic electric-to-acoustic apex, there’s hardly a dull moment, even though RC’s pieces often lack the melodic immediacy of JT’s canon, and the dynamic swings the former offer equal the emotional amplitude of the latter. However, “Time Out” excels in shedding delicately balladry in favor of sharp riffs, and there are more jazzy passages in the modern staging of a critical spectacle, the piano-laden “Nervesoothers” jiving up the drift, as well as elements of raga. There’s also flamenco in “The Club Of Hopeful Pinions” that rocks quite hard around a fluttering flute until the organ-oiled, strings-drenched “The Foray Of The Sharks” smooths the heavy edges. All of it will make for a riveting listen and require repeated spins for a full grasp of what’s going on here.
Available, alongside other formats, as media-book, in which CD is accompanied by DVD containing the album as a slide show, and HD stereo and surround mixes, “Still Thick As A Brick” deserves to stand beside JETHRO TULL’s anniversary box sets on a discerning fan’s shelf.