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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jethro Tull - A Passion Play: An Extended Performance

In 1973, Jethro Tull released in which it is considered perhaps one of the most controversial albums during that time period. After their satirical approach of the concept album in the Monty Python-sque way with their fifth album Thick as a Brick, the band took the concept storyline a step further in telling the story about living in the afterlife with A Passion Play. With the essence of saxophone, unexpected changes, flute, organ, keyboards, and heavy guitars, they knew they had step into the firing line.

That and this 2-CD/2-DVD set released last year under the helm by Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson who tweaked it up for a new stereo mix. And listening to this again, again, and again, I was completely blown away of what has been brought to the table. Originally, when A Passion Play was released, the critics slammed it including Tull supporter and writer, Chris Welch who famously wrote the bad review in a two-page spread for the Melody Maker at the time Tull was performing at London’s Empire Pool in Wembley for two nights to promote the album, entitled “Crime of Passion”.

The DVD features the short film that was in the tour of The Story of the Hare Who Lost his Spectacles told by bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond in his homage to Eric Idle. And it also features both the original 1973 mix, the 5.1 mix, and the intro and the outro film of the ballerina portrayed by Jane Colthorpe who would later be one of Benny Hill’s Love Machine.

The origin story behind the Passion Play concept started out at the Chateau D’Heriouville in which they recorded the sessions for their follow to TAAB. But it didn’t go according to plan due to food poisoning, technical problems, dormitories, and not to mention bed bugs to go with it. You can imagine the atmosphere wasn’t a pleasant experience during in which it is now known entitled the Chateau D’isaster which it is on the second disc.

After parts of the sessions were recorded at the Chateau, they left Paris and headed back to London at Morgan Studios and started back from the drawing board in which the Passion Play album was recorded. The set features an 80-page booklet that talks about the history of the album, Steven Wilson’s thoughts on the remixing of the project, and the Tour as well.

What I love what Steven Wilson does is to make it almost very much a director’s cut of how Jethro Tull took to make the music of pushing the envelope a step further. You have the dramatic heavy guitar and organ section between Martin Barre and John Evan’s organ on the disastrous incident at the theater with No Rehearsal and the ascending beauty of No Sailor while Ian Anderson’s haunting acoustic guitar lines fill the echoing halls of Ronnie trip to meet Lucifer in Hell for The Foot of our Stairs which features an unreleased 50-second lyrics that was taken out, now in its glory.

The evidence in the pudding of the dramatic proof of what damages that Pilgrim did for the Critique Oblique while the video showing his life of the different time changes for the Memory Bank gives it more on what is happening to him. It’s very much like a movie inside your mind. The only two tracks that were a part of the Chateau sessions would later be on their seventh album, War Child features the dazzling versions of Only Solitaire and Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day are spot on wonderful.

This is a brilliant set that I was really excited for because for me, I’m a huge fan of A Passion Play. Yes, it’s dividing a line in the sand between Tull fans to accept it or not, yes it’s self-indulgent, pretentious, and mad, but I will defend this album until the day I die. Ian shows he has an amazing sense of humor and the return to a rush along the Fulham road in the ever house of the Passion Play, is here in all of its glory.

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