On March 19, 1971, "Jethro Tull" released their fourth and excellent album "Aqualung".
Although the album is attributed to the Prog-Rock genre, it has an amazing and unique combination of several genres, including Folk, Blues, Psychedelia, Jazz, and even Hard Rock.
It was the album that bridged between the Folk-Rock era of "Jethro Tull" and its Progressive era, which will go into gear already on the next album "Thick as a Brick".
It was different in sound and style from the band's three previous albums, a change that can be attributed to several factors:
First, changes in the band's lineup The previous bassist, who also served as the band's keyboardist - Glenn Cornick, had left and was replaced by Jeffrey Hammond, a friend of Ian Anderson. Another change was Keyboardist John Evan, who served as a sessions musician for the band, but joined as a full member on this album.
Second, the musical influences on the band members at the time, were of two different musicians, seemingly from opposite genres, but they had a common denominator.
On the one hand, the band condensed the heavy electric sound that dominated albums like "Benefit" and "Stand Up". Songs like "Aqualung", "Locomotive Breath" or "Hymn 43" included heavy sound and rough riffs that could completely be associated with the Hard Rock genre. These influences are attributed, in our opinion to the fact that this album was recorded at exactly the same time and place where the album "Led Zeppelin IV" was recorded. The studio where these two mythical albums were recorded simultaneously, had two recording rooms. The smaller one was rented by members of "Led Zeppelin", while the members of "Jethro Tull" recorded in the next and larger studio. We have no doubt that guitarist Martin Barre, who contributed to the metallic sound that exists in certain parts of the album, was influenced by the sounds emanating from the next room. Moreover, in our humble opinion, the solo of the theme song "Aqualung" would not have sounded as it did without Martin Barre's desire to impress his colleague Jimmy Page. Interestingly, this solo is ranked 25th in the "Rolling Stone" magazine's list of the 50 greatest solos of all time.
On the other hand, the band added more folk and acoustic elements to its songs. Songs like "Cheap Day Return", "WoWonderingloud" and "Slipstream" are completely folk and acoustic. Ian Anderson argued that the transition to more folk and acoustic pieces was influenced by singer and songwriter Roy Harper, among others, who is also the common denominator of the two polar genres in Jethro Tull's sound. As mentioned, the song "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper", which seals the album "Led Zeppelin III", is dedicated to singer Roy Harper, from whom the members of "Led Zeppelin" were also influenced.
There is a reference to this album as a concept album.
Although Ian Anderson has stated that this is not a concept album, it is impossible to ignore the fact that some of the songs on the album have a connecting thread. For example, the first side of the album includes songs based on disturbed characters in society. The opening song "Aqualung" was influenced by photographs of a homeless, taken by Ian Anderson's wife near the River Thames. During the shooting, the strange sight of one of the homeless people caught their eye, and his character was the inspiration for the album's theme song. The album cover, too, corresponds with the same character, who many mistakenly thought was Ian Anderson. The cover was painted by American artist Burton Silverman, and the record company "Chrysalis Records" purchased the painting from him for only $ 1,500. The album continues with the schoolgirl, the prostitute, from the song "Cross-Eyed Mary", in which the character "Aqualung" is mentioned again, when later we meet the controversial character "Mother Goose". Other songs from the first side are more personal and constitute a sort of autobiography of Anderson, including "Cheap Day Return" which refers to Anderson's meeting with his father.
The other side of the album mainly deals with issues of faith and religion. The album was even supposed to be called "My God", but eventually, the title served as the subtitle of the whole second side of the vinyl, which is dominated by the religious theme. Songs like "My God", "Hymn 43" and "Wind Up" - are a type of protest songs that treat religion disparagingly, while songs like "Slipstream" and "LocomChristianity" are a kind of critique of the church and the place of God in christianity.
"Aqualung" was the band's breakthrough album and the first to enter the top ten in the sales charts. It's "Jethro Tull's" most successful, and is also considered by many to be their best album.
It is without a doubt one of the highlights of the band which has influenced many bands and artists.
Songs from the album won cover versions of bands such as "Helloween", "Styx", "W.A.S.P", and even "Iron Maiden", which released the song "Cross-Eyed Mary" as a B-side to the single "The Trooper".
The album received good reviews from various music critics. It entered the "Rolling Stone" magazine's 500 greatest albums of all time and is considered a classic in the progressive rock repertoire and in general.