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martes, 4 de agosto de 2015

Jethro Tull - A Passion Play (1973)

Artista: Jethro Tull
Álbum: A Passion Play
Año: 1973
Género: Folk rock / Rock sinfónico
Duración: 40:46
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
1. A Passion Play (Part 1)
2. A Passion Play (Part 2)

Alineación:
- Ian Anderson / flute, acoustic guitars, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, vocals
- Martin Barre / electric guitar
- Barriemore Barlow / drums, timpani, glockenspiel, marimba
- Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond / bass, narrator on "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"
- John Evan / piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals, announcer of "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"


El Menduco nuevamente nos trae un discazo de los reyes del folk prog, ahora con un disco, mejor dicho otro discazo, quizás injustamente relegado. Personalmente uno de los discos de la banda que más me gusta, pero que sale un poco del molde de Jethro Tull. Un disco un poco accidentado en su producción y quizás por ello no tan redondo como fue planeado en un principio (ya que sería un disco doble), pero donde la banda descubre nuevos horizontes y encara un nuevo sonido.
Un gran álbum conceptual, una gran suite de temas encadenados sinfónicamente, con un intermezzo desconcertante, con la introducción de la narración de una fábula infantil acerca de la liebre que perdió sus anteojos, con cierto toque de aires paganos y como de danza de hadas, gnomos y habitantes del bosque.
Un disco temerario, donde la banda toma muchísimos riesgos, toques de jazz, flamenco y mucho sinfonismo, saliendo bastante de su ya por aquel entonces afianzado estilo, complejo, denso, valiente... Pero no me adelanto a la reseña y vamos a adentrarnos a esta gran obra, ya que hay que ir descubriéndola de a poco. Repito, personalmente la considero una de los mejores trabajos de los Tull, pero ojo que no es un disco fácil, a no confundirse.
Comencemos por contarun poco el concepto del disco.

A Passion Play ("Una tragedia") es el sexto álbum de la banda de rock Jethro Tull, que fue grabado y lanzado en 1973.
Al igual que Thick as a Brick, A Passion Play es una única canción (con diversas secciones) dividida en dos partes, cada una ocupando una de las caras del LP de vinilo. La misma está interrumpida, al final de la Cara A, por el cuento humorístico "The Story of the Hare who Lost his Spectacles" ("La historia de la liebre que perdió sus gafas"), del que se editó un vídeo. Dicho cuento está narrado por Hammond sobre un fondo de música orquestal.
La banda había comenzado a grabar su nuevo álbum en el Chateau d'Herouville, pero, aparentemente, no quedaron contentos con la calidad del estudio de grabación y abandonaron la grabación del disco; más tarde se burlarían de dicho castillo llamándolo "Chateau d'Isaster" (las canciones que se desecharon inicialmente y que no se incluyeron en A Passion Play serían publicadas muchos años después en el recopilatorio Nightcap, de 1993).
A pesar de los contratiempos, grabaron y lanzaron rápidamente A Passion Play, un álbum conceptual1 complejo, que pretendía ser más serio que su antecesor, con letras alegóricas sobre un hombre que muere ("the silver chord lies on the ground [...]) y viaja. Muchos comparan este argumento con La Divina Comedia de Dante.
A pesar de que llegó al primer puesto en las listas de ventas en Estados Unidos, la crítica fue muy dura con él mismo, lo que impactó a Ian Anderson de tal manera que, aparentemente, disolvió el grupo, tras lo cual los miembros del mismo se trasladaron durante una temporada a vivir a los Estados Unidos.
FUNERAL: El álbum narra la historia de un hombre llamado Ronnie Pilgrim, que muere, todos sus familiares van a su funeral pese al clima tormentoso y el tráfico.
PARAISO Y CHARLA CON JESUS: Durante su propio funeral, es llevado al cielo por un ángel blanco, al hablar con Dios y su hijo, Jesus, deciden enseñarle el paraíso, Ronnie queda maravillado por la presencia de este, pero Jesus le dice con tristeza que el lo ama, pero debe marcharse, a seguir su camino.
PURGATORIO: Ronnie viaja al purgatorio, donde todos los muertos se reivindican y se corrigen de los errores pasados, en este lugar, Ronnie se arrepiente de todos sus pecados y llora, arrepentido de sus errores. Aquí conoce a un misterioso personaje llamado Magus Perde, quien se ocupa de conversar con las almas en pena, y le dice que todavía le falta mucho por ver aún.
CAMINO AL INFIERNO: Luego de este episodio, aparece una carroza guiada por Magus, y lo llevan al infierno, donde se llevara a cabo su juicio.
JUICIO FINAL: Ya en el infierno, Ronnie Pilgrim es llevado al juicio, donde se encuentra en una sala, rodeado por ángeles y demonios, tomando nota. Al comenzar el juicio, aparece el Diablo, gigantesco y en llamas, que le pregunta su nombre y pecados. De repente, el infierno comienza a encenderse fuego, el Diablo grita "Mas!" y aparece el Gran Verdugo, con un martillo gigantesco, y corta la cadena que encierra a los demonios del infierno, empiezan a salir millones, queriendo devorar a Ronnie, y cuando ya parecía todo perdido, aparece Dios, y comienza una lucha con el Diablo. Mientras que los ángeles combatían a los demonios. Los dos bandos se disputaban a Ronnie. Luego de todo esto. Dios y el Diablo deciden darle la palabra decisiva a Ronnie, él debe elegir con quien ir por el resto de su eternidad. Pero Ronnie habla, y les dice que no prefiere a ninguno de los dos, solo quiere vivir, no quiere el blanco ni el negro, quiere la vida, que son diferentes matices grises.
VIDA: Al terminar esto, los dos se quedan sorprendidos, nunca antes había pasado algo así. Y deciden llevarlo de vuelta a casa, de vuelta a la vida, y Ronnie se despierta en el cementerio, casi sin recordar nada. Él había vuelto de su viaje vivo. Y comienza a caminar por las praderas sin ningún rumbo. Feliz de haber vuelto a su camino.
Wikipedia

Para darnos cuenta de la importancia de éste disco, digamos que fue uno de los seleccionados para las famosas remasterizaciones realizadas por Steven Wilson, y obviamente no cualquier disco de porquería entraba en ese preciado catálogo de discos. Así que explicando que es uno de los discos seleccionados por el señor Wilson. Un disco que cuando salió fue recibido con mucho éxito principalmente en EEUU. Aunque debemos aclarar que es un disco odiado por algunos al mismo tiempo que es amado por otros, sin términos medios, por lo que sugiero atender a esta obra, seguramente la más incomprendida de la banda, una de las más complejas, la más sinfónica, una de las más resistidas. Y para terminar copio uno de los párrafos del siguiente comentario: "Sería muy tedioso hacer un repaso a los diferentes pasajes musicales, dada su complejidad y sus múltiples cambios, pero si se sabe insistir, se descubre una gran obra. Yo siempre he comparado este álbum de Jethro Tull, con “Tales from…” de Yes. No porque se parezcan musicalmente, sino porque detrás de ese aparente espesa maraña de arreglos y melodías, hay una gran obra detrás, que requiere de cierto esfuerzo por parte de quien lo escucha".

Corría el año 1973, y tras el éxito de su anterior álbum “Thick as a brick”, la banda se muda a Francia , con la intención de rebajar la fuerte carga fiscal inglesa y se meten durante varios meses en el Chateau d´Heureville Studios, un estudio por cierto de moda en aquella época donde acababan de grabar bandas como Pink Floyd o David Bowie, para lo que en principio iba a ser un doble álbum. Las cosas no debieron ir como Anderson quería, las pistas grabadas no le convencía cómo sonaban, asi que el proyecto original se vino abajo y al final de todas las horas de grabación reunidas, un par de temas fueron a parar al War Child, otros pocos se editaron en el álbum del XXº Aniversario de la banda, y una selección de unos 50 minutos, salió publicada en el álbum “NIghtcap” en 1993 en lo que se llamó “Chateau d´isaster” , que con su solo título prueba el descontento de Anderson con el resultado de buena parte de esas sesiones. El resto de grabaciones, se refundió para formar el álbum que nos ocupa, “A passion play”. Y no eran malas, ni mucho menos, ya que aunque “A passion play” fue considerado un álbum algo irregular, y la crítica lo recibió muy desfavorablemente, yo particularmente lo considero una de las obras cumbre de la banda, casi al mismo nivel quizás que “Aqualung” y “Thick as a brick”.
Está claro que el sonido a que nos tenía acostumbrados anteriormente, da un cambio importante, con unas melodías bastante más complejas que en sus obras anteriores, con un claro protagonismo de los teclados de John Evan, especialmente los sintetizadores, y que todo ello redunda al final en su álbum más “sinfónico” , algo que la mayoría de la crítica del momento acostumbrados a los toques folkies de guitarras acústicas, flautas, etc, no le perdonaron, cosa que enfadó muchísimo al bueno de Ian, y que provocó la rotura de relaciones con la prensa durante algún tiempo.
Desde luego la complejidad de las melodías, y el hecho de tener que refundir lo que iba a ser un álbum doble, en uno sencillo, provoca que en ocasiones se note esa falta de unidad en la obra, con continuos saltos en su estructura, y que tiene su máxima expresión en el corte central, una especie de broma que separa los cuatro actos principales de la obra, titulado:” La historia de la liebre que perdió sus gafas” , que Jeffrey Hammond se encarga de relatar con mucha gracia por cierto, dándole un exagerado acento escocés a su relato, y que ciertamente tiene su punto. A mi siempre me ha recordado a algún pasaje del libro de Lewis Carroll, “Alicia en el país de las Maravillas”. El resultado, a pesar de todo, es para mi , un maravilloso álbum, muy complejo y que requiere de varias escuchas, ya que a pesar de esa primera impresión de “caos” , se ve en el fondo una buena cohesión entre sus diferentes partes.
El disco de tipo conceptual, en realidad está estructurado como las obras teatrales clásicas, dividida en 4 actos, y cuenta la vida, o más bien la muerte de Ronnie Pilgrim. Un fulano que tras su muerte ( primer acto ) , al principio de la obra, es sometido a juicio en una especie de teatro en el que , a través de un pantalla, va viendo su vida y lo que ha hecho con ella, no demasiado bueno al parecer ( 2º acto ). Como toda obra enfocada al teatro, tiene un interludio , “ La historia de la liebre que perdió sus gafas”. Una pequeña broma, que al parecer, Anderson quiso introducir para quitarle algo de seriedad a una obra que ya de por sí estaba resultando demasiado oscura, y que como comentaba antes, resulta divertida en especial por el enfoque histriónico que le da a su relato, el propio Jeffrey Hammond . Un divertido cuento que tiene su moraleja, y que en resumen trata de una libre que , al perder sus gafas, moviliza a todos los animales del bosque para que le busquen una solución, ya que sin ellas, está perdida. Al final y tras diversas vicisitudes, la libre cae en la cuenta de que todo eso era innecesario, pues tenía otro juego de gafas de recambio.
Tras dicho interludio, viene el tercer acto, en el que el ciudadano Pilgrim visita primero el cielo, que al parecer no le gusta demasiado, y luego el infierno, con el que tampoco está conforme. En el último acto, se produce su reencarnación. Algunos analistas han querido ver en esta obra una especie de “Pasión moderna”, al estilo de la Pasión según San Mateo de J.S. Bach, o tantas otras de corte clásico , en el que se sustituye a Jesucristo por el hombre contemporáneo, en este caso llamado Ronnie Pilgrim. Curiosa esta redundancia en la obra de Anderson, si pensamos , por ejemplo, en el concepto del álbum Aqualung, con su temática y su polémica frase “ en el principio El Hombre creó a Dios”.
Aunque esto es lo que en resumen se cuenta en el álbum, resulta francamente difícil entenderlo a través de las letras de los diferentes temas del disco. Y es que Anderson utiliza un lenguaje tan complicado y con tantos giros , que si no sabemos con antelación de qué va la historia, la traducción literal de las letras, apenas tendría sentido.
En cuanto a la música, decir que es sin duda el disco más difícil de la banda, y el que más escuchas necesita para sacarle todo el jugo. Y lo tiene sin duda. Básicamente la estructura del disco parece una continuación del Thick as a Brick, aunque ciertamente las melodías van ganando en complejidad. Quizás en el anterior, la obra final quedó más redonda, sin fisuras, y en este se nota que no se ha conseguido del todo, quedando algo más inconexas sus distintas partes. Al principio puede resultar algo caótico, pues mezcla aparentemente sin sentido, partes acústicas, con otras más fuertes con una gran carga de teclados, especialmente sintetizadores. Todo el disco está impregnado de ciertos toques “teatreros”, tanto en la idea de dividirlo en actos, como en los textos, que lo hace especial. Ciertamente es el disco de Jethro Tull en el que más peso tiene John Evan, creo que con diferencia, que esta vez toca menos el piano y más los sintes y el órgano… en perjuicio de Martin Barre, que queda en esta obra más diluido. Es quizás una de las cosas que echo de menos en este álbum, ya que siempre me ha gustado mucho el toque de este hombre. La sección rítmica también tiene gran protagonismo, y Hammond y Barlow hacen un buenísimo trabajo . La voz del señor Anderson, como siempre, mágica. Hay menos flauta y más saxo en este disco, algo que no gustó a muchos de sus fans, y que en su siguiente álbum War Child continuaría.
Sería muy tedioso hacer un repaso a los diferentes pasajes musicales, dada su complejidad y sus múltiples cambios, pero si se sabe insistir, se descubre una gran obra. Yo siempre he comparado este álbum de Jethro Tull, con “Tales from…” de Yes. No porque se parezcan musicalmente, sino porque detrás de ese aparente espesa maraña de arreglos y melodías, hay una gran obra detrás, que requiere de cierto esfuerzo por parte de quien lo escucha. Al fin y al cabo, se trata de la obra más “sinfónica”, tanto musicalmente como de textos, de la banda. Un disco algo incomprendido, que a pesar de todo, alcanzó el Nº 1 en las listas de USA, y que yo metería en su tríada de mejores obras junto a Aqualung y a Thick as a brick..
No saqueis impresiones equivocadas tras una primera escucha que quizás os pueda dejar indiferentes. Dadle varias oportunidades. Merece la pena.
ubik

O sea, éste es un gran trabajo, pero te va a dar trabajo llegar a disfrutarlo como te sucede con otros discos de los Tull, pero una vez que te entre, te fascina.
Vamos ahora con los comentarios en inglés, y presentamos los comentarios positivos y también los negativos, que como dije, hay para todos los gustos.

Jethro Tull's second album-length composition, A Passion Play is very different from -- and not quite as successful as -- Thick as a Brick. Ian Anderson utilizes reams of biblical (and biblical-sounding) references, interwoven with modern language, as a sort of a rock equivalent to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. As with most progressive rock, the words seem important and profound, but their meaning is anyone's guess ("The ice-cream lady wet her drawers, to see you in the Passion Play..."), with Anderson as a dour but engaging singer/sage (who, at least at one point, seems to take on the role of a fallen angel). It helps to be aware of the framing story, about a newly deceased man called to review his life at the portals of heaven, who realizes that life on Earth is preferable to eternity in paradise. But the music puts it over successfully, a dazzling mix of old English folk and classical material, reshaped in electric rock terms. The band is at its peak form, sustaining the tension and anticipation of this album-length piece across 45 minutes, although the music runs out of inspiration about five minutes before it actually ends.
Bruce Eder

Almost perfect, perhaps the most controversial album by JETHRO TULL, but anyway it is interesting all along its lenght... of course the critics regarded this one as the failed attempt to compose such a "Progressive album"; instead to me this album is not pretentious and the choose of the keyboards is remarkable as well: a great use of analogical synthesizers and the Mini-Moog above all. "The history of an hare who lost his spectacles" is a theatrical piece by an histrionic Jan ANDERSON... except on a few discontinuous parts, the rest of the album is memorable.
The most progressive effort by JETHRO TULL, and for this reason alone this album is well worth checking out at least!!
Lorenzo

Another one of the greats from Ian ANDERSON and Co. "A Passion Play" is really divided into 2 segments. The first is in the same vein musically and in structure of "Thick As A Brick", while the second part begins to take the shape more of a stage musical and storytelling. This is where I find JETHRO TULL to have been at their height of their musical career. As you would expect "Passion Play" digs deep into the mystical music that is associated with JETHRO TULL and contains some of their best flute and instrumental work. This is a very mature masterpiece displaying some very delicious progressive moments.
James Unger

I know this album is constantly slated, but it is entirely justified. It really is astonishing how a band can follow up such a wonderful album as "Thick as a brick" with something as lacking in direction as "Passion play".
The ingredients which made "TAAB" so good appear to be here. The long single track, the storybook lyrics and the good sleeve are all present and correct, but the music is sadly lacking in inspiration. Whereas "TAAB" had witty lyrics, strong melodies, and a general coherence, "A Passion play" is lacking in all these areas. The lyrics are dull, the music wanders aimlessly, and there's little to distinguish one section from another. There's more of a jazz tingle to APP than any other Tull album, the trademark folk influences being only present in fleeting glimpses.
Even the supposedly humorous "The hare who lost his spectacles", fails to hit the mark. For some bizarre reason, this track within a track is split in half on the LP by forming the end of side one and the beginning of side two. The tale however is tedious and far from amusing, being a rather pointless shaggy dog story.
The "Chateau D'Isaster tapes" showed that Tull were well on their way to creating a worthy follow up to "TABB" before they abandoned that project and returned to the UK. Had they persisted with what they were creating then, the course of history could well have been different, and "A passion play" (or whatever it might have been called) could have become another magnificent album.
My abiding recollection of this album is of sitting down to listen to it with a friend who had just bought it on its day of release. We were full of anticipation having been swept away by TAAB. Halfway through side 2, he'd had enough, removed the stylus from the LP, and declared, "crap isn't it!". Sums it all up really.
Bob McBeath

If this was not J T this might have been a good album but this is JT!! And it is completely over the top - As TFTO for Yes and BSS is for ELP - and it just went too far and finally came out as ridiculous. If someone wants to hit me after reading this please avoid the head and below the belt. But the uneventful, boring and downright silly Hare piece (a failed attempt at creating a musical Monty Python IMHO) plus the rest of the album is a little too deconstructed and disjointed for me.
But one has to give him points for the daring adventure Ian tried to experiment. The following project will abort because of the major criticism he got because of this album and some of it was of course fully merited. As this is an extreme and controversial (love it to death or loathe it for life) album t is very hard not to advise the Tull newbie to avoid this album, because they might just fall for it as well as hate it!
Sean Trane

After the marvelous Thick As A Brick album, Jethro Tull comes with this jewel. It definitely sounds like the previous record, but I find Passion Play having more subtle and refined parts and more mellow bits than Thick As A Brick. Plus, they really sound like Van Der Graaf Generator here, as reveal the many organ and sax parts. The 2 epic tracks are VERY progressive and rhythm changing, and the charm resides in the miscellaneous echoed saxes parts and the catchy, melodic & well played piano. Ian Anderson's voice is OUTSTANDING. There are many excellent organ parts, like on the previous album. The bass and drums are not lazy at all, at least during the loaded bits! Anderson's flute can also be appreciated, still always exciting and professionally played. Martin Barre's electric guitar is rather discreet, except on some specific partsl; he uses more in the foreground the acoustic guitar. Because of the numerous saxes involved, I find the record sometimes slightly jazzy/fusion!! It is one of the best Tull's albums!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Greenback

"A Passion Play" picks up where "Thick As A Brick" left off. Their earlier album-length opus followed the life of one man, from birth to death. Their next ("Passion") follows the afterlife of one man, from heaven to hell. I don't know why this isn't more obvious to people, but some have apparently taken up the scent of the red herring in the title, concluding that "A Passion Play" has to do with the last moments of Christ. It does insofar as Christian theology holds that Christ's death vouchsafed our afterlife, but the operative architecture here is rather Dante ALIGHIERI's Divine Comedy than the titular medieval morality plays. And so many have gone looking for something that wasn't there, this despite "The Story of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", which cautions against looking for something that can't (and doesn't need to) be found. That's pretty much the theme in a nutshell, allowing for the usual human error on my part. (And, of course, if you've struck upon a theme you like better, by all means keep it!) Musically, "A Passion Play" is more complex than "Thick", downright diabolical in spots. The big difference here is the increased role of the saxophone, which supplants the flute and gives the arrangements a tempestuous twist that suggests GENTLE GIANT at this stage (unfortunately, Ian lost interest in sax after delivering "War Child"). Structurally, "A Passion Play" is less cohesive than its predecessor; "Thick" featured half a dozen or so themes played out several times throughout the course of the album, whereas Passion re-uses only a handful of themes and seems to consist of at least a dozen distinctive sections. By album's end, TULL resorts to piecemeal composition, stringing miniature songs together without even the pretense of a sound structural bridge between them.
In kindness, it could be that TULL was simply too creative to stay confined to a handful of musical themes, a point that "War Child"'s bulging bag of booty would seem to support. Some would rank "A Passion Play" with TULL's most magical creations (and far be it from me to debunk anyone's source of magic), but it's not a playmate I pull from the shelves too often, knowing it will only walk my mind in a circle.
Daveconn

I remembered way back in 1994 when I bought the LP how surprised I was about this album. I've heard how trashed-on this album was by the rock critics. Even what critics that trashed on their previous effort, "Thick as a Brick" was mild compared to this. Well, thanks to "A Passion Play", I find what mainstream rock critics (Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Dave Marsh, their ilk) not exactly reliable, especially if you are a prog rock fan. Of course if you like The VELVET UNDERGROUND or Van MORRISON's "Astral Weeks", that might be a different story.
Reviewing "A Passion Play" is like reviewing "Thick as a Brick", you can't say what's your favourite song here because it's basically one song that takes up both sides. Here the music is even more elaborate than "Brick", in which ANDERSON & Co. wanted to compete with GENTLE GIANT for the most complex and over-the-top prog rock you can think of. In fact there are several passages here that remind me of GENTLE GIANT, especially on side one. John Evan just purchased a Mini Moog synthesizer, making this the very first TULL album with synths, and it's definitely a far cry from the synth- dominated albums they did in the '80s (like "The Broadsword & the Beast" and "Under Wraps"), sounding as you expect a Mini Moog to sound (that classic analog sound, as opposed to the synthetic polyphonic synths Peter-John Vettesse used in the '80s).
Part 1 and Part 2 of this album is interrupted by a silly story called "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", narrated by John Evan, with orchestration from David Palmer. It sounds like your silly children's book story. After that, the music resumes. The second half of the album is a bit more accessible, in which the music is more melodic. This part does sound like several different songs and you can tell where one ends and one begins (usually after John Evan does some noodling on his Mini Moog synthesizer). One section was actually included on the compilation "M.U. Best of Jethro Tull". For those who think "A Passion Play" (as well as ELP's "Tarkus" and YES' "Tales From Topographic Oceans") is the reason why punk rock happened, of course, you won't like this album. But for those wanting to hear TULL at their most progressive, this is the album to get.
Proghead

This is a fantastic little piece from an excellent band. Harkening back to TAAB, the 40+mins. take you though a journey on the afterlife, or at least his take on it. The music is very good, and very progressive. Part one is more of the TAAB stage, but still very orginal. Part II is where this disk shines. A deffinate plus to any collection.
Man With Hat

This is the album a lot of people say went "overboard." Bull. I just don't see it. It's every bit as good, if not much better, than "Thick as a Brick." Whereas "Thick as a Brick" drew on the aspects of life and cynical dealings with humanity, cycles, and all that heavy-handed yet Ian Anderson-ly sarcastic material (much like the first half of "Aqualung" did), "A Passion Play" draws on the more religious concerns of Jethro Tull (much like the second half of "Aqualung" did -- although the music in the two are very different). The Play is also sarcastic and irreverant, perhaps even more so than "Thick as a Brick," but it's more hidden and less immediately visible. The music as well is more unconventional, with the saxophone and keyboards playing much larger roles (occaisionally sounding like Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant in some places), but I don't really see anything 'diabolical', 'self-indulgent', or 'pointless' at all. Some compare this album to YES' "Tales from Topographic Oceans," but this is completely unbased. "Tales..." is a great album, but there is very little similarity between it and the Play. "Tales" is much longer, clouded in strange mysticism, and much more difficult to decipher; I haven't been able to yet. Others compare the Play to ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery," which I don't see at all. "Brain Salad" didn't go overboard, it went underboard in my opinion, with a lot of sub-par material filling the first half and some varyingly good and great material on the second half. Doubters should consult http://www.ministry-of- information.co.uk/app/index.htm for their full annotations and ideas. It REALLY helps, and only takes about 20 minutes to read through. I encourage the other reviewers here who gave this album mediocre reviews to see the site.
Regardless of what the title says, this is not a "passion play" in the sense of Jesus' life story. Instead, it is the story of an ordinary middle-class man (Ronnie Pilgrim) and his afterlife. The album begins with a soft heartbeat growing into a crescendo, and an instrumental "prelude" begins. Soon the prelude dies down, and the heartbeat does as well, crashing into the ground. As this happens, Ronnie Pilgrim's ghost rises from his coffin to attend his own funeral. After a short instrumental, he is taken to purgatory, where he meets an angel which leads him to a "viewing room" after another instrumental, to be sorted into either heaven or hell. Here, Anderson's sarcasm is apparent, as it would almost seem that this afterlife is flooded with earthly beauracracy. Ronnie enters the viewing room, and a panel of judges have him watch portions of his life on a screen. They review his life and criticize him during the second half of the first track, beginning softly and slowly increasing their sharpness and throwing impossible questions at poor Ronnie. Eventually, however, they let up and allow Ronnie to continue on to heaven, as he qualifies as "good enough." Following a short reprise of the first theme ("the silver cord") is a beautiful instrumental "Forest Dance" with a light, etheral, heartbeat keeping time throughout as magical guitars and synths build into a crashing halt as the second track begins.
Jeffery Hammond-Hammond announces "THIS IS THE STORY OF THE HARE WHO LOST HIS SPECTACLES!!!" loudly, and we have reached intermission. A silly Monty Python-ish story follows, orchestrated by the band and, well, an orchestra for background. It's fairly amusing, but has absolutely nothing to do with the storyline so far (much like "Willow Farm" in "Supper's Ready" by GENESIS).
Jeffrey declares "A-pairrrr" and the band begins where it left off, in the middle of the beautiful "Forest Dance" section, this time with a faster, more nervous hearbeat accompanying. It slows, and act three begins in "the office of G. Oddie and Son" (God and Jesus -- more Anderson sarcasm and post-death beauracracy hints). Ronnie has been in heaven for 2 days, and is bored. He complains to God that heaven is too pious and good for him, so he is going to give hell a try. The music intensifies, and the cry of a lost soul groans as the "Overseer Overture" begins and Ronnie listens to Lucy's (Lucifer -- get it?) monologue. This section is very synth-heavy, in contrast to the soft, acoustic music when God spoke. Ronnie predictably decides hell is not for him either, and he decides to flee. How he escaped eternal damnation is beyond me, but he does. He wishes to be alive again, and with the help of a mysterious non-speaking person/entity called Magus Perde he boards a train to a riverboat. The music becomes more hard rock at this point (the second half of the second track), and acoustic in sections much like "Thick as a Brick" as Ronnie rides the train and uses Magus Perde's powers to transport him onto a riverboat bound for earth. In other words, Ronnie has opted out of the Christian view of the afterlife, instead going for reincarnation. As the main theme is reprised, a more awkward, earthly heartbeat begins and Ronnie (now somebody else in flesh) rejoins the "ever-passion play," which is of course life itself.
There are many parallels between this album and other prog concept albums. For instance, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by GENESIS is about a street punk named Rael who dies and enters a purgatory in which he confronts himself; "The Human Equation" by AYREON is about a guy who enters a coma and must choose whether to live or to die, and he chooses the former; in contrast, "De-loused in the Comatorium" by THE MARS VOLTA is also about a guy who enters a coma and must decide whether to live or die, but he chooses the former. JETHRO TULL's version of this classic prog concept also takes on it's own flavor. GENESIS' Rael character learns to love and must venture through an existentialist maze of tests; MARS VOLTA's Cerpin Taxt, in true punk-prog fashion, lives fast and chooses death over life; TULL's character wanders thru a classic Christian version of the afterlife (almost beaurocratic in nature) and doesn't learn anything at all: nothing about him changes, he learns no lesson, and it drives home "Thick as a Brick"s point, in otherwordly fashion: "OF COURSE: So you ride yourselves over the fields, and you make all your animal deals, and your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick."
Recommended for everybody.
Dex F.

A darker and more twisted twin of the previous masterwork "Thick as a Brick" and Tull's finest moment for me. I bought it together with Genesis' 'Duke' and it got more time in my CD player the first half year than 'Duke' ever got the chance to even to this date. This album is far more complex and quirky than usual Tull and draws parallels to bands like Gentle Giant in it's sound mingled with the usual unique attitude of Ian Anderson. This is an intense and bumpy ride that you'll either love or dismiss as rubbish, but it definitely need some time on your ears. I personally consider this as Jethro Tull's best work as I loved this album on first listen, and while it admittely lacks the focus of 'TaaB' the music is even more enjoyable on my ears, which is saying quite a bit. Give it a try with an open mind.
Luis M.

Though I like Jethro Tull as a band, I'm not very fond of their epic experimentations including this one and "Thick as A Brick". From these two records I have listened, this one pleased me slightly more. The core reason to this seems to be my disability to enjoy their stream of consciousness via long rock compositions, which appear incoherent, and often losing that kind of dramatic wholeness I personally would rejoice. I am certain this is just my own problem; Have had similar difficulties with some longer Van Der Graaf Generator classics also, which many consider as best music they have heard. On the B-side of the album "The Story of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" amused me as a witty intermission, but after some time the main composition has been spinning, I start to feel I'm being "in that forsaken paradise that calls itself Hell, and where no-one has nothing and nothing is well". This and "Thick as A Brick" are still indisputable classic albums, from which I personally just could not get a grasp.
Eetu Pellonpaa

Almost all ratings on this one are excellent, so I'll be quite alone with my disagreement. NB: I'm rating albums according to how I personally like them, without any thoughts of MUST admire something, or vice versa. First, Thick As A Brick is a superb and highly enjoyable work in my opinion also. With this, JT continued in that direction, but I think here lacks the adventurous and jolly spirit of TAAB. Instead it feels like it's been made just for making's sake, complexity for complexity's sake, without real passion(!) behind the music. It's quite even all the way, no notable highlights. I returned to this album yesterday after 12 years and I actually remembered it better (though not among the best ones anyway, even then). Frankly, I was bored. Afterwards almost nothing remained in my mind, except that saxes are played more than usual. It's surely more 'acquired taste' than other Tulls.
The hilarious fairy-tale narrative "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" in the middle is of course quite amusing with the exaggerated pronunciation. For most Tull fans there may be nothing wrong with A Passion Play, but somehow it leaves me cold. The sleeve notes tell of a failed studio session (was it in France) after which the whole concept changed for darker. For worse, perhaps?
Matti

It's been at least 15 years since I've listened to this album. I just bought the re-mastered CD and three things stand out the most to my ears: 1) How much Ian plays the soprano sax commpared to his flute. 2) How much it sounds like Gentle Giant, especially the first part/side one if you have the vinyl. 3) How well Ian sings. You forget how good a singer he was back in the 70's. I'm curious to know what this album would have sounded like if the lads had stayed in Switzerland and finished it instead of dropping what they recorded and went home to England. It is one sober, somber and bottom-heavy work. Just look at the cover, it speaks volumes. It really doesn't pick up until the climax, (my favorite part BTW). Yet, it's on par with 'Thick As A Brick' to me and if it wasn't for the Monty Pythonesque 'The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Specaicles' I would give it the highest rating. Such as it is, which is still one of the best prog albums of the early 70's, it rates 4.5 stars. A must have!!!
NJprogfan

AN ALBUM WITH CONTROVERSY
Honestly, I have had countless attempts to write a review about this concept album. Not because of the controversy between two poles that "hate it" or "love it" but due to the incapability to express my views that is fairly objective and comprehensive about this complex and serious album. As far as controversy issue, I have been on the latter pole, ie in the category of those who love the album. Big apology if this review of being too subjective, probably. What I can assure you is that whatever my view here is not exaggerating. But if you think so, I don't blame you - it's probably I appreciate prog musicians too much because I'm not a musician, but music is my soul. Music is emotion. I sleep with music, breathe with music, work with music .
Ian Anderson's Perspective
"With Thick As A Brick, we took the idea of the concept album and had some fun with it. Now we thought it was time to do something a bit more serious and make an album that wasn't a spoof and wasn't meant to be fun. We ended up going to record the album at Chateau D'Herouville, in France, where people like Elton John and Cat Stevens had made records. Our original plan was not to make another concept album. The project started off as a collection of songs, including two that ended up going onto our next album, War Child: 'Bungle in the Jungle' and 'Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day).' A certain theme had begun to emerge among the songs - how the animal life is mirrored in the dog-eat-dog world of human society - but the project just wasn't working out. So we abandoned what we'd done and went back to England."
"Back home, I ended up almost completely rewriting all of the material we'd worked on in France, and this became A Passion Play. The concept grew out of wondering about the possible choices one might face after death. It was a dark album, just as we had intended, but it was missing some of the fun and variety that was in Thick As A Brick. The critics savaged us. Chris Welch of Melody Maker and Bob Hilburn at the Los Angeles Times wrote really negative reviews that everybody jumped on and reprinted or based their own reviews on. It really snowballed from there, and we got a fair old pasting for that one. On reflection, the album is a bit one-dimensional. It's certainly not one of my favorites, although it has become something of a cult album with some fans."
Ian Anderson, Guitar World, September 1999
Well, the above quote speaks clearly enough so that I don't need to repeat. Chris Welch is a great reviewer and I learn a lot from his critics about rock music.
Album Review
"A Passion Play part 1" - The album starts off with a relatively complex and less-melodic music (which would grow to a melodic one with many spins) combining multi instruments including woodwind and flute. This part is where most people would most likely reject listening to the remaining part; nothing so attractive about it. It once happened to me when I first listened to it for the first three to five spin. At approx min [3:26] Ian voice enters wonderfully with powerful accentuation : "Do you still see me even here? (The silver cord lies on the ground.)" augmented with great piano work. Acoustic guitar inserts into the music during this first verse lyrical part that ends with: "There was a rush along the Fulham Road into the Ever-passion Play." And the music turns quiet.
Hammond organ solo continues the music and with the fading in of drum work the music turns into complex and fast tempo music with soprano sax as lead melody; and suddenly it breaks into silent passage where Ian continues with the second verse of lyrical part. The music then turns complex again in uplifting mood combined with low points with acoustic guitar work and with the drum brings the music into foxtrot, followed with third lyrical verse: "All along the icy wastes there are faces smiling in the gloom." Oh man . I like this part. It's a truly musical orgasm for me whenever I enjoy this part! Especially when Ian continues singing "Invest your life in the memory bank.. " what a memorable part!
At approx min [11:43] Ian Anderson plays his flute brilliantly and dynamically followed with fast tempo music with great drumming. The music is complex, overall. And the fourth lyrical verse continues with : "Take the prize for instant pleasure, .." with still complex arrangement. The music increases with energy when Ian sings "All of your best friends' telephones ." and I really like this part. Piano and guitar play together with sax, Hammond and drums. The music then stops for a while and moves up again with piano as main rhythm section and guitar work followed with lyrical part that begins with: "Lover of the black and white it's your first night." In relatively fast tempo and high energy music. It slows down beautifully when it reaches unique vocal line: "The examining body examined her body.". What a great break! The other great break is when Ian sings with acoustic guitar rhythm as background while other instruments stop playing for a while: "All of this and some of that's the only way to skin the cat." And the music returns back into high energy.
Another great treat for me is when the first play ends up with The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles where Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond does wonderful narration starting at approx min. [21:34]. What a wonderful narration and accompanied with a Tom and Jerry type of music.
"A Passion Play - Part 2" starts with the ending of The Story of The Hare with a floating music continued with wonderful entrance of Ian's voice that starts suddenly with "We sleep by the ever-bright hole in the door .." lyrical part, accompanied with stunning acoustic guitar rhythm. The musical composition is different than the first part but the main style is still maintained, i.e. the use of alto sax, organ and guitar as main solo that are played in intertwining style. At approx min [31:55] the music moves up differently with a combination of organ and drum work. Keyboard and piano work also characterize the music. Part 2 music is overall much more complex that Part 1.
At approx minute [40:22] the music turns differently with the entrance of guitar combined with organ and flute works followed with a lyrical verse that starts with: "Hail! Son of kings .". I thought that this ending part is a sort of disjointed portion of the whole epic because the style is totally different. But as I spin the CD more and more it feels to me that this can be considered as the epic's encore. Fortunately, the ending part of this last portion brings back the music into melody line similar to Part 1 with this lyrical part: "There was a rush along the Fulham Road into the Ever-passion Play." And it fades out .. Hmmm. what a peaceful feeling I got when the epic finishes. It's a rewarding experience!
Summary
Big apology for the long review but overall I can not put this album less than five stars rating. It's truly a masterpiece. I consider that this album is even better than the previous ground breaking "Thick As A Brick". For me personally, A Passion Play is the best of all Jethro Tull's albums. If you can not accept this album, please give it a chance for another 5, 10 or even 15 spins. I hope it'll grow. Otherwise, keep on proggin' ..!
Gatot

This album is one of the greatest albums Jethro Tull have graced us! They always demonstrate the talent of whom don't repeat the same formula. Yes, it's darker than Thick As A Brick, but anyway: what's the problem? It seems to be more various with the arrangements, including very interesting saxophone passages and beautiful Barrie's drums! The story of the hare who lost his spectacle represents a surprise, a break, in the obscure and magnificient atmosphere of A Passion Play...
...and it's sang by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, not by John Evan who, afterall, has made a great work, and having a great part in the construction of this masterpiece!!!!
Andrea Cortese

This must be one of the most complex albums ever...its certainly Jethro Tulls most complex album ever. But, complexety does not make a good album!!! But it seems that in this case complexety has much to do with the final product. The musicianship, or better yet, the way the instruments are presented is very diferent from other Tulls albums. This is because the guitars have a minor role but at the same time keyboards are constantly there; John Evans does his best work ever with the group. The other weapon of choice is Jeffrey Hammonh-Hammond, whos bass is also a very important part of the 2 long pieces, as well as the voice that tells the story of the hare who lost his spectacles. Then there are the drumms. Barriemore Barlow, a virtuoso of his instrument does not play a 4/4 signature time in any part of the whole album...and if he does ( which I cant remember) its only for a breef lapse of time. As I already said the guitars play a minor role, yet they are constantly present, but not doing solos or fills, but as a supporting instrument...still Martin Lancelot Barre manageds to do something here and there. And finally we have the bones, heart and brain of Tull...Ian Anderson, who plays the sax, quite good I might add, as well as the flute. But his acustic guitars are also different, his signature folkish kinda playing is here not present, for it has changed to a some what more classical touch...nice!
But I just went on and on about the musicianship, but did not said anything about the music inself, other than its complexety...well, this is hard to get into! Its not for the die heart blues/folkish fans from early Tull, unless you are opend minded. The 2 pieces are pretty much just one 45 minutes song, with a fairy tale in the middle. The music is hard to swollow some times, and Ians lyrics and voice are different from other albums. Although there is a constant irony behind his words, they are not really funny as in previous works, but dark. I find them incredibly interesting! The way he mocks very seriously about some things...is excellent.
The album, because of his (again) complexety and theatrical aprouch ( A Passion PLAY!), makes the band no longer a folk prog band, but a symphonic one...very very nice!!!
From all the Tull albums I have at this point, and they are not much ( I dont have Thick as a brick...which many would say its a big mistake, havind Passion Play before Thick as a brick...and maybe yes...but I still find this one so very good!!!), this is the best...by far!!!
el böthy

Y así seguiríamos con muchos comentarios, muchos a favor y otros defenestrando el disco, sin duda el más controversial de la banda, y donde las críticas no logran ponerse de acuerdo ya que se ubican en extremos separados. Un disco amado y odiado. Personalmente estoy en el primer grupo.
Para terminar, yo voy a hacer eco al primer comentario que trajimos a colación: "yo metería a éste disco en la tríada de mejores obras junto a "Aqualung" y a "Thick as a brick". No saquen impresiones equivocadas tras una primera escucha que quizás los pueda dejar indiferentes. Denle varias oportunidades. Merece la pena."


Repito: Discazo total y de los mejores trabajos de la banda, aunque puede ser que no sea de tu gusto. Porque antes que nada es un disco valiente, riesgoso, temerario y sumamente complejo.



4 comentarios:

  1. Este comentario ha sido eliminado por un administrador del blog.

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  2. Completamente de acuerdo con tu comentario, Moebius. Primer disco (un cassette, en realidad), que escuché de Jethro y que acababa de salir. El vinilo (que luego también tuve) tenia en la funda de papel interna la letra completamente traducida al castellano, lo que da la idea de que el lanzamiento del álbum era todo un acontecimiento. Ni el más retorcido de los progresivos y/o sinfónicos se había atrevido a tanta cantidad de cortes abruptos, clímax y anticlímax uno detrás de otro, que hicieron de JT esos maestros de lo electroacústico. La instrumentación poderosa e inspirada, con un Martin Barre excepcional empujando con los permanentes riffs de su guitarra los momentos más hard de este, como quizás cabría llamarlo, poema sinfónico. También hay que prestar atención a la sorprendente performance de Anderson en guitarra española, yendo más allá de los vientos. "A passion play" está en sintonía con otros álbumes conceptuales de la época ("Tommy" y "Quadrophenia" de los Who; "Arthur" de los Kinks; "Dark side of the moon" y "The Wall" de Pink Floyd") que tratan de captar, a través de la vida de un hombre común, el choque y la imposibilidad última de adaptación del sujeto en la sociedad capitalista (o moderna, si quieren). De hecho, tal como en "Dark side...", "A passion play" se inicia con unos latidos de corazón que finalmente se apagan hacia el final del disco. Creo que hay cierta descompensación entre lo que era el lado A y el lado B del disco original. El lado A es mucho más fluido y agradable al oído, mientras que el B parece menos lograda esa fluidez percibiéndose por momentos como un compilado de secciones yuxtapuestas sin un hilo conductor. Quizás esto explique (aunque no justifique) el ensañamiento de los críticos de la época (especialmente un tal Chris Welch, del Melody Maker, si mal no recuerdo, a quien Anderson dedicó luego sus mas amargas acusaciones). Por suerte, el tiempo vence las incomprensiones y la distancia permite apreciar con más justicia esta obra monumental. CucaTrap.

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    Respuestas
    1. Cuca, te lo repito, te quiero reseñando discos en el staff del blog!!!!!
      Mirá que sino te hecho la famosa maldicion cabezona!

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  3. Me parece un album complemente subestimado igualmente pasa con la enorme obra PRESERVATIONS ACT 1 & ACT 2 (sobre todo el ACT 2), obra teatral de los The Kinks. Hay albumnes tan grandes que a los otros los eclipsan y les ponen la etiqueta de albumnes bastante mediocres. Aqualung y TAAB hacen malo a A Passion Play? Para una mayoria Si. Y no creo que por que estè a un nivel mas bajo a sus antesesores tenga que estar en el olvido. Hay albumnes que son verdaderas joyas que sin estar entre los 3 o 4 albumnes mejores de la discografia el resto tengan que estar eclipasado o comparados por los grandes albumnes y que por ello no deban de tener interés. Me dá rabia que se comparé el TAAB con el A Passion Play pero para ponerlo a parir. Es evidente que el TAAB está por encima de éste pero no deja de ser otro pedazo de disco, aunque para mí, mi favorito es el Minstrell In The Gallery otro album enorme algo también subestimado en el mundo del Rock!!!

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