In 2011 it was forty years ago that Jethro Tull's Aqualung saw the light of day. To celebrate this milestone EMI released the 40th Anniversary Special Edition of one of the most important rock albums ever recorded. Aqualung was Jethro Tull's fourth studio album. Despite the band's disapproval, it has always been regarded to be a concept album containing the distinction between religion and God as the central theme. The success of the album marked a turning point in the band's career and made them a major radio and touring act. The album was recorded in the studios of Island Records in London. At the time the band consisted of Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar), Martin Barre (lead guitar), Jeffrey Hammond Hammond (bass), Clive Bunker (drums) and John Evan (keyboards), who was a full-time band member for the first time. The music on Aqualung contains more acoustic material and to that extent it deviates from the band's previous albums. The famous cover was inspired by photographs of homeless people on the Thames embankments taken by Ian Anderson's wife Jennie. According to Anderson the album has sold over seven million copies worldwide and is Jethro Tull's best selling album to date.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this album EMI decided to come up with some fantastic reissues. First you get the Collectors Edition. This includes a 180 grams heavy weight LP, a double-CD, a DVD and a Blu-Ray containing various unreleased songs, a new stereo mix, the original Quad-mix, 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital Surround. In addition you get a 12x12 inch 48-page hard-covered book featuring liner notes and an interview with Ian Anderson, questions and answers with engineer John Burns, memoirs from band members and Jennie Franks - Ian's first wife who wrote the lyrics for the title track - rare pictures, notes on the new mixes by producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), and much more. Secondly you get the double-CD Special Edition with CD1 containing the new previously unreleased Aqualung stereo mix and CD2 holding the additional 1970 and1971 recordings which include some previously unreleased new stereo mixes. Moreover, you get a booklet with liner notes and exclusive pictures!
As a reviewer I only got the Special Edition version, but this is already a nice release to own. I once bought the album years after the official release during a sale. I just had to have the original album containing all those classic Tull songs that I had heard during live concerts. These classic songs like Aqualung, Cross-Eyed Mary, Mother Goose, My God and Locomotive Breath also appeared on many live albums and videos in my collection, but they all appeared for the first time on Aqualung. During live concerts Jethro Tull mostly performed these tunes and therefore they can be seen as classic tracks. Nowadays these pieces seem to offer more than at the time I heard them for the first time. Now more details are noticeable thanks to the wonderful stereo mix of Steven Wilson. The sound is astoundingly crisp and clear and is quite a treat to the ears in comparison to the original version. This can also be said about the bonus tracks on the second disc. I couldn't discover any fluctuations in volume whatsoever which is pretty amazing for forty-year old material. From Later is one of the bonus tracks that might surprise the most. It's a light-hearted instrumental jazz-rock fusion track that sounds as if it could have been played on any progressive jazz radio station in the seventies or actually even now. I only found it a bit strange that they also included a USA radio spot for the album at the end of the second disc. It's the only negative remark I can think of considering this strong reissue.
This re-release is most certainly a must have for all people who call themselves true Jethro Tull fans. However, other devotees of progressive rock music will find something they like on this classic rock album as well. One thing's for sure: I can finally throw my old vinyl copy in the garbage can!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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