Thick As A Brick: A Record Revelation (For Me)


Thick As A Brick, an album by Jethro Tull released in 1972, has been my favorite album since I came across it about 6 years ago. After releasing Aqualung, Jethro Tull was surprised to find that people thought of it as a progressive rock concept album. This prompted the making of Thick As A Brick which was intended as a spoof on the progressive rock concept album. Although very musically sophisticated in its composition and execution, it is probably the only concept album that does not take itself seriously, which is in and of itself refreshing. The album is one continuous song stopped only by the need to flip the LP for the second part. It features instruments as diverse as harpsichord, xylophone, timpani, violin, lute, trumpet, as well as the regular drums, guitars, bass, organ and Ian Anderson's flute. The album art is possibly some of the best there ever was. It is a small town newspaper called the St. Cleveland Chronicle written in a rather amateurish style for comic effect. The fictional newspaper contains an article about a boy by the name of Gerald Milton who supposedly wrote the poem "Thick As A Brick" for a poetry contest but was disqualified due to his age. There are a number of other hilarious articles as well as posted sales on the back cover, such as stuffed penguins or the services of a dwarf.

All this to say that while I was in Brasil I finally came across an LP of Thick As A Brick, which I'd been trying to find for some years now. Turns out my aunt also had a copy of it at her house. It is not as fantastic as the original release of the LP which folds out into a full newspaper (image above) but it will have to do for now. Anyways, I managed to listen to it on my aunt's record player and it genuinely knocked me out. I've always been a bit skeptical about people who told me records sounded "so much better" than CDs, but this really did. I've heard Thick As A Brick hundreds of times on all kinds of speakers and headphones and the LP played sounds I'd never heard before. The sound felt really different, in the best way possible.

The real test would be to compare LPs to new CD Remasters such as the recent ones of the Beatles. From what I've read, it seems that CD releases of LPs often re-adjusted the levels (usually more vocals and more bass to suit the modern taste in music) and destroyed some of the original nuance, which may also contribute to the superiority many people notice in the LP sound. I'll have to check out Bob Dylan next who, from what I hear, had some of the worst transfers to CD.

2 comments:

  1. You should read Greg Milner's excellent book, Perfecting Sound Forever. It wonderfully documents, and explains how so much music has been lost in digitalization via compression, etc....A great read for anyone, not at all to technical. What you are hearing is no illusion, you are on the right track!

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  2. Thanks for the tip! I'll check out the book.

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