- This superb copy of Thick As A Brick offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- A Top 100 title and the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever recorded – allow us to make the case
- A stunning Demo Disc to Rule Them All — sure to be the best you’ve ever heard Tull sound if you have the system for it
- 4 1/2 stars: “A masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock – a dazzling tour de force, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener.”
*NOTE: On side two, the intro to Part II is moderately crackly.
This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Thick As A Brick have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
That kind of accuracy practically disappeared from records about thirty years ago, which explains why so many of the LPs we offer as Hot Stampers were produced in the ’70s and before. That’s when many of the highest fidelity recordings were made. In truth this very record is a superlative example of the sound the best producers, engineers, and studios were able to capture on analog tape during that very decade.
Which is a long way of saying that the better copies of Thick As A Brick have pretty much EVERYTHING that we love about vinyl records here at Better Records.
Furthermore, I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that will ever be able to do this recording justice. Our Hot Stamper pressings – even the lowest-graded ones – have a kind of ANALOG MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs.
The Best Sounding Jethro Tull Album Ever Recorded
- The better copies are shockingly dynamic. At about the three minute mark the band joins in the fun and really starts rocking. Set your volume for as loud as your system can play that section. The rest of the music, including the very quietest parts, will then play correctly for all of side one. For side two the same volume setting should be fine.
- The recording can have exceptionally solid, deep punchy bass (just check out Barrie “Barriemore” Barlow’s drumming, especially his kick and floor toms. The guy is on fire).
- The midrange is usually transparent and the top end sweet and extended on the better pressings.
- The recording was made in 1972, so there’s still plenty of Tubey Magic to be heard on the acoustic guitars and flutes.
- The best copies can be as huge, wide and tall as any rock record you’ve ever heard, with sound that comes jumping out of your speakers right into your listening room.
- Unlike practically any album recorded during the ’80s or later, the overall tonal balance, as well as the timbre of virtually every instrument in the soundfield, is correct.
We Play ‘Em
When we do these shootouts we play quite a few original copies of the record (the reissues are not worth the vinyl they’re stamped on) and let me tell you, the sound and the music are so good we can’t get enough of it. Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by TP anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings we had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes.
With the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages, room treatments and the like, some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be simply amazing sounding. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered it was (click on the Rave Review tab above).
What We’re Listening For on Thick as a Brick
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
We Love the Complexity
When you can hear it right, the music really comes to life and starts to work its magic. All the variations on the themes separate themselves out. Each of the sections, rather than sounding repetitive or monotonous, instead develop in ways both clever and engaging. The more times you listen to it the more nuances and subtleties you will find hidden in the dense complexity.
Just the number of time-signature changes on either side is enough to boggle the mind. Of course, if you listen very carefully you can hear that most of them are accompanied by edits, but it’s fun to listen for those too!
Simply put, the more you play it the better you will understand it and the more you will like it. This of course is true for all good music.
AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review
Jethro Tull’s first LP-length epic is a masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock, and one of the few works of its kind that still holds up decades later. Mixing hard rock and English folk music with classical influences, set to stream-of-consciousness lyrics so dense with imagery that one might spend weeks pondering their meaning — assuming one feels the need to do so — the group created a dazzling tour de force, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener. The original LP was the best-sounding, best-engineered record Tull had ever released, easily capturing the shifting dynamics between the soft all-acoustic passages and the electric rock crescendos surrounding them.
Rolling Stone Review from 1972
“Although not in the shops yet, I was able to acquire a ‘white label’ pressing of the current Jethro Tull winner Thick As A Brick from their London agents, Chrysalis Artists… The group consists of Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evan, Jeffery Hammond-Hammond and Barriemore Barlow. Written around a poem by St. Cleve child prodigy Gerald Bostock, their music spins a delicate web of sensitive sounds: sometimes lilting, sometimes soaring to form a brilliant backdrop for the meaningful lyrics and improvisational techniques…
“One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this record but the result is at worst entertaining and at least aesthetically palatable.”
Ian Anderson (a.k.a. Julian Stone-Mason B.A.) has not only slyly reviewed his own album, he’s also supplied the newspaper which contains it. Like so much flounder, Thick As A Brick comes wrapped in the St. Cleve’s Chronicle, an apocryphal yet typical daily of Anderson’s design. Played across the front page is the Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock scandal (the epithet refers to the author of Paradise Lost, not the soul singer). Eight-year-old Gerald is adjudged unfit to accept first prize from The Society For Literary Advancement And Gestation (SLAG) by virtue of the questionable contents of his epic poem Thick As A Brick.
Gerald is one of Ian Anderson’s incarnations and ruses. Besides lyricist and impersonator, Anderson is also composer, arranger, singer, flutist, acoustic guitarist, violinist, saxophonist, trumpeter, satirist and overall composer. His adeptness at most of these functions, in particular, his ability to balance and fuse them, has created one of rock’s most sophisticated and ground-breaking products.
Most of the Chronicle’s features display a dry, fatuous, very English sense of humor. Under the “Deaths” column, there is the late Charles Stiff; and stories have titles along the lines of “Mongrel Dog Soils Actor’s Foot” and “Non-Rabbit Missing.” Characters in, say, a page two story will turn up again on page five in equally ludicrous circumstances. It is all very clever, yet at first seemingly irrelevant.
Page seven carries the words to Thick As A Brick. The writing is very dense and enigmatic, and the unidentified shifts in narrative voice compound the difficulty. The poem, as best I can make out, is a sweeping social critique, as pessimistic about poets, painters and the generally virtuous as it is condemnatory of politicians and other figures of authority. And what more perfectly encompasses or embodies the world Anderson aims to criticize than a daily newspaper? The paper in turn encompasses the poem. Furthermore, there are names in the poem which refer back to items in the newspaper. The poem “reviews” the newspaper, just as Stone-Mason reviewed the record. The entire package operates with the allusiveness of a Nabakov novel.
For all its intricacy, the “theme” or poetry of Thick As A Brick is its least important aspect. Anderson’s language (in Aqualung as well) is often wordy and ponderous, and its bitter condescension and breadth of denunciation can be unpleasant. What marks this album as a significant departure from other Jethro Tull work, and rock in general, is the organization of all its music into one continuous track. Albums like Sgt. Pepper or Tommy were complete entities in themselves, but still chose to use songs as their basic components. While sections of Thick As A Brick are melodically distinct, they all inherently relate to each other. What connecting there is is uncontrived and is often the occasion for some of the album’s boldest playing. The lyrics, clever and dense as they are, are chiefly valuable as a premise for the music. The album’s opening is sprightly, with Ian’s flute poking in and out; a more introspective, minor key digression follows, then a stalking bass line, accompanied by horns and John Evan’s excited Rick Wakeman-like organ. The relentless and mechanical gives way to something very stately and regal, as English as, yet less folksy than the opening passage. The piano plays arpeggios; Anderson overlays a jazzy flute. Some overdubbed guitar yammerings follow.
Anderson takes to the violin and creates a whirling, macabre setting for the combative son’s announcement, “I’ve come down from the upper/ class to mend your rotten ways.” As the other son begins to speak, the music becomes milder, then sunnier. A bell-like organ rings out behind a jig, performed in almost telegraphic rhythm. This, and its reprise on side two, is the album’s most attractive section. An ominous heraldic organ shatters the calm, and the side ends with the electric guitar shrieking helplessly, like a wounded bird.
Side two reintroduces side one’s second statement. It merges into an energetic though hollow, unemphatic drum solo; then some free jazz, over which a set of lyrics is recited. A rather fine English folk melody emerges. Anderson’s voice becomes more severe, a classical guitar is introduced, and the music takes an Iberian turn. A harpsichord plays as a guitar repeats the riff from George Harrison’s “Wah Wah.” The writing becomes very linear, with rapid harmonic shifts. This alternates with a vaulting melodic figure. Then a sudden whoosh, and we return to the closing theme of side one, now strongly reinforced by the organ, only to be momentarily interrupted by some expansive strings. As almost a postscript, the initial theme is recalled, and with it the sentiment, “And/ your wise men don’t know how it/ feels to be thick as a brick.”
The members of Jethro Tull were hand-picked by Anderson (several are old school chums); no one, save Ian, remains from the original band. The playing, not surprisingly, is tight as a drum. Martin Barre’s guitar and John Evan’s keyboards especially shine, and Ian’s singing is no longer abrasive. Whether or not Thick As A Brick is an isolated experiment, it is nice to know that someone in rock has ambitions beyond the four or five minute conventional track, and has the intelligence to carry out his intentions, in all their intricacy, with considerable grace.
– Ben Gerson, Rolling Stone, 6/22/72.