December 2007

Jethro Tull - Aqualung
Classic Records/EMI ILPS9145
Format: LP
Originally released: 1971
Reissue released: 2007

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Aqualung is an acknowledged rock classic, and this pressing by Classic Records may very well be the definitive reissue. During a  housecleaning, Tull headman Ian Anderson stumbled across some long-forgotten tape boxes. He gave a listen and discovered that he had found his own copies of the original master tapes. These are the tapes Classic Records used, and we now have an Aqualung to be proud of. From Anderson’s vocals and flute to Martin Barre’s guitars to Clive Bunker’s drums, each instrument sounds more authentic. Versions other than original British pressings I’ve heard have bleached out the tone and timbre, and, even worse, lumped all instruments into a sonic blob due to the limitations of the inferior later-generation master tapes. This Classic Records version returns the body, tone and timbre. The deep bass is still a bit muddy and one-notey, and Classic Records couldn’t do much to improve the deep bass, but they did manage to make the midbass to sound more realistic. Aqualung will never be an audiophile demo disc because it wasn’t given the best recording treatment right from the start, but this version truly lets the music shine.

And little needs be said about the music, as the songs -- from the title track that opens side one to the classic "Locomotive Breath" near the end of side two -- show Tull at their absolute best. In something of a departure for the band, Aqualung was a concept album, dealing with man and his foibles on side one, and man and relationship with God on side two.

From the just-like-the-original textured cover stock, the authentic green Chrysalis label, the flat, dead-silent 200-gram virgin vinyl, on through the superb sound, Classic Records didn't miss a detail here. This reissue stands head and shoulders above its analog and digital brethren.