Schingle's Blog

August 13, 2017

JT Rankings #5

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 3:09 pm

#5 A Passion Play


Many will disagree with this choice.  Certainly, anybody who was ever a “professional” critic for, say, “Rolling Stone” magazine would.  “A Passion Play” (1973) can be a little much to take, especially for someone with pop culture sensibilities.  Following in the footsteps of its predecessor (1972’s “Thick as a Brick”), “Passion Play” is one contiguous piece of music.  (Some would argue that there is also “The Hare Who Lost his Spectacles” as a separate song).  The transitions in this piece are uneven, and arguably, insane at times.  However, Ian Anderson wrote a long opus that tells a story—albeit a potentially macabre one—and his lyrics are as intelligent (or more so) as any he’d written before (or since?).   The story deals with a man who meets his death and watches his own funeral, before a journey into the afterlife.  No, this is not Dante’s “Inferno,” but the lyrics are almost as good poetry as “The Divine Comedy.”  The group was now on its second album in a row with the same personnel:  Ian Anderson (Vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, some saxophone and band front man), Martin Barre (Lead Guitar), John Evan (Keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond (Bass, and the spoken word on the aforementioned, “Hare who lost…”) and the relatively new Barrie Barlow (Drums).  Since the album can’t be analyzed as separate songs, it’s difficult to break it down into parts, unless one dissects the lyrics.  “The silver cord lies on the ground” references the Catholic belief that when one dies, a cord is left behind as the soul leaves the body.  Clever word play is found all over the disc: “Tell me, how the baby’s made, how the lady’s laid, while the old dog howls in sadness.”  “Mine is the right to be wrong.”  “Show me a good man.  I’ll show you the door.”  These are just a few snippets of the word play and the absolute mastery of the language Anderson was beginning to display.  Would someone who’s never heard a JT album like this one?  Probably not.  But, after one has heard a lot of their stuff and learned the different kinds of things they could do, one could learn to truly appreciate the beauty that is “A Passion Play.”


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