Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick saw the band slough off the last vestiges of sweaty blues-rock and become fully initiated into the prog brotherhood. Ironic, given that the piece was conceived as a send-up – which didn’t prevent it from being wilfully misinterpreted by critics. Forty years later, Tull frontman Ian Anderson has devised a sequel contemplating the potential paths that might have been pursued by Gerald Bostock, the fictional eight-year-old credited with writing the lyrics to the original TAAB; keeping TAABs on him, if you will, in a general treatise about the caprices of fate.
For a man who now resembles Arthur Lowe, Anderson has lost none of his youthful vigour nor his fierce intelligence. TAAB 2’s compositions are uniformly substantive, thought provoking, tightly plotted and deftly worded, while the likes of Banker Bets Banker Wins and the despairing Wootoon Bassett Town are sufficiently clipped and acerbic to match Roger Waters for humanistic indignation. It’s proper prog as well: witness the dancing convolution of Pebbles Instrumental, Adrift And Dumbfounded and A Change Of Horses. Appending the acoustic guitar motif from the original TAAB title track to What Ifs, Maybes is a low-key masterstroke. Who’d have thought it: a career high, this late in the game.