Musician: Jethro Tull

Label: Chrysalis Records

ASIN: B008S6B480

When I first heard the news that a 40th anniversary edition of Thick as A Brick was coming, my eyes widened with excitement when I read— in addition to remastered stereo versions, TAAB was coming in glorious 5.1! This week, I have now bathed in that experience. I have seen, heard, and am conquered all over again. I'll say it again—TAAB is now here in glorious 5.1!

It's as if it was foretold long ago that one day, musical magicians would be able to take the wonders they had recorded on magnetic tape and transform them into completely refreshed soundscapes. In particular, when Ian Anderson conceived and produced Thick As A Brick in 1971, he wove a sonic tapestry that was jaw-dropping in its complexity, dynamics, musicianship, and textures. The chops of every member of Tull alone were a marvel. Not only did Anderson write the 44 minute "suite," he was lead vocalist and played his trademark flute, acoustic guitar, violin, trumpet, and saxophone. The ever reliable Martin Barre contributed electric guitar and lute, John Evan played keyboards, and Jeffrey Hammond was on bass. I can't say enough about Barriemore Barlow on drums, whose presence is even more vital in the new DTS and Dolby Digital mixes.

The skills of all these gents is displayed in various formats on the two discs of this set. You can hear their precision in crystal-clear separation on the high resolution stereo mixes. However, while listening to the stereo versions, I admit missing the layered wash of the analog sound of the original album. As with much digital remastering of old records, instrumental parts become more distinct which can mean it's easier to see the bricks and less so feel the full size of the wall of sound. The player who comes out with the most new brightness is often the drummer, and this is certainly true for Barlow's parts, especially his cymbal work.

But the full power, majesty, and triumphant strut of TAAB shines on every level in the SurroundSound spread. Yes, we get the clarity of all the instruments performing formerly subtle passages, such as those on harpsichord and xylophone, that are now more audible than ever before. As Anderson was a master of panning the organ, guitar, drums, flute, and vocal parts around the speakers in stereo, hearing TAAB opened up in 5.1 lets us hear just how sophisticated the arrangements truelly were. On what was once Side Two, for example, we can hear Anderson's placement of his voice, percussion, and other instruments much more dynamically than on any previous release. We can hear the thundering organ and timpani sections bouncing around the room, and the interplay between the flutes and acoustic guitars dances around the speakers like a Celtic harvest celebration.

If you think I gush overmuch—I haven't even got to the packaging! Obviously, no anniversary edition would be complete without a replica of The St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser newspaper with the lyrics allegedly written by the young Gerald Bostock. Well, in a very lush book, we get that, an article by Dom Lawson, an Ian Anderson interview conducted by The Reverend George Pitcher, 73 photos from photographers Didi Zill and Robert Ellis, not to mention material on Thick As A Brick 2 and the 2012 TAAB tour.

Alongside The Beatles' Love and Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I'll be using this release as a demo for my 5.1 system. It proves the value of listening to classic music when presented with its full possibilities, not limited to those tiny computer speakers. I think I'll seek out some new friends just to have the chance to say, "Hey, listen to this!" Then I too can hear TAAB again and again and feel like a disciple bearing witness for a second coming, of sorts.

Follow Here To Purchase Thick As A Brick (40th Anniversary Special Edition)

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