This is considered by many Jethro Tull fans as being their favorite release. Some prefer Thick as a Brick as their favorite but this one does it for me.
A Passion Play tells the story of a man who dies and watches his own funeral. He then spends time in purgatory then descends into hell and then miraculously is resurrected. Now if I remember correctly wasn't Jesus's story very similar? In religious circles the 'passion play' was the life of Jesus.
So by all rights it is much darker than the previous opus, it is much more concise with a more unified story and musical accompaniment. This remasterd cd features a fuller sound and more ability to hear all the music that is going on. This cd also is the first time Ian plays saxes and saxello. The first appearance of a synthesizer is here as well. The real musical star of A Passion Play is the keyboard player, John Evan.
The songs are in two parts patterned after a play but with an intermission right in the middle to lighten up the pretty heavy subject matter. "The hare who lost his spectacles" is supposed to be a kind of funny throw away piece patterned somewhat after "Peter and the Wolf" where the musicians play bits to accentuate characters and moods within the little vignette. Some hate it, but think in the context of what's going on its perfect. This remaster also has reprinted the original theater program which is a truly fun and interesting spoof of theater in general.
Ian has said that he thinks "this release is somewhat one dimensional". Many fans just love it. The concept and ideas that Ian has laid down with penning the story and then adapting them to music is what makes great progressive music. Originally planned as a real theater play he decided to add music to it later. Some of the tunes here were from the Chateau D'isaster recordings which also got used on the following release.
Musically most everything works well and there are many "Ianisms" or turns of phrases that fans just love to death one being where "your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulder of a young horse named George". The experiments with saxes while at first strange sounding seems to work and fits the pieces.He also plays flute as well and together they exude a freshness where some of his flute playing had become "samey". The band as a whole on the remaster just sounds so much more together the tightness is remarkable. Not a note is out of place or wrongly played. While the previous one had a lot of wonderful passages it also had some parts that were boring. A Passion Play is more consistent musically with no low points and stays on a level that surpasses Thick. Achieving greatness: To think that Jethro Tull has done this twice while many have tried in vain and failed is remarkable.
This is i think the culmination of the most progressive period of Jetho Tull's existence. I love this one and think it stands the test of time rather well. There are no cheesy sounds or special effects. This is a true classic, A Passion Play,along with Thick as a Brick has a revered place in the halls of progressive music history.