Aqualung (Jethro Tull)

The classic and influential Aqualung album by Jethro Tull is 50 years old today (19 March 2021). I bought it on vinyl soon after its release in 1971 and have listened to it countless times since. It impressed me then, and continues to inspire me today. It’s a very thought provoking and challenging album using language in ways that may offend, but to powerful effect.

With its iconic cover and distinctive opening, it’s a concept album focusing on the differences between organised religion and God. It’s been described as musical musings on faith and religion.

The album also links in the themes of homelessness and poverty, with the title track perfectly describing the life of a homeless man, ‘you snatch your rattling last breaths, with deep-sea-diver sounds’. The Salvation Army even gets a mention, ‘Feeling alone, the Army’s up the road, Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea’.

The album covers many genres, with some great guitar work, and the distinctive flute sound of Ian Anderson (an instrument not common on rock albums, but central to the sound of Jethro Tull). This is an album unlike any other, and the best way to appreciate it is to simply give it a listen.


Here are some lyric tasters:


People, what have you done?
Locked him in his golden cage, golden cage,
Made him bend to your religion,
Him resurrected from the grave, from the grave.

He is the God of nothing,
If that’s all that you can see.
You are the God of everything,
He’s inside you and me.

And the bloody church of England,
In chains of history,
Requests your earthly presence,
At the vicarage for tea.


Well, the lush separation enfolds you,
And the products of wealth,
Push you along on the bow wave,
Of their spiritless undying selves.
And you press on God’s waiter your last dime,
As he hands you the bill,
And you spin in the slipstream,
Timeless, unreasoning,
Paddle right out of the mess,
And you paddle right out of the mess.


And I asked this God a question,
And by way of firm reply,
He said: “I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays”.

Well, you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school,
And have all the bishops harmonise these lines.


Tenet (Christopher Nolan)

Christopher Nolan is one of my favourite movie directors. He doesn’t patronise his audience, he expects you to pay attention and keep up. He always provides everything you need to know in the visual and spoken narrative, but he’s always one step ahead. That’s what makes him such a great craftsman and storyteller.

Nolan took five years to write the screenplay for Tenet after deliberating on the concept for over a decade, so the audience is always going to be playing catch-up. Some see this a weakness. For me, I relish having my mind stretched and blown, it’s what I love about his movies. Other 10/10 examples are Memento and Inception, where repeated viewings reveal what you missed the first time, but even then present you with ambiguous endings.

In Tenet, Nolan takes an idea central to science fiction and gives it a new twist. I don’t want to give anything away, other than to say it’s an action thriller unlike any you’ve seen before. The DVD cover says: ARMED WITH JUST ONE WORD – TENET – and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

If you don’t fully understand it first time, don’t worry – just enjoy the stunning visual feast.

Nolan always baffles and leaves you pondering further possibilities. His creativity inspires and empowers me, stretching my brain and expanding my thoughts – like all good art should, be it music, art, poetry, or prose etc.

Tapestry (Carole King)

The classic album Tapestry by Carole King was released on this day (10 February) in 1971. It’s a wonderful album (one that’s stood the test of time) with an iconic cover, and there were so many of those in the 1960s and 70s. I haven’t really got much to say about it, other than it’s one of the great albums. I bought it at the time, and I still listen to it regularly. Do check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Richard II (William Shakespeare)

On this day (7 February) in 1601, the day before the Earl of Essex‘s planned rebellion against Elizabeth I, his agents bribed the Chamberlain’s Men to stage a performance of Richard II. He believed that the deposition scene, where the unpopular king willingly abdicates his reign, would steel the rebels in their resolve. Essex was executed on 25 February 1601.

See: This Sceptred Isle

‘This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle’: so begins probably the most famous speech from Richard II, William Shakespeare’s 1590s history play about the fall of the Plantagenet king. These words are spoken by the dying John of Gaunt, and the phrases he uses – from ‘this royal throne of kings’ and ‘this sceptre isle’ to ‘this other Eden’ and many others – have become known in the popular consciousness. Source

I have a very fond memory of a performance of Richard II by the RSC in the Roundhouse, London, it was memorable for a dramatic deposition scene where sand poured onto the lone king from a great height for a prolonged period.

Collapsed in Sunbeams (Arlo Parks)

Arlo Parks‘ debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams became an instant favourite on first hearing, it stood out as an exceptional piece of work. The album [has] received widespread acclaim, with many music critics praising Parks’ versatility and vulnerability. Wikipedia

She has described the album as a series of vignettes and intimate portraits surrounding her adolescence and the people who shaped it, one that’s rooted in storytelling and nostalgia. It was recorded during the coronavirus lockdown, mining deep-rooted, sometimes traumatic places at a time when the world was crumbling around her.

A universal collection of stories that’ll provide solace for listeners of all ages and backgrounds for decades to come. Her music is like a warm hug, a reassurance that everything is going to be OK when the world is dark and things seem out of control. True to form, her debut album is a sanctuary of compassionate lyricism and groove-along tunes. NME

This is a great album, and well worth a listen. You can see all my favourite albums of 2021 by clicking here.

Apocalypse (Jack Hertz)

Jack Hertz has been composing and recording for more than thirty years. He’s fascinated by all aspects of creating sound, from the earliest instruments to the present day hardware and software innovations. I’ve been listening to his albums for many years now, and one of his albums (released in two versions) features one of my photos (see note below).

His January 2021 album Apocalypse: Lifting of the Veil is one of my favourites of the year, comprising eight imaginative soundscapes. You can see all my favourite albums of 2021 by clicking here.

An apocalypse is a revelation: seeing something which has been hidden. It comes from the Greek word, Apokálypsis, which means “lifting of the veil”, or finding out something secret. Often this secret is discovered in a dream or a vision. Bandcamp

Note: The album, with my photo on the cover, mentioned above is available in two versions, Gilded Skies and Gilded Sky (click on the links).

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Fiona Apple)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020. The album was recorded between 2015 and 2020, and released during the coronavirus pandemic.

The album is rooted in experimentation and improvisation. It’s a highly percussive album which resists categorization, it could be described as genre-straddling.

While conventional instruments, such as pianos and drum sets, do appear, the album also features prominent use of non-musical found objects as percussion. Apple described the result as “percussion orchestras”. These industrial-like rhythms are contrasted against traditional melodies, and the upbeat songs often subvert traditional pop structures. (Wikipedia)

The album explores freedom from oppression, and its title comes from a line in the TV drama series The Fall. Apple has identified its core message as: “Fetch the f***ing bolt cutters and get yourself out of the situation you’re in”.

The album also discusses Apple’s complex relationships with other women and other personal experiences, including bullying and sexual assault. It has nevertheless been referred to as Apple’s most humorous album. (Wikipedia)

Many have found its exploration of confinement timely. It’s also been described as an instant classic and her best work to date. I’ve certainly enjoyed listening to it, mainly while walking our dog Toby.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Fragility (Kevin Buckland)

This remarkable album by my friend Kevin Buckland is one of my favourites of 2020. Kevin provides very little information on the album’s Bandcamp page, other than it was recorded live to cassette tape.

The album has a lo-fi sound, and it simply oozes fragility and vulnerability. I can quite imagine the album as a film soundtrack to create a particular mood. Although released before the coronavirus pandemic, it reflects powerfully the uncertain times in which we live.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.