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.


Ambient Mood (Bandcamp)

Bandcamp is a website for musicians and labels upload music and control how they sell it, setting their own prices or the option to pay what you like and offering occasional discounts. I use it to discover independent music, listening mainly to ambient music, although not exclusively. I’ve also made a number of online friends through Bandcamp. You can find my fan profile and public music collection here.

Bandcamp’s website offers users access to an artist’s page featuring information on the artist, social media links, merchandising links and listing their available music. Artists can change the look of their page and customize its features. Source

You can stream the music on the website, listen via an app or download. Downloads are offered both in lossy formats as MP3, AAC and Ogg Vorbis, and in lossless formats as FLAC, ALAC, WAV and AIFF. Some artists may offer the purchase of their music on physical media such as CD, vinyl, and even cassette.

I download my purchases and listen to them on a dedicated music player, as well as listening on the website and app on my smartphone. You can read about some of my favourites by clicking here.

Here at the Mayflower (2001)

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You might be surprised that I’m writing about a Barry Manilow album, which (believe it or not) one of my favourite albums of 2001. I’ve previously written about my eclectic musical taste, so actually you might not find it as strange as it first seems. I’m not one to shy away from a particular musician simply because some might consider that choice uncool.

Here at the Mayflower is a concept album, based on the Brooklyn apartment complex where Barry Manilow grew up. The album contains a mixture of musical styles, and some you not might expect. It’s very different from his work of the 1970s and 80s, and something of a hidden gem. Each song tells a story about the occupants of an apartment block. It’s a wonderful album.

Music for Home Schooling

Dave Grohl recently (February 2021) suggested three albums that children should listen to for their musical education:

Sgt. Pepper is obvious, and is my first choice. Back in Black wouldn’t get a look in, but Saturday Night Fever has some merit.

So, what would I choose to go with Sgt. Pepper?

There are so many possibilities, including other albums by The Beatles – but that would just be indulgent. Certain albums by David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead were strong contenders, but I decided to go with these two classics:

Which three albums would you choose?

See also: Essential Albums and Musicians

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.

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).

Serpentine Prison (Matt Berninger)

You’ve probably guessed that I enjoy listening to new albums, as well as discovering old music that’s new to me.

I find out about new albums from a variety of sources, and sometimes I kick myself for missing one – like Earth by Ed O’Brien. But, this debut album by Matt Berninger of The National, is one I didn’t miss! It was recommended to me by Anisa Subedar, a friend I haven’t met in real life yet.

I immediately liked the overall sound of the album and the fascinating lyrics, and it’s one of my favourites of 2020. The album was produced by the legendary Booker T. Jones and features Gail Ann Dorsey (probably best know as David Bowie‘s bass player from 1995 until his death in 2016) in one song.

Serpentine Prison isn’t the drastic change of pace that many frontmen create when they do a project outside of their main band, but it does enough to justify itself as separate from The National’s catalog. At the same time, longtime fans of the group will undoubtedly feel at home here, too, while also admiring what Berninger does differently. It’s not all equally captivating or distinctive, but it is consistently moving, tasteful, and alluring, promising something even greater when Berninger returns for his sophomore solo sequence. Jordan Blum

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

See also: Melting Pot (Booker T Jones)

Song for Our Daughter

Song for Our Daughter by Laura Marling is a wonderfully mature and polished album, it’s one of my favourites of 2020. She writes songs for her fictional daughter, and by implication, her former self. She was inspired by Maya Angelou‘s book Letter to My Daughter.

The accompaniment is stripped right back to create an intimate sound, her accomplished playing and singing is always central with some beautiful harmonies and melodies.

This is one of a number of albums I’ve discovered this year because they were nominated for the Mercury Prize 2020.

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