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Locomotive Breath to fill Aqualung

Jethro Tull to play entire classic album at Edgefield on Friday
by: Contributed photo Jethro Tull, led by Ian Anderson, center, will be playing its 1971 album “Aqualung” (cover below) in its entirety, along with several other songs, at Edgefield this Friday, June 17. The band eschews a fancy show, instead focusing on the music, says to Anderson, who performed with members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra last year.

The recording studio acoustics were 'pretty horrible' and 'things sounded bad, and it wasn't a good experience.'

To talk to Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull's flutist-singer, you'd think he was referring to the band's early demo recordings. But he's actually talking about the 1971 album 'Aqualung,' considered by many critics one of the greatest progressive rock albums ever.

'We were all a bit uncomfortable, and it wasn't an easy ride,' he says of Tull's recording in London's Basing Street, or Island, Studios (where another band, Led Zeppelin, was initially recording its fourth album, featuring 'Stairway to Heaven').

'We didn't really know what we got until we took the finished results to master them in another studio,' Anderson says of 'Aqualung' during a phone interview.

What they got, however, was a future staple of classic rock radio, the most famous cuts of which include the title song as well as 'Locomotive Breath.'

Marking the 40th anniversary of the record's release, Tull - including longtime guitarist Martin Barre - will perform 'Aqualung' this Friday at McMenamins Edgefield.

'On this particular tour, it's pretty much as it was originally arranged and recorded,' he says, although Anderson adds 'Hymn 43' will be played as 'more of an Irish jig.'

Anderson says audience members shouldn't expect an overly elaborate show, band members 'miming' with 'partly naked male dancers or female dancers' to recorded tracks, as some pop acts do these days.

'I really loathe and detest those kind of presentations,' he says, adding it would be impossible anyway.

'It's unlikely because we're really bad tailors,' he says with a chuckle. 'Those guys need a lot of money to take their clothes off, I'm guessing.'

Don't misunderstand him

'Aqualung' was both of its time and ahead of its time. The album tackled weighty subjects like homelessness and prostitution, among other fare, and also aimed a critical eye at organized religion - a fact that earned Jethro Tull some backlash in the American Bible Belt and more conservative Catholic countries like Spain, Anderson says.

'It wasn't meant to be a negative or cutting piece of commentary,' he says, adding that while he doesn't 'do the Jesus bit' - he's somewhere in 'the camp between deist and pantheist' - he has performed a number of benefits for churches and considers Christianity a 'good basis for an ethical code of living.'

He also notes 'Aqualung' was released at a time when rock fans were looking to musicians to tackle interesting subjects in a fresh way.

'It was an era when you did look for new material,' he says. 'It wasn't about toeing the line and finding the cozy comfort area between pop and rock.'

If you go

WHO: Jethro Tull

PLAYS: 'Aqualung' and other favorites

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 17

WHERE: McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale

COST: $40 general admission, $79 reserved seating. All ages.

INFO: 503-669-8610, mcmenamins.com/edgefield