Happy 45th: Jethro Tull, A PASSION PLAY

Monday, July 23, 2018
Jethro Tull

45 years ago this month, Jethro Tull released their sixth studio album, proving that it was possible to release two concept albums back to back and hit the top of the Billboard 200 with both. (We can assure you that this sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.)

Although A PASSION PLAY was recorded at Morgan Studios in London, that’s not where the sessions for the band’s sixth album was originally intended to go down. In fact, they began recording at the Château d'Hérouville studios in France, a choice which was made in an effort to avoid the high tax rates in the UK. The plan was to record a double album, and they actually recorded enough to fill three out of four sides, but between technical problems in the studio and a torrid bout of homesickness, the band ultimately set aside all but four tracks, with frontman Ian Anderson nicknaming the studio “the Chateau D’Isaster.” Under pressure to get the album finished before the beginning of Jethro Tull’s U.S. tour, Anderson penned some new tunes, adapted some of the existing material, and – voila! – A PASSION PLAY was complete.

The blend of English folk with a heavy dose of progressive rock and classical music clearly captured the imaginations of the existing Tull fanbase, as the album raced up the charts and landed atop the Billboard 200 and to #16 on the UK Albums chart.

Post-script: more than a decade later, the majority of the so-called “Chateau D’Isaster Tapes” made their way to the public via the compilations 20 YEARS OF JETHRO TULL and NIGHTCAP: THE UNRELEASED MASTERS 1973-1991, but it wouldn’t be until 2013 that the entirety of those tapes would make their way into release. So if you’re curious about them and haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying them, be sure to seek out A PASSION PLAY: AN EXTENDED PERFORMANCE.

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