Lee Speaks About Music… #187

Still Thick As A Brick – The Refelction Club

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Introduction…

Well, this is a turn up for the books and just like how Ian Anderson has been repackaging his back catalogue of music it comes in a book. I am sure all Jethro Tull fans will remember their 1972 iconic concept album Thick As A Brick. He even did a sequel under his own name back in 2012 with TAAB2. Well, now the saga continues with Still Thick As A Brick only not by Anderson or Tull but by an entirely new band that goes by the name of The Reflection Club. Many might very well regard this as plagiarism although I would not entirely call it that because just like what Rob Reed did for Mike Oldfield with his Sanctuary series this is all original material and I have to say done with sheer BRILLIANCE! That much that I could easily make this my favourite album of the year.

I stumbled upon this release via a review by Bryan Morey on the Progarchy website and thank him sincerely for his review and heads up for putting me onto the album. Thick As A Brick has always been my personal favourite album by Jethro Tull although I have many favourite albums by the band especially from 1969 – 1978. What you are getting here is something that very much replicates the band, Jethro Tull, down to a tee from that early period and I would even go as far as to say that this could easily be mistaken for a long lost Tull album that came out of that magic decade with how well it’s been done.

So just who are these people that make up this band? And where do they come from? Well before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as can see in the picture above they have gone out of their way to release this album in the same formula of a book that Ian Anderson has been doing with the 40th and 50th Anniversary Editions of the back catalogue of the Jethro Tull discography. Although both are quality packages and the discs come in hardback books. There are quite a few differences and the first would be that the book we have here is slimmer than what you get with the Tull packages. The other difference is how the discs are stored as you can see below.

The discs in the JT package are stored in quality plastic trays with hubs that make it easy to retrieve the discs. Whereas this package comes with the discs stored in a die-cut slip pocket in the front and back of the book and they can be buggers to get at and try and retrieve them.

The book itself tries to throw in some humour in a similar vein to what Ian Anderson and the rest of the band did with the album cover back in 1972. There is a bit of tongue and cheek going on here, however, whereas the articles in Thick As A Brick were quite hilarious and PYTHON ESC! I find it hard to find anything remotely funny here at all. Maybe it’s a German thing 😊😊😊.

The book does however provide some detailed informative content regarding the band and how the album came about and comes with all the usual linear production notes, lyrics and other articles and photographs. To be honest the book you get here does also come with near enough as many pages as what you get with the Tull packages. But for some reason, they have duplicated the contents that make up the book twice as seen in the picture above. For example, the first 16-pages are in small print and they have used a further 70-pages to display exactly the same content in larger print. For the life of me, I cannot see why they did this and maybe once again this is a German thing 😊😊😊.

Overall it is however a very good quality package and even at its price point of under £20, you are getting good value for the buck considering it comes with a CD & DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album. I ordered my copy from Amazon and paid £19.66 for it and it’s still available around that price or slightly cheaper today.

It was also released on blue coloured 180gram vinyl in a Limited Edition package of 500 copies to which you also got the CD & DVD and the book in the form of a newspaper. Sold at a bargain price too considering all you are getting here and it was priced at €30 from the bands website.

Artwork.
Unlike all those involved in putting all the content into Jethro Tull’s Thick As Brick back in 1972 the design we have here was all done by one man Lutz Meinert, who happens to be the guy behind the project and who wrote all the material on the album. Overall, I think he has done a very good job even if there is a German thing about it 😊😊😊.

The Album In Review…

Still Thick As A Brick by The Reflection Club was released on the 3rd of March 2021. The album contains 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 38 seconds. Just like the 1972 album Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull, it runs along the lines of a concept album. The way the album has been presented in the form of a newspaper or magazine called Rellington Stone instead of the St. Cleve Chronicle also suggests certain things are being replicated. Although the story we have here is poles apart from the story that Ian Anderson wrote about the fictional character Gerald Bostock and in no way is it a continuation of that story. It’s an album that is done more in the way of a tribute to that classic album more than anything else and perhaps could be seen as a labour of love.

Everything about the album we have here is highly original written material and was conceived by the multi-instrumentalist, musician and songwriter Lutz Meinert. Although it was going to take a lot more than himself to pull off a project like this and I believe he assembled the other members that make up The Reflection Club back in 2017. Meinert himself is from Berlin, Germany and is no stranger to working on other projects and collaborating with other musicians. Back in 2011 he put together another one of his studio projects and formed the Psychedelic/Space Rock band Margin and released one album under this project name.

Psychedelic Teatime is perhaps an album that is more along the lines of Pink Floyd with the material he wrote for it. Even the PROGMATIC! band Gong springs to mind with the title he chose here. I did take the liberty to listen to this album on the Tube but it was not my cup of tea. It did not speak to me like Floyd whereas what we have with this new project of his says everything about Jethro Tull back in the early 70’s and I guess that is down to other quality musicians he has onboard with him here, especially the singer who is English and is in a Tull tribute band who go by the name of The Jethro Tull Experience.

To be honest I have never heard of this tribute band though you can see why Paul Forrest would fit in a band like this with his voice which is as close as you could get to Anderson’s voice back in the early 70’s. He also plays acoustic guitar and flute in the band which are all part of Anderson’s attributes. Although it is his voice that is more predominantly utilised for this album and taking care of the flute side of things we have American flautist Ulla Harmuth. She really can play the flute although missing are the other characteristics that Anderson applies to the flute such as vocal breathing, grunts and snarls. I would also say that it is really only those characteristics that differentiate this album from it sounding like a long lost Tull album from the 70’s.

The final musician who makes up the lineup is also from Germany and he is Nils Conrad who contributes electric guitar to the album. All the other instruments such as the keyboards, bass and drums are played by Meinert himself and there is also quite a few additional musicians and voices that also contribute to making up the album which I will go into later. There is even a whole football team that contributes to it although like many of the guests who appear on the album there does seem to be a spoof going on here 😊😊😊.

The album is very much a studio project were the main core members of the band recorded their parts at their home studio’s. Like many musicians today, they have their own little studio setups at home and its not as if they met up with each other and internationally collaborated via contact from their homes. The final mixing and mastering of stereo and 5.1 surround sound was done by Lutz Meinert at Imago-Studio, Berlin.

I will go into the album tracks on the CD later in the “Album Tracks” section of my review. But first, let’s take a look at the DVD that comes with the package which was another one of my incentives to buy the album.

The DVD.

The DVD’s main menu looks quite pristine and as sharp as a Blu Ray. Looking at the photo they have used you would think that more than somebody has had a bad day at the office 😊😊😊. The navigation runs quite smooth and it’s easy to navigate your way along with the 4 choices of “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Audio Setup” and “Subtitles For Lyrics”.

The “Track Select” menu displays all the 11 album tracks on one page and although you do have to load a page to get to it the transition is quite quick and smooth. I quite like the way they have done things here by using a different picture for this menu.

The “Audio Setup” menu gives you a choice of three soundtracks the PCM Stereo mix has the highest resolution of 96K/24Bit at 4.5Mbps. The DTS 5.1 mix comes with a 48k/24Bit resolution at 754Kbps. Whilst the Dolby Digital mix is 48K at 448Kbps. Even though the stereo mix has been given more priority in the resolution department it is still possible to get better results with both the 5.1 mixes down to the separation.

It also comes with subtitles which is good for those who want to follow the concept story and get to know what it’s all about. The “Subtitles” menu gives the choice of five different languages English, Deutch, French, Spanish and Italian. By default is set to none.

The other good thing is that it comes with an array of pictures for you to feast your eyes on whilst listening to the album. I say an array of pictures and it would be impossible to count them but there could be at least a thousand if not more. The pictures portray the concept of the album and run along in sequence to the story, they are all high-quality HD snaps. Overall, quite an impressive job has been done putting it all together and a quality job has been done here.

Picture & Audio Quality.

Everything regarding the DVD was done by Lutz Meinert and I have to say he has done a quality job all around here. The pictures he has used are all high-quality HD pictures and when playing this DVD on a Blu Ray player you would not tell the difference between the picture quality of both formats. Although that is obviously down to the Blu Ray player upscaling the picture and many players can do a really good job of it and give DVD’s that pristine sharpness and quality that you would get with a 1080p Blu Ray.

Regarding the audio quality, I think it’s fair to say that not only does Meinert have a good vision to do the job he did so well with the video side of things, but he also has a good ear. I would even go as far as to say a very good one too because although most engineers have no problem mixing stereo. 5.1 surround mixes tend to be the hardest thing to do for many engineers and I will say that this guy also has the right ear and know how to do them well. I am not saying he’s in Steve Wilson’s league when it comes to doing surround mixes, but overall he has done quite a very good job here with both the stereo and surround mixes and I would even give the surround mix an 8.5 out of 10. It does give you a very good immersive experience.

Musicians & Credits…

All tracks were composed, arranged and produced by Lutz Meinert. Together with George Boston he also wrote all the lyrics. Published by Madvedge Records. Recorded sometime between 2017 – 2021. Mixed & Mastered by Lutz Meinert at Imago Studio Berlin, Germany. Album Design by Lutz Meinert. 5.1 Surround Mix by Lutz Meinert.

Musicians:
Lutz Meinert: Piano – Organ – Harpsichord – Vibraphone – Glockenspiel – Electric & Double Bass – Drums & Percussion & Occasional Background Vocals.
Paul Forrest: Lead Vocals – Acoustic Guitar – Flute (Track 2).
Nils Conrad: Electric Guitar.
Ulla Harmuth: Flute (Except Track 2).

Guest Musicians:
The Rellington Resort Orchestra, conducted by Laura Palmer.
Vanessa Wiltshire: – Solo Violin (Tracks 6 & 10).
The Little Indian Restaurant Ensemble – Sitar and Percussion.
The Bagpipe Club Willy Scotty – Bagpipes and Piccolo Flutes.
The Rellington Football Club – Shouts and Insane Noise.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The whole concept and idea behind Still Thick As A Brick was done by Lutz Meinert and to some degree, there are some similarities between his fictional story and Ian Anderson’s. For example the spoof idea of how Gerald Bostock wrote the lyrics he has used the same initials and claimed that George Boston co-wrote the lyrics with him. I would also stick my neck out and say that the “Guest Musicians” listed above is entirely a spoof and all the instrumentation and sounds in that section are all part of his own production work.

Like Anderson’s idea, the story is based around the fictional character who wrote it, only here it’s set in a fictional town called Rellington. It deals with Boston’s busy life of work, finance, women, drugs, and many of the issues we deal with in our complex modern world sort of thing. Another similarity is that the album was released on the 3rd of March as was the original album some 49 years ago. Although the album is split into 11 tracks or parts it does run along seamlessly and portrays the story very well so let’s now dive into the album.

Track 1. Part 1: Prelude.

The opening introduction sounds nothing like Tull at first and the orchestral section to my ears sounds like the orchestration was played on the keyboards with the use of modelling soft synth software. The so-called Rellington Resort Orchestra directed by Laura Palmer is a spoof and neither does the town or resort exist. As far as I can make out Laura Palmer is a fictional character from the American TV series Twin Peaks. The soundtrack from the series also has a theme of the same name. One of the other things that tell me it’s a spoof is the way it’s worded as “Directed” by her and not “Conducted”.

I have to confess that I am not that keen on this orchestrated opening and it’s not in league with some of the skilful orchestral arrangements David Palmer did for Jethro Tull that used a real orchestra. Though I will say Lutz Meinert has done a very good job and it does more or less sound like a real orchestra and to be fair it’s not as if Meinert would be in the same financial situation as Anderson to hire an orchestra so it’s perhaps understandable.

It is only a short 2-minute piece and things start to sound more like Tull around the 1.5-minute mark when he brings in the Hammond at first then the drums and bass right at the very end to tailspin into the next track. Ulla Harmuth also contributes some fine flute to it as well and those are the only two musicians on this opening piece.

Track 2. Part 2: Time Out.

As soon as this track opens up there is no doubt that the album now sounds like you are listening to a Jethro Tull album from the 70’s. It’s really down to one man and this particular track features Paul Forrest using all three of Anderson’s attributes which are his voice, acoustic guitar and this is the only track he also plays the flute on as well. It is without any doubt the best track on the album and is the main theme of the album with how it reoccurs in other parts as it runs along.

I am pretty sure that if Meinert would have released this track as a single this album would be selling like hotcakes. It’s a shame really because as it stands I don’t think the album is getting enough recognition and that would really be down to the very few who have heard it. However, you can get to hear it on Bandcamp along with the next four tracks that come after it so it gives you a good idea of how the album flows.

This song actually puts me in mind of the album Passion Play rather than Thick As A Brick which is most likely down to the melody played on the acoustic guitar. I can also imagine it being on Warchild and coming into play after the words “Would you like a cup of tea dear” on the intro of that album.

Time Out” really is a very well written and arranged song and even the string arrangement done by Meinert sits in well here. Nils Conrad also lends support to the song though he is perhaps more utilised as the album progresses along. This is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Part 3: Years on the Fast Track.

This is the first track on the album to feature all four musicians although Forrest’s voice only comes into play in the dying last few seconds for it to tailspin into the next track so this is very much more of an instrumental track. No doubt the Hammond organ puts you in mind of TAAB but I quite like how well Meinert’s bassline stands out so well on this track. Conrad gets to do more with his electric guitar and plays some fine lead lines and embellishes the main theme of the previous track towards the end. Harmuth’s flute also plays a fine contribution here too. It’s a piece that very much picks up the pace of the album and they all do a GRAND! job of it.

Track 4. Part 4: Rellington Town.

This next song is the longest track on the album and another of my personal favourite tracks on the album. Forrest is back with his Anderson voice and acoustic guitar and here he is accompanied by Harmuth on flute and all 4 musicians do another TOP JOB! here. There is some fine progression in this song with how it develops and it does put you in mind of Jethro Tull. In this part, George Boston is reflecting on some of the finer points of the fictional town he grew up in.

As Rellington Town does not exist I decided to use a picture of a town that very much exists namely Wellington Town. Even though the song is some 6 minutes, 17 seconds long it does seem to be over in no time. I guess that is really down to how good the song is and this is very much one of the highlights of the album along with “Time Out“.

Track 5. Part 5: The Club Of Hopeful Pinions.

If there is a track on this album that sounds like it’s been lifted from TAAB this is definitely it, although it has been done in their own way you do however get the feel of that classic Tull album with all that’s been done here. The combination of electric and acoustic guitars work very well throughout and Harmuth’s flute is well utilised in the lengthy solo and once again all 4 musicians are firing on all cylinders. It’s very much another highlight on the album and a GREAT ONE!

Track 6. Part 6: The Forary Of The Sharks.

This next track is one of two tracks on the album that features Vanessa Wiltshire supposedly on solo violin and once again this is a spoof and the idea of how Meinert came up with the name was most likely by seeing the top violinist Vanessa-Mae appear in the Wiltshire Gazette. A solo violin or violin solo is perhaps one of the hardest sounds to emulate with a keyboard and to be honest if there is one in this song I cannot hear it. There are some strings around the 4:24 mark though they are a combination of strings and not a solo violin on its own.

This is the only video of a full song from the album that Meinert has uploaded on the bands Tube channel and this gives you an idea of how well he has synchronised each clip to run along with the story. You will also notice that every now and then he does put clips of the instrumentation used and you can see for yourself where the so-called solo violin comes into play. Although he has also edited this video to display the album promotion in parts too.

There is even a Sitar amongst the pictures just before the string section and it’s obvious that it’s not played by The Little Indian Restaurant Ensemble which is another spoof. Though even in my research I could not find anything regarding how he come up with the name and my guess is that perhaps like Anderson Indian restaurants may have curried his brain 😊😊😊.

Track 7. Part 7: Sentimental Depreciation.

This is another fine song that utilises not just Forrest’s voice but his acoustic guitar. The other thing that is notable here is that there is indeed a solo violin and to my ears it does sound like one. There is obviously an error regarding the couple of tracks Wiltshire’s violin is alledged to be played on. To be honest with how real it sounds it even has me thinking if she is part of a spoof. However, I am still gonna stick my neck out and say that it is a spoof 😊😊😊.

This is another GREAT! track on the album to which is mostly acoustic and the reoccurring theme of “Time Out” is brought back into play once again. It also features some fine vibes and piano from Meinert and Conrad gets to fly out another fine solo on the electric at the end to round it all off.

Track 8. Part 8: Nervesoothers.

This next song ticks over at a steady relaxing pace and perhaps a soothing pace to calm the nerves as the title might suggest sort of thing. Ulla Harmuth is back in the fold with her flute and musically this song is very much acoustically driven along by the piano, vibes, double bass and drums and there was no need for Conrad’s electric guitar. Forest gets to stretch out his lungs a bit more than Anderson on this song too.

Track 9. Part 9: The Great Dance Around The Golden Calf.

The pace is brought back to the fold and this one is very much guitar-driven and Conrad’s services are very much required and things are hotting up over these next couple of tracks. I quite like Meinert’s pumping dominant bassline and he works in the keyboards and drums very well too. Harmuth also contributes some excellent flute work to and the services of the so-called Little Indian Restaurant Ensemble are also banging it out on the kettle drums. They are all pretty much cooking on gas and doing a GRAND! job.

Track 10. Part 10: Bedlam.

The bedlam in question happens to be at a football match and this is where the so-called Rellington Football Club are utilised with their shouts and insane noise. The song itself is a bit like a game of two halves with how the transition comes into play at the halfway point sort of thing. There are quite a few transitions and bags of progression throughout and this is, even more, hotter than the previous track with all that’s been put into it and they are all on fire.

There are flashes throughout that remind you of the original TAAB especially the hammond organ and I like how Meinert has combined it with the harpsichord as well. Conrad gets to fly out another TASTY! guitar solo and the so-called Vanessa Wiltshire throws in a bit of violin. This is quite a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and another of the album’s highlights.

Track 11. Part 11: Look Across The Sea.

Everything is brought down smoothly and Meinert’s piano trickles out the waves of the sea with a nice little flourish on the keys. The so-called Willy Scotty Bagpipe Club comes nicely into play with the bagpipes and piccolo flutes and I have no idea where he got the bagpipes from but they do sound 100% real to my ears and even more impressive is the military roll on the snare drum that accompanies them.

Once again the theme from the opening song “Time Out” gets nicely replenished with Conrad’s electric guitar and it all nicely fizzles out to allow Forrest to come in with his acoustic guitar in the way of a reprise of the main song and end it all off in the same style that Anderson did on the original album more or less. It’s the perfect way to put the album to bed and I have to say it’s one hell of a satisfying album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up Still Thick As A Brick by The Reflection Club. What we have here is an album that has obviously taken some time to put it all together and one that has very well skillfully been woven together. It’s very much a labour of love and all four musicians have done a stellar job on it. It does without doubt sound like a long lost Jethro Tull album from the early 70’s and no doubt Paul Forrest’s voice does have Ian Anderson’s characteristics and without that this album and the way it’s been tributed to the band would not have really worked.

The material is all highly original and in no way could you really accuse it of plagiarism though no doubt some die-hard Tull fans might. In all honestly, I personally think this album is better than the last couple of Tull albums I reviewed Stormwatch and “A” with how it’s been put together and my personal highlights from the album are “Time Out“. “Rellington Town“. “The Club Of Hopeful Pinions” and “Bedlam“. Although this is really an album you will get more pleasure out of by playing it in its entirety and it’s been very well stitched seamlessly together.

In conclusion of my review of this GREAT! album I very much think this album will appeal to many Tull fans and whether you are adventuring through the mind of Gerald Bostock or George Boston I am sure you will enjoy the ride. The production standards speak for themself and it even comes with a 5.1 mix that I am sure will delight surround FREAKS! such as myself and give them a well-pleasing immersive experience. I personally think it’s the PROG! album of the year so far and one that will be very hard to beat.

It’s been very well presented with the package it comes in and is well worthy of every penny and is bang on for the buck or in this case it may even be “Book”. It will be interesting to see what Lutz Meinert is planning for his next project. Hopefully, it will be another Tull album but for now, I highly recommend you check this album out. Here is the official album trailer that was put out.

Not One You Want To Sit Out…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. Part 1: Prelude. 2:00.
02. Part 2: Time Out. 4:03.
03. Part 3: Years On The Fast Track. 3:30.
04. Part 4: Rellington Town. 6:17.
05. Part 5: The Club Of Hopeful Pinions. 3:47.
06. Part 6: The Forary Of The Sharks. 5:45.
07. Part 7: Sentimental Depreciation. 5:19.
08. Part 8: Nervesoothers. 3:09.
09. Part 9: The Great Dance Around The Golden Calf. 3:36.
10. Part 10: Bedlam. 5:48.
11. Part 11: Look Across The Sea. 4:24.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8.5/10.
The Album Rating Score. 9/10.

2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music… #187

  1. “Thick as a brick” is one of the albums I have completely missed, though I know it’s one of the classic Tull-albums. I admit I have never listened to it. Now listening to this respectful recreation of the Tull-sound it wettens my appetite to discover “Thick as a brick” at last. These German have done a splendid job making an album, which sounds like a forgotten Tull-work. The singer is very close to Anderson, the arrangements are very tasteful and preserve the typical mixture of Rock, Folk and Classical music. Only the guitar seems to be out of place sometimes. Martin Barres guitar-playing was more down to earth and less technical. Guitar-playing has progressed a lot since the times of the classic Jethro Tull, but if you are after a 70s-recreation you have also to make a step backwards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No doubt what has been done on this album has taken more than lunchtime to put it all together and for it to sound like Tull it would never have been possible without the singer. I get what you are saying regarding the electric guitar in parts but just like there are also no breathing snarls and grunts with the flute playing they are perhaps minuscule in relation to it not sounding like a long lost Tull album from the early 70’s They have without doubt done a very clever job of it and they also intend to take it on the road when they get the chance.

      I actually watched the singer Paul Forest with the tribute band he is in on the Tube yesterday and he was doing “Nothing To Say” from the 1971 Benefit album. His voice was spot on to Anderson’s and the only thing that did let it down for me was the tightness of the band he’s playing with. I think with the 4 members who make up The Reflection Club here, they would do it more justice even live on stage than what his tribute band is doing.

      You should check out Thick As A Brick Dirk and there is a lot more to Jethro Tull than the albums Stand Up and Aqualung.

      Like

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