Jethro Tull: “Thick as a Brick”

Posted: March 9, 2018 in THE CLASH of Cover Tunes
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Tune du Jour: “Thick as a Brick” – Jethro Tull
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: Phe Cullen vs. Emerson Parris vs. Jay Tausig
Broc 3 - Cover Me Impressed

Everybody’s Dressin’ Funny … Cover Me Impressed!


Read it in the Sunday papers …

An Israeli man requested a restraining order against God, saying that he’s fed up with the Almighty interfering in his life. David Shoshan told a court in Haifa that God “started to treat me harshly and not nicely” three years ago, and calls to the police had not put an end to the harassment. Judge Ahsan Canaan denied the request for a restraining order, saying Shoshan needed the kind of help the court could not provide. God did not present himself at the hearing.


The Original

Jethro Tull:


THE CLASH of Cover Tunes


Phe Cullen vs. Emerson Parris vs. Jay Tausig
Phe Cullen:

Emerson Parris:

Jay Tausig:

Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. It is your solemn responsibility to decide which cover song prevails. In other words … Which Side Are You On?!!? 


  1. Arnold Plotnick says:

    Wow. Jethro Tull was my absolute fave band back on my high school days. I was an obsessive fan. I still have about half a dozen classic vinyl bootlegs, and with the advent of the internet, about 25 live recordings, rare studio recordings, and all of their regular releases. Thick As A Brick is my favorite work of theirs, a masterpiece that blends rock and classical in a spectacular way. I’ve listened to the album hundreds of times, and I still go through phases every few years where it is resurrected and stays on my CD player for a few weeks. I had never heard anyone attempt a cover version. At 45 minutes, it would be quite a feat. All three cover artists wisely shortened their versions, but it would have been nice if at least one of them picked a different section of the song to cover instead of the very first section.

    Phe Cullen’s version didn’t cut it for me. This is an orchestral piece and even though the first minute or two is acoustic, this piece can’t be reduced to a sultry jazzy number.

    Emerson Parris does a very faithful version. Too faithful. Uncannily faithful. If there was a show called Tullmania on Broadway, this would fit right in. Kudos to them for the homage, but I was expecting some creativity, something that might make it more their own.

    I liked Jay Tausig’s version. The punchy bass, the ringing guitars, and the whole wall-of-sound assault gave it some welcome oomph. I liked it a lot. I wish it lasted longer. But they win this one.

    Despite my earlier praises, I admit to losing interest in the band’s music after 1975. The last album I can listen to and enjoy is Songs from the Wood. After that, it’s all mediocre, with an occasional gem here and there. Their stretch from 1969 to 1973 was amazing, though. Stand Up (low key brilliant), Benefit (my fave after TAAB), Aqualung (classic, overplayed), Thick as a Brick (their masterpiece), and A Passion Play (terrific, but can’t escape the shadow of TAAB) shows Ian Anderson at an unbelievable creative zenith. War Child and Minstrel in the Gallery, which came right after, round out this period and were both excellent. The album after that, Too Old To Rock and Roll, Too Young To Die, was the end of that fruitful period and the start of the decline.

    I used to call Minstrel in the Gallery “Menstrual in the Gallery” because I used to play it every 28 days.

    • Kerry Black says:

      When I was writing my piece I thought it was my opportunity to be first poster, but by the time I did so, Arnie beat me to it. I’m struck by how thoroughly I agree with his assessment.

      The first Tull album was somewhat bluesy but still good. It took them a little while to find their footing, but the first half of the seventies was a golden era for them. “Aqualung” is classic and overplayed I totally agree. I also thought “Too Old To Rock and Roll” was the first disappointing album, “Songs From The Wood” was the last really good one. I bought “Heavy Horses” and the live record, but eventually gave up on them and the band itself, for that matter.

      Looks like we essentially agree on the covers, too.

  2. Kerry Black says:

    I considered Jethro Tull my favorite band during my middle school years and the first year or two of high school. This album was a favorite, and because I didn’t have the money to buy every record I wanted, I listened to radio continuously and played the heck out of the few albums I had. There’s a lot of stuff I played too frequently, to the point I had to step back for a number of years, and give it a rest. A few years ago I stumbled upon a used CD copy and carefully listened in a single sitting and discovered I still loved it and knew all the lyrics.

    This is one of the selections from the Desert Island Discs project that I thought would not be included on CMI as I didn’t think many people would choose to cover it.

    I don’t know who Phe Cullen is, but her version didn’t do anything for me.

    The second act sounded good, but perhaps adhered a bit to closely to the original.

    Jay Tausig also sounded good, and added some percussion. Kind of a toss up between the final two acts, with Tausing winning by a slight margin.

  3. Arnold Plotnick says:

    Oooh, I love when people agree with me.

    I’ve listened to their first album, This Was, many times, but I just don’t like it the way I like their subsequent albums. Too bluesy indeed. I guess I think of Tull starting with Martin Barre. Over the past few years, the regular Tull releases have all been re-released, and they all come with some nice bonuses. Benefit has a U.K. version of “Teacher” which is really great.

    Some singers are blessed with voices that retain their strength as the years go on, like Daltrey. Ian Anderson is not one of them, unfortunately. As the years have passed, his voice has gotten so high and nasal and whiny that it’s scary. I have a few live bootlegs where is voice is unlistenable. A few years ago I saw Ian Anderson performing Thick As A Brick 2 (his strange attempt to add a coda to his masterpiece), and he actually had, on stage with him, another vocalist who took the lead vocals on many of the songs. It was as if he acknowledged that his voice was shot.

    I love those early albums. I have a real fondness for Stand Up. Songs like Look into the Sun and Back to the Family. But my real favorite is Benefit. I think he’s at his vocal peak on that one. He’s always had a very distinct voice, like Cat Stevens, kind of.

    I recently got the three CD re-release of Songs from the Wood. Better than I thought, but still part of that declining period. Oh… I always forget to include Living in the Past in there, because it’s a weird album, with one some of the songs being simply re-issues, while others are totally new, and that weird one live side. But that one, too, has some gems on it.

  4. Pete Black says:

    Well I agree with Arnie and Kerry on where the great, good and fadeout of the Tull catalog exists. They were never a top tier favorite band of mine but I liked them a lot and when I finally saw them live in 1979 they put on one of the best shows I had ever seen. I also agree that Phe Cullen’s cover failed to engage me. But, I thought Jay Tausig’s version sounded too cramped, cluttered and densely layered. Although the Emerson Parris cover was an amazingly faithful rendition, it was simply the only one I liked.

  5. Pete Black says:

    Sometimes late at night I surf YouTube and watch live performances. There is a 1977 Tull show from The Capital Centre I watched a good bit of and enjoyed.

  6. RDubbs says:

    Well I am clearly not the Jethro Tull fan that you guys are. I do not dislike what I’ve heard of them but was never intrigued enough to really dive into it. A few years ago I purchased a double cd retrospective, which I enjoy from time to time.

    Phe Cullen’s version is weak. But I could only find three covers of this song and that was one of them. I could have voted for either of the other two artists but ultimately went with Paris. After all, aside from his musical achievements, he did manage to dittle Helen, which eventually launched a thousand ships.

  7. Cuspid says:

    I liked Jethro Tull in high school. I think I had Aqualung and a best of collection. When I got to college and discovered used record stores I began to pick up a few more LPS. I was actually becoming more interested in them. That peaked around 1980. By then I was really turning towards punk, new wave, ska and reggae. While this happened, as it turned out, some artists just completely fell off my personal musical; radar. For whatever reason, Jethro Tull was one of them. I never really got back into them, although I always enjoyed them whenever I herd them. I’m going to have to give the Thick as a Brick album a listen. I haven’t heard it in its entirety since college.

    I had never heard of any of these three cover artists. Phe Cullen was a total turn-off. Her sultry diva approach falls totally flat because she just doesn’t have the voice. Her version of TAAB is bad; her cover of All the Young Dudes is absolutely terrible.

    Emerson Parris and Jay Tausig both came through with admirable efforts. I really like the acoustic guitar prominence of this section of the song. Emerson Parris featured a bit more of it. So I’m voting for him, although as Fang pointed out, he made no effort whatsoever to interject himself into the performance, and seemed content to channel Ian Anderson as much as he possibly could.

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