Jethro Tull (1971)
Jethro Tull was actually an early pioneer of hard rock, believe it or not, employing future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. But as lead singer Ian Anderson became more prominent, they grew into a different sound: basically a fusion of the Kinks and Yes, demarcating a whole new side of prog that was very fussy and pastoral, yet also retained a metallic edge. This was due to the bandleader’s old-timey aesthetic and modern sensibilities. He also holds the dubious honor of bringing the flute into rock music as a primary instrument; at the very least, he plays it with creativity and panache here, while the rest of the band plays hard enough to satisfy rockers. While progressive rock was backward-looking and archaic, Jethro Tull’s colloquialisms, antiquated imagery and finicky attitude made it quintessentially British. They also turned prog from mysticism and sci-fi to politically-charged and historically relevant matters. For instance, this record is a terrific concept album criticizing organized religion and the middle class. It even got a lot of radio play, something that would still be surprising today for a bunch of songs on that subject.
Key track: “My God”
See also: Thick As A Brick – Jethro Tull (1972)