Steve Lieberman: “The Gangsta Rabbi’s (Punk/Thrash) Thick As A Brick/A Passion Play”

After the transitional and daring “Aqualung” album turned Jethro Tull into hard rock heroes and stadium giants, the group made one of the gutsiest moves they could; their next album, 1972’s “Thick As A Brick” consisted of a single, LP-length song, full of winding structures and movements, at just around 44 minutes long. The stands as one of progressive rock’s defining milestones, a brave gamble that took as much guts as The Who’s rock opera “Tommy,” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” concerts to complete. Everything about the album is innovative, or at the least a wild idea, from the music right down to the album cover; it featured a batch of made-up news stories, the front page story depicting a young boy’s epic poem being disqualified from a literary contest because of its author’s unfair advantage over the other entries due to his high intellect, and for other nonsensical reasons.

The album is a masterpiece, from the opening gentle acoustic lines to the conclusion with Anderson’s quivery emotional reading of, “Your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick…as a brick.” The music would confound even the most rebellious of 19th century classical composers, going through a color-bending and challenging obstacle course of structures and bridges, many of which so strong that Jethro Tull could have sculpted entire songs out of them.

Their next album, “A Passion Play”, would be even more inaccessible, with even more ambiguous lyrics. Forty six years later someone has had the courage to rework “Thick As a Brick”, achieving much of the original’s artistic effect – that is, confound even the most rebellious of 21st century classical composers. And to make matters better…or worse depending on how narrow your vision is, he includes Tull’s “A Passion Play”, into the package.

Which cynical madman would attempt such a humongous feat? Well the same person, who a year back, thrashed up The Who’s “Tommy” – Steve Lieberman the Gangsta Rabbi. Trying to affront each track Lieberman executes is an arduous and useless task to my mind.

I don’t even think Lieberman’s music is about tracks, titles, verses or choruses. It’s about an approach, a supposition and conceptualization of what Steve Lieberman contemplates music to be. And more often than not his left-field, off-kilter interpretations will confuse and disturb.

Lieberman’s music is extreme, he lives and works on the absolute fringes of conventional acceptance. A place where assonance and dissonance clash and meld to become an uncompromising cacophony of sound. The little labels on his music reads – Thrash, Punk, Metal, Grindcore and the like.

It could even read – progressive or experimental for that matter, but the truth is, here within “The Gangsta Rabbi’s (Punk/Thrash) Thick As A Brick/A Passion Play”, lies the sharp collective mind of an enlightenment renaissance master. And the master’s full arsenal of talent is on gorgeously raucous display in this one great album.

Steve Lieberman brings the guitar, baritone guitar, bass, concert flute, soprano, alto and tenor recorder, tenor and bass trombone, melodica, talabard, drums and beat machines to meet up with Tull’s complex compositions. And if for one moment you can imagine the sound of any of the aforementioned instruments at work on any one of Tull’s melodic, flute-infested arrangements…don’t.

Stop right there. Lieberman does not use instruments they way your mommy or the local music school teacher taught you to. Or rather, he plays them just like you do, but they will never sound just like you do. Lieberman will test the limits of any sound system around – automotive or home.

And then he will test your musical integrity. Just how far can you see beyond the mainstream? What will your reaction be to the bludgeoning sounds of “Sperm In The Gutter”, “My Father Was A Man Of Power” or “The Discovery Of His Disease”? Will you even get past the song titles?

You see, dear friends, music is not all it is made out to be. It is what you, and you alone, perceive it to be. “The Gangsta Rabbi’s (Punk/Thrash) Thick As A Brick/A Passion Play” is a self-affirming musical concoction, born of inspired invention, in opposition to conventional wisdom.


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