10 Essential 1980s Progressive Rock Albums

7. Jethro Tull - A

Jethro Tull spent the 1970s pioneering and perfecting progressive folk via seminal statements such as Aqualung, Thick as a Brick, Minstrel in the Gallery, and Songs from the Wood. (Of course, 1973’s stranger and colder A Passion Play would become their utmost work of genius.)

Despite holding onto that core style over the ensuring decades, they eventually pivoted into uninspiring electronic rock and hard rock as well. Luckily, 1980’s A maintained enough of their definitive DNA to still be an indispensable part of their catalog.

Admittedly, there are two or three lackluster inclusion (namely, Working John, Working Joe and 4.W.D. (Low Ratio)), but the rest are very good. In particular, Fylingdale Flyer contains fetching vocal harmonies, sing-along hooks, and emblematically playful and technical instrumentation. Afterward, Protect and Survive is full of stellar guitarwork, wild flutes, and absorbing melodies, just as Batteries Not Included and Uniform soar thanks to their flamboyantly urbane arrangements.

Plus, finale And Further On is easily among Jethro Tull’s most subtly gorgeous and haunting compositions. Interspersing its piano ballad foundation with bursts of artful intensity, it’s a lovingly haunting gem with clever dynamic shifts. Put another way, it’s the eloquently bittersweet icing on A’s largely delectable cake.


Hey there! Outside of WhatCulture, I'm a former editor at PopMatters and a contributor to Kerrang!, Consequence, PROG, Metal Injection, Loudwire, and more. I've written books about Jethro Tull, Opeth, and Dream Theater and I run a creative arts journal called The Bookends Review. Oh, and I live in Philadelphia and teach academic/creative writing courses at a few colleges/universities.