Saturday, 27 June 2015

Jethro Tull (X): their absolute peak

If there’s still someone out there who reads this blog, I apologize for the delay, it’s been more than a month but I just didn’t have time for anything. My brain is still fried from the latest exams and presentations so I have to write about something that doesn’t require much effort. Exactly, I mean Jethro Tull.

One year after Songs from the Wood, Ian Anderson was still living in the countryside and the folk influences could still be heard in his music. Still, the theme was not popular folklore and myths anymore, but the songs from Tull’s following album, Heavy Horses, were more about “normal” life in the countryside, and animals, many animals.

Where to start, where to start? Although right now I don’t think I have a favourite, this was, for many years, my favourite Jethro Tull album, and that’s saying a lot. The folky melodies, Ian’s singing, the lustiness of the songs... everything’s absolutely brilliant.

Regarding Ian’s singing, he cheated a little bit there. It’s true he gives the impression to sing as if there was no tomorrow, with a passion I don’t remember hearing from him, but he also doubles his voice in all the tracks, making it especially crispy and deep (thanks Antonio Luis for the info and for finding the specific words I was looking for).

Oh, and there’s another tiny little flaw I have to mention before I keep praising this album until I moist. Ok that was kinda gross, please ignore it. Back to the little flaw, which is the way John Evan(s) is underused in this album. Right now, I can only recall him having a noticeable role in the title track, which is, by the way, a beautiful song about English shire horses, the number of which were sadly decaying. The song is more than eight minutes long and features mood changes, Darryl Way’s violin and exquisite musicianship from all band members. It is also an example (one more) of how effing underrated Martin Barre is, another reminder of how you don’t have to play speed-of-light fast to be a great guitar player. Weathercock is another good example of that.

Heavy Horses, as many other Tull albums, combine peaceful acoustics, intrincate rock songs and David Palmer’s orchestral arrangements, better than ever. In the acoustic section you can find Moths and One Brown Mouse, which takes the first stanza of To a Mouse, a poem written by Robert Burns in 1785.

The great rythm duo of Barlow’s drums and Glascock’s bass nails it especially in No Lullaby and Journeyman. The first is the rockiest song of the album, combining very slow moments and musically dense louder and faster frenzies. The second is a great example of how Ian Anderson can create poetry out of the most mundane situations.

Talking about every single song on the album makes no sense, as all of them are superb. From the ones I haven’t mentioned yet, pay special attention to Acres Wild, where Glascock does a great job again.

There are two bonus tracks in the remastered version. One of them, Broadford Bazaar, features Ian’s singing at his absolutely best. And I do mean his best: I have never heard him sound better, never. His voice is incredibly sweet yet not cheesy at all.

All in all, an absolute must. Give it a try!

Stormwatch, Jethro Tull’s following studio album, would have a dramatic context and would be the end of an era, but I’ll leave it for another occasion. As always, here's the link for the facebook page for this blog.