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.


  1. (2)

    I came to know/love these albums before the inclusion of bonus tracks, so it's hard for me to think of them as anything other than separate, despite their recording dates - but I definitely share your particular affection for Broadford Bazaar. I mean.... My gosh - How can a song be that beautiful/simple and it not be some traditional tune that's been banging around and refined decade over decades uncounted? Though I guiltily wish that the lyrics had been somewhat less specific, or... I don't know.... I like them, but the sing/playing/singing is so singularly spectacular I can't help but feel the lyrics didn't quite measure up to the same standard. Don't burn me in effigy though, I do like them... I would even buy a wee plastic cullin, were one offered to me ;) .... but overall I just wish they had been a bit more..... Songs from the Wood-y, I guess. Am i crazy on this point? Does such an opinion strike another Tull fan as strange (or perhaps sacrilegious)?

    I can't remember my recording dates timeline, but in my mind I place Summerday Sands, March, the Mad Scientist (awesome!), and a few others in the general 'MitG/SftW/HH orbit (I know they are close, I just can't remember specific dates and didn't bother to look them up before writing this). Love all the songs from that period (do you know Maddy Prior? The whole 70's band served as the in-house players for 'Woman in the Wings' album)

    I got my first copy of 'Bursting Out' about a year into my perpetual affection for the three... It seemed to me that getting to see Tull at the height of their powers must have been one of the most amazing things ever. Hearing the first few notes puffle out of Palmer's pipe organ, realizing they are beginning to play 'One Brown Mouse'... I can't imagine. [Thankfully, unlike the few MitG-era shows, SftW (especially) and HH tours were recorded fairly regularly and the shows still exist. A grateful 'hurray!' to all those 70's concert goers that had semi-clandestine 3lbs microphones hanging out of their sleeves.]

    I also place a few other random songs from other albums in the same affectionate place as I do 'the trinity'... A few tracks from Warchild, TotRaR, mainly. Something about the timbre of his voice... the complexity/beauty of the acoustic guitar parts... I don't know what it is exactly that joins the disparate tracks in my mind.

    I love other Tull eras as well (mainly earlier stuff), but I've scarcely listened to anything post-1990 (apart from your blog's namesake). I feel like a traitor saying so, but... 'tis true. I like 'Crest', taken on its own, but... not s'much after that. There are several albums I've never even heard.

    Please pardon the not-remotely-cohesive nature of my meanderings here... And thanks again for sharing your thoughts and encouraging other people to check out these late-70's masterpieces!

  2. (1)

    Hi! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about HH, and I'm looking forward to checking out your other Tull entries. :)

    Ah, Heavy Horses... Like its immediate predecessor, an all but perfect album from start to art.

    It's just a fantastic album, isn't it? It's the kind of album that makes me feel genuinely sorry for those that can't appreciate it (whether because they are unaware of its existence or because they have abysmal taste in music)

    From what I've gleaned, most Tull aficionados seem to think of Heavy Horses as the meat in a Songs from the Wood / Heavy Horses / Stormwatch sandwich. For me though, the crucial Tull trinity is Minstrel in the Gallery / Songs from the Wood / Heavy Horses.

    The quality of the musicianship on those three albums is unparalleled; everything about them is just... Perfect. From the songwriting, to the performances, to the artwork/fonts.... everything. I love virtually every song on the three, and though I take breaks I never get truly tired of them. I'll not admit this anywhere else, but less than a year ago I went nearly two weeks listening to Baker St. Muse to the exclusion of virtually everything else.... Just couldn't get enough (oh how I wish they had performed it live). Only yesterday I learned of the MitG 4 disc anniversary box set - I couldn't believe there were still so many unreleased gems. I went to youtube and found 'take 5' of One White Duck, expecting to hear the original take sans later production or something, but... Nope. There it was - straight from the mobile studio circa '75... a wholly different take... different timing/phrasing... truly new (to us). One of the holy grail-level discoveries I never imagined existing. I only just ordered the set - I can't wait to hear it all anew.

  3. egads... plz pardon the litany of typos...I cast blame on Tull-related mania of some sort....