Jethro Tull: Songs From the Wood (1977)
Aqualung and Thick as a Brick might be Tull’s best known and most popular albums, but there’s another one of theirs worth trying, and that’s 1977’s Songs From the Wood. Released one year after the disasterous Too Old to Rock ‘n Roll: Too Young to Die, this album is a vast improvement over that one.
Ian Anderson moved out to the country and was obviously fascinated with old English folk songs, and so Songs From the Wood had naturally became Tull’s most medieval sounding album ever, on the league with many of Steeleye Span’s albums. Except of course, all the songs are original Ian Anderson compositions, and is more rock oriented. At this point, the David Palmer orchestrations had all but disappeard (I just hear a little on “Cup of Wonder”) and he actually joined the band providing additional keyboard work.
This album is full of great songs like the title track, “Cup of Wonder”, “Hunting Girl”, “Velvet Green”, and one of my favorites, “The Whistler”. There’s also a Christmastime song as well, “Ring Out Solstice Bell” (it seems that Tull likes to give us a Christmas song now and then, like 1968’s “Christmas Song” and “Another Christmas Song” from 1989’s Rock Island).
Tull perfects creates that wonderful, mystical, medieval atmosphere on this album, all Ian Anderson compositions. You’ll notice that some of the songs are more progressive than any actual traditional English folk song would ever be, like “Velvet Green” as there are length instrumental passages, various changes, and tempo changes as well, same goes for “Pibroch (Cap in Hand)”, which is the longest song on the album. “The Whistler” is really deserving as another Tull classic. I totally dig the lyrics that go: “Come on, I’m the Whistler/I have a fife, and a drum to play/Come on, I’m the Whistler/I whistle along on the Seventh Day”, complete with the ever cool use of whistles in the song making me thing of a folk jig. The lyrics seem to have a lot of pre-Christian Pagan overtones, as well as celebrating old English country life.
Songs From the Wood just totally amazed me, and in my book, it’s simply one of the best Tull albums ever, hard to believe, because it was released in 1977, when many of the other great English prog rock bands went by the wayside. While albums like Aqualung and Thick as a Brick are regarded by many as classics, I think Songs From the Wood is another classic, which you should add to your collection.
Year of release: 1977
– Ian Anderson: vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, mandolin
– Martin Barre: electric guitar
– John Glascock: bass
– John Evan: keyboards
– David Palmer: keyboards
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