Review Summary: A welcome change in sound results in a refreshing and uplifting album marred by some dull melodies and a tendency to meander.
It’s nice to have places like the English countryside. Amidst the frantic noise and disorganized confusion of modern life, knowing that such calm, tranquil places still remain brings much solace. Instead of looming, hulking buildings, hurrying cars, and seas of people haphazardly rushing to get somewhere, there are serene fields, small, still cottages, and lush forests. Never, unlike in cities, is there an air of hostility or haste, but rather there is a perennial peacefulness and placidity. After releasing Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die!
(which was swiftly devoured and maimed by ravenous critics), Jethro Tull’s frontman, Ian Anderson, was finally able to escape to the countryside, which led to the release of the folky Songs From The Wood
, his most pleasant and pretty composition thus far.
Let me bring you songs from the wood,
to make you feel much better than you could know.
From those first words, phlegmatically sung a capella, one can tell that Songs From The Wood
is certainly different from Jethro Tull’s previous effort, the loud, rowdy Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die!
. It’s quite obvious that the band was always inspired by folk music, but never before has this influence manifested itself to such an extent. The lively minstrel, Ian Anderson, sings melodies that would not seem out of place in an Elizabethan court, accompanied by lovely flute leads and delightful acoustic guitar play only helps to conjure up images of forests and meadows. Although Songs From The Wood
does show Jethro Tull going in a more acoustic-oriented direction, guitarist Martin Barre makes sure that his input remains significant, as his soaring riffs and solos can be often seen intertwining with Anderson’s acoustic guitar or flute. Lyrically, the album also is more woodsy, as the songs now speak of things like fireplaces and aimless trips through woodlands, a sharp contrast to Anderson’s ancient musings on London life and bitter attacks on organized religion.
Indeed, Jethro Tull seem to be in their natural element playing folk-rock, and so Songs From The Wood
is their most unforced album in years. Not only does it never feel like the band struggles to sound genuine and sincere, but it is irrefutable that Anderson and co. truly enjoy playing this bright, cheerful music (something that can’t be said about a large amount of the Tull discography).
While parts of Songs From The Wood
show Jethro Tull at their most adventurous, experimenting with beautiful orchestration and innumerable tempo and mood changes, much of the songwriting comes across as immature. Compositions such as the forgettable Ring Out Solstice Bells
only manage to meander and overstay their welcome and, while certainly pretty, many of the melodies simply aren’t particularly interesting or enthralling.
Songs From The Wood
is (not without reason) the first Jethro Tull album in ages that received a noteworthy amount of positive feedback from professional critics. Happy that for the first time in years, one of their albums was well received, Jethro Tull would continue down this direction with their next two albums, Heavy Horses
and the underwhelming Stormwatch
. With their next release, the compositions would become more concise and would nearly never descend into aimless drivel, as they often tend to do here. As such, while certainly worthy of a purchase, Songs From The Wood
cannot be recommended with the same fervor as its successor.
Jack In The Green