Jethro Tull
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album


3.5
great

Review

by Divaman USER (122 Reviews)
December 18th, 2017 | 33 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Jethro Tull is the one seventies rock band who can credibly pull off a Christmas album.

There aren't too many of the so-called "classic" rock bands from the seventies that could pull off a Christmas album. Picture, if you will, A Led Zeppelin Christmas, or Rush Sings "Santa Baby". Horrifying, right" Even the bands from that era who've successfully managed to create a Christmas song with some lasting power, like The Kinks ("Father Christmas") or Emerson, Lake & Palmer ("I Believe in Father Christmas") would probably be hard pressed to manage an entire album of holiday music. For Jethro Tull, however, it's something of a natural. For one thing, they had already recorded at least three Christmas-themed songs over the years prior to this LP: "Christmas Song", a single that was eventually released on 1972's Living in the Past; "Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow", a song that was recorded earlier and released for the 1988 boxed set 20 Years of Jethro Tull; and "Another Christmas Song", from the 1989 Rock Island album. Then there was that whole Elizabethan/rustic music period that Tull went through in the late seventies with their Songs From the Wood and Heavy Horses albums, where the overall sound feels appropriate for Christmas even when the lyrics have nothing to do with it. All told, you'd have to say that if any of the major rock bands from years of old was going to manage a respectable Christmas album, Jethro Tull would be your best candidate.

So how'd they do" Not bad, actually. Not bad at all. The Jethro Tull Christmas Album was released (to little fanfare) in 2003. The band at the time consisted of Tull mastermind Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, acoustic guitar, and an assortment of other instruments); Martin Lancelot Barre (I just love that his middle name is "Lancelot") (electric and acoustic guitars); Andrew Giddings (keyboards, accordion and keyboard bass); Jonathan Noyce (bass guitar); and Doane Perry (drums and percussion). It was the last official Jethro Tull studio album prior to this year's lamentable The String Quartets LP. It weighs in at an impressive 16 tracks long (so you can pop it on your listening device of choice and proceed to wrap a sizable number of holiday presents before it ends), including at least six or so that have never been recorded before (sorry for being so imprecise here, but over the years, Anderson has tended to throw snippets of songs like "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" into the middle of various live tracks, and I'm just not patient enough to go back and dig all of them up just to give you a solid number here).

Anyway, it's actually a really good album, but it's geared toward a very specialized audience. What do I mean by that" Well, for starters, you have to already be the type of person who is predisposed to like Christmas music. I know that there are a lot of you out there, and you're into your metal, or your jazz, or your experimental electronica. And every year, December rolls around, and the music you're surrounded by almost everywhere you go just makes you want to shoot yourself. Or at best, it just goes right through you without you even noticing, like when you call your doctor's office and they play that tinny stuff while you're stuck on hold. Yeah, you know who you are. This album isn't for you. Even if you're a Jethro Tull fan, and you like them for their Aqualung and Thick As a Brick period, but then they just got ridiculous, and you completely tuned them out until maybe Crest of a Knave, this one won't be for you either. But if you at least have a tolerance for holiday music, and Tull's Elizabethan period was one of your favorites, then congratulations, Bucko! You're the target audience!

So what have you got here" Well, there are new recordings of each of the three Tull Christmas songs I mentioned earlier. There are also re-recordings of a couple of songs that aren't specifically holiday- themed, but sound like they belong, including "Weathercock" from Heavy Horses, "Fire at Midnight" and "Ring Out Solstice Bells" (all right, maybe that last one is sort of a Christmas song) from Songs From the Wood, and "Bouree", which goes all the way back to the Stand Up (1969) album. Then there are instrumental versions of various holiday classics, including "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", "Holly Herald" (a medley that includes "The Holly and the Ivy" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"), "Greensleeved" (a jazzy version of "Greensleeves"), and "We Five Kings" (a jazzy version of "We Three Kings"). There are also a couple of other appropriate-sounding instrumentals, including "Pavane", by the 20th-century French composer Gabriel Faure, and "A Winter Snowscape", an original penned by Barre.

Finally, as a special Christmas bonus, there are three brand new songs, complete with vocals and lyrics, written by Anderson. The best of these is "Last Man at the Party", a fast-paced, flute-driven number filled with Anderson's wry humor as he describes the alcohol-saturated holiday celebrations of various characters such as Sister Bridget, Cousin Jimmy (or maybe it's Possum Jimmy) and Stinky Joe ("From down the street/He fell right over/His own three feet"). Then there's "First Snow on Brookyn", a quiet and slightly sad number sung from the perspective of a very human guardian angel. Finally, "Birthday Card at Christmas" is a pleasant but forgettable little ditty that runs through a brief catalog of typical Yuletide imagery.

A Jethro Tull Christmas isn't by any means the album the band will be remembered for. It is, however, a cordial enough little collection filled with holiday and near-holiday tunes that is bound to enhance the Christmas season for a certain type of Tull fan. Being such a fan myself, I can honestly say it makes my Decembers just a little brighter every year. If albums like Songs From the Wood and Heavy Horses are an essential part of your music collection, you just might feel the same.



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user ratings (82)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Divaman
December 18th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

All right, true confession, I know that Chicago released a Christmas album years ago. But let's face it, the results weren't pretty.

Digging: CHVRCHES - Love Is Dead

Divaman
December 18th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

God damn that question mark affliction. Dear readers, please remember that whenever you see a double quote mark that doesn't belong, it's supposed to be a question mark.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
December 18th 2017


11099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really nice read Diva and I like what you're doing with those Christmas releases. I've read every one of them even though I haven't commented on all of them.



If you're into Christmas albums, make sure to check Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift For You which is one of my faves for this time of the year.

Divaman
December 18th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Will do, manosg, thanks. I hopefully have one more holiday review for this season, for an artist who is virtually unknown to this website, but I'm going to introduce her.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
December 18th 2017


11099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Awesome. Looking forward, Diva.

SandwichBubble
December 18th 2017


6902 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

A Christmas Gift For You [2]

You'll probably know all of the songs off it before you even spin it. ;)

Digging: Poison Girls - Hex

Divaman
December 18th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Sandwich. If it's up on Spotify, I'll give it a listen tonight, especially now that you two have both recommended it to me.

Jethro42
December 18th 2017


15443 Comments


Great known Tull songs to be found in this album. ''God Rest Ye'', ''Weathercock'', ''Pavane'', ''Fire at Midnight'', ''Ring Out Solstice Bells'' and ''Bourée'' at a minimum. I've listened to the entire album only once last summer I think haha. Not at a suitable time. I'm ready to repeat the experience in a more appropriate moment this time.

Good review, Diva.

Divaman
December 18th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Jethro.



Just finished the Phil Spector album, and you guys are right, I did know a lot of it. It's now up on my amazon wish list, and I'll have it by next Christmas. Thanks.

Friday13th
December 18th 2017


6466 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I still haven't checked this! You inspired me to change that, Divaman. I actually like Christmas music; and rumor has it I can tolerate progressive rock ;)

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
December 18th 2017


2428 Comments


"For Jethro Tull, however, it's something of a natural" seems as though it's missing a word at the end. Otherwise fantastic write-up, I love that you pinpoint an audience within the review. Listening out of sheer curiousity.

Digging: McCafferty - Sum of All Fears

MrSirLordGentleman
December 18th 2017


11672 Comments


I really can't expect this to be any better than a 2.5

Divaman
December 19th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Friday, I had heard this rumor about you and prog rock, but I gave it no credence, heh heh.



Hi Blushful. No, that's what I was trying to say. It's an expression (maybe one that's drifting out of use?). Like when a baseball player or a swimmer has natural talent, you might say, "He's a natural" (as in the Robert Redford film, "The Natural"). Anyway, thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you enjoyed the review.



Well, we'll all have our own ratings, Gentleman. I really enjoy it, but I'm a huge Tull fan, and I like Christmas music, so for me, it's a 3.5. But as I said, it's ultimately a little bonus for fans, it's not one of the albums they'll be most remembered for.



BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
December 19th 2017


2428 Comments


Ooooh. No, that makes perfect sense, I completely misread, sorry. (: I didn't like this, but I'm not at all a Tull fan so I don't know what I was expecting, haha.

e210013
December 19th 2017


2003 Comments


Another Christmas review, Diva. Nice.

I've always been very intrigued with this album. It's very well rated on Progarchives with many ratings, 364 to be more precise. And it always was a mystery to me. A Christmas album, even from Tull, so well rated on a prog site, it was always something strange to me. So, I always was very curious about it, but I never checked it.

But, your review excited my appetite for it. I never had nothing against Christmas music. But I always associated it to the music we can listen on the radios and on our cities in Christmas time. By the other hand, I never linked to much Christmas music to prog rock. I know that are many bands influenced by Christianism, that I like, but their music isn't properly Christmas music.

About your review, I liked it very much. Especially it amused me very much. It's very informative too, especially the first paragraph.

So, great review Diva. I need to check this album, definetely. Maybe in this time, the most appropriated for that, indeed. Pos.


Divaman
December 19th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks for giving it a listen, anyway, Blushful.



Thanks, e. I don't know how progressive this is. The songs are all reasonably short, and it's much closer to the folky Tull of Songs From the Wood and Heavy Horses than the progressive rock of Thick As a Brick or A Passion Play. Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Sabrutin
December 19th 2017


5489 Comments


Ooh nice I always thought about reviewing this on a Christmas but finally it has a review. I love Birthday Card at Christmas so much.

If you want more Christmas albums I recommend you Steve Lukather's Santamental which I reviewed for Christmas 2015

Divaman
December 19th 2017


2468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Sabrutin. I'll check it out.

e210013
December 19th 2017


2003 Comments


No problem about it Diva. I love the folky Tull of "Songs From The Wood" and "Heavy Horses". "Heavy Horses" is also one of my favourite Tull albums. Besides, I like their third first three albums too, especially "Stand Up", one of their best.

TheIntruder
December 19th 2017


390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice to see this album finally reviewed here, especially in this Christmas time. Nice work Divaman. I enjoyed to read it. Have a pos.



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