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Jethro Tull

Songs From the Wood

Review by Gary Hill

This disc is perhaps more organic and less hard rocking than some of the Jethro Tull’s other albums. Certainly the group has had a fascination with Celtic and folk musics since their inception, but this disc seems more focused in that direction than some of the others. That means that it’s a strong disc, but perhaps better suited to fans of less crunchy rock. Don’t get me wrong, they rock out here and there, but this no Aqualung. It should be noted that I had already reviewed a couple of these tracks on a compilation CD, so those reviews were pulled from there for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Songs from the Wood

This one has a very authentic chorale type arrangement and feels quite medieval, like a minstrel show song of olde. It gets quite rock oriented in a hard edged prog arrangement as it continues, but that authentic sort of old arrangement carries through. This one gets quite complex and downright symphonic.

Jack-In-The-Green
This is more organic and less frantic in its meanderings. It’s a good tune that’s more along the lines of a balladic piece. That said, it powers up beyond that, but still stays fairly standard.
Cup of Wonder
They open up here with a section that’s closer to traditional Celtic music. They work it out into some serious prog rock wonderment later as they carry it on. This is another great piece of music on a disc that has no shortage of them. We get some twisty turning changes and alterations here and there, and yet it feels cohesive and natural.
Hunting Girl

A more pure rock (albeit prog rock) section starts this here. This is harder edged than anything we’ve heard to this point – the first real “rocker” of the album. It works through some cool changes and alterations as they carry it on.

Ring Out Solstice Bells

The hand claps on this feel a bit silly. This is a fairly generic rocker with a fast paced tempo. This is a nice change of pace, but far from the strongest track on show here.

Velvet Green
There’s much more of a traditional Celtic texture on this. At times it’s incorporated both in the musical progression and the arrangement. At other points it’s based more strictly on the composition. Either way this is an interesting cut that has a very classic nature to it. It moves through a few varying segments and I like this a lot.
The Whistler

This one is quite a dramatic and a bit mysterious cut that has a great vocal arrangement. It covers some awesome prog territory.

Pibroch (Cap in Hand)
Some crunchy guitar leads this off in one of the most hard rocking jams of the disc. They drop it back after a time to a more stripped down, bluesy jam. After a time like this it serves as the spring board for a series of new sounds and alterations on the sounds we’ve heard. This one feels a bit more disjointed than some of the other music on show, but it’s still quite a cool piece of music. They turn it very classical later in the track. This is really one of the most diverse pieces to be found here. At over eight and a half minutes in length it’s also the most lengthy.
Fire at Midnight
Although considerably shorter (less than three minutes) this is another track that’s got quite a dynamic range. There are hard rocking moments and mellower more traditional ones. I’d say this piece could benefit from a little more length, but it’s a solid closer.
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