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Jethro Tull

The Jethro Tull Christmas Album

Review by Gary Hill

For those hankering for a Jethro Tull album that fits nicely into a similar style as their late 1970's albums, this disc was just the ticket. Adding the holiday theme makes a bonus. Indeed, much of this album feels like it could have been taken from such classic Tull releases as A Minstrel In The Gallery, Songs From The Wood, and Heavy Horses (in fact several of these first appeared on a couple of those). The result is a wonderful slice of classic Jethro Tull that, while not really reeking of the holiday season, certainly manages to capture a lot of the textures of that time of year. While there are a few questionable inclusions in my opinion, there are no real losers here. This is a great disc for kicking back and relaxing in front of the fire on a cold December evening.

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Track by Track Review
Birthday Card At Christmas
Starting with flute, this holiday rocker is very typical Tull musically. It drops later to a mellower, quite cool instrumental break that soars.
Holly Herald
They start this with a pounding downbeat, then shift gears quickly to fairly traditional acoustic Celtic rocking modes. This one brings in some familiar Christmas musical themes as it carries on. Later more traditional '70's prog elements come and go.
A Christmas Song
Chiming bells start this and gradually the acoustic rock elements rise up from there. This is a cut that would have felt quite at home on A Minstrel In The Gallery or Heavy Horses.
Another Christmas Song
This one is rather balladic and feels quite a bit like "Budapest" from Crest of A Knave.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
This is a bouncy and fun acoustic jazz type take on the traditional holiday favorite. This has a great retro groove with both a tasty jazz trio guitar sound and a killer retro organ texture. I think, though, that the smoking piano solo really steals the show. Still, the jam later where the musicians seemingly trade off control is also a killer. It turns to a heavy jam later before Anderson takes a solo. I really like this one a lot.
Jack Frost and Hooded Crow
This comes in rocking, then drops to an acoustic Celtic texture for the verse. They crank it up more fully to carry forward and put in a new smoking jam. They keep reworking this, first through a hard edged prog jam, then turning it to a traditionally styled carol, then work it back up. This is a very strong number with a very dynamic and powerful arrangement.
Last Man At The Party
This feels like a high energy Celtic folk piece. They rock it up a bit harder as it carries on, but still maintain the overall texture. They also throw in an even more mellow break, then jump it back up from there to the main song structure.
A reworking of a song from Heavy Horses, this one is a sedate Celtic rocker at first, then jumps into a melodic rocking jam. This is a very trademark Tull sounding piece. They crank this one out pretty well at times.
This instrumental is both pretty and potent. It manages to combine an easy jazz like structure with ballad like sounds and more traditional progressive rock textures and still pull in some Celtic leanings. It turns heavier and more dramatic later in a flute driven instrumental jam that truly rocks. This one is very strong.
First Snow On Brooklyn
More acoustic based balladic modes, this one is very pretty and the arrangement gets quite lush as it carries on. It doesn't wander far in terms of song structure, but its evocative construction makes this powerful and a highlight of the disc.
Ian Anderson's flute starts this and the band join in to launch into a cool rocking jam on this ancient number. Kudos go out for the acknowledgement of their modernization by changing the title ever so slightly. This instrumental is a fun one wandering between surf music, hard rock, jazz and other textures.
Fire At Midnight
Starting with a pretty instrumental flourish, this one resolves out into a fast paced, but still rather ballad-like jam as it moves forward. This is another that has a classic Tull sound to it. They crank it up later to a heavier, but not quite metallic, excursion but drop back down to where they came from. This is a reworking of a track from Songs From The Wood.
We Five Kings
This is a folk rock take on this holiday favorite - granted with a slightly altered title. This instrumental is another winner.
Ring Out Solstice Bells
This Tull rocker should appeal to the pagans out there. This is a pretty and very potent jam. It's just a bit generic, but still a nice change of pace. It is also a reworking of a track from Songs From the Wood.
I'm not sure how many renditions of this cut there need to be, but it doesn't seem to fit the theme of the album. Still, they put in a solid, if unnecessary, version here.
A Winter Snowscape
Quite possibly the strongest piece on the disc, this is an exceptionally dramatic, pretty and powerful number and a great closer.
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