Jethro Tull

Songs from the Wood

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Far and away the prettiest record Jethro Tull released at least since Thick as a Brick and a special treat for anyone with a fondness for the group's more folk-oriented material. Ian Anderson had moved to the countryside sometime earlier, and it showed in his choice of source material. The band's aggressive rock interplay and Anderson's fascination with early British folk melodies produce a particularly appealing collection of songs -- the seriousness with which the group took this effort can be discerned by the album's unofficial "full" title on the original LP: "Jethro Tull With Kitchen Prose, Gutter Rhymes, and Divers Songs from the Wood." The group's sound was never more carefully balanced between acoustic folk and hard rock -- the result is an album that sounds a great deal like the work of Tull's Chrysalis Records labelmates Steeleye Span (though Nigel Pegrum never attacked his cymbals -- or his entire drum kit -- with Barriemore Barlow's ferocity). The harmonizing on "Songs From the Wood" fulfills the promise shown in some of the singing on Thick as a Brick, and the delicacy of much of the rest, including "Ring Out, Solstice Bells" (where the group plays full out, but with wonderful elegance), "Hunting Girl," and "Velvet Green," set a new standard for the group's sound. "Pibroch (Cap in Hand)," which is dominated by Martin Barre's electric guitar -- in a stunning array of overlapping flourishes at full volume -- is the only concession to the group's usual hard rock rave-ups, and even it has some lovely singing to counterbalance the bulk of the song.

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