Despite its age, this collection remains the best introduction to the wonderfully bizarre sounds of Jethro Tull -- a unique combination of folk music, progressive rock, heavy metal, and of course, Ian Anderson's ubiquitous flute. Drawing exclusively from the band's '70s heyday, opener "Living in the Past" sets the retrospective tone, leading the way into the signature guitar riff of "Aqualung," the band's multifaceted pièce de résistance. Though lyrically indecipherable, "Locomotive Breath" is equally timeless, and the moment when John Evan's fanciful piano intro gives way to Martin Barre's guitar feedback remains thrilling. With his acoustic guitar in hand, Ian Anderson becomes a medieval bard, drawing the listener into worlds of legend both threatening ("Sweet Dream," "Witches Promise") and joyously carefree ("Thick as a Brick," "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day"). The unbelievable kaleidoscope of sound which makes up "Songs from the Wood" is simply too original and intricate for words to describe. On the other hand, the string-heavy "Too Old to Rock'n'Roll, Too Young to Die" and the pointless "Bungle in the Jungle" have not aged well, and "Minstrel in the Gallery" sounds a bit too busy and overblown. Still, these small blunders are quickly forgotten with the parting shot of "Life's a Long Song," a beautifully orchestrated piece containing one of Anderson's best (and most understandable) lyrics.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia