War Child was Jethro Tull's first album after two chart-toppers, Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play, and was one of those records that was a hit the day it was announced (it was certified platinum based on pre-orders, the last Tull album to earn platinum record status). It never made the impression of its predecessors, however, as it was a return to standard-length songs following two epic-length pieces. It was inevitable that the material would lack power, if only because the opportunity for development that gave Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play some of their power. Additionally, the music was no longer quite able to cover for the obscurity of Tull's lyrics ("Two Fingers" being the best example). The title track is reasonably successful, but "Queen and Country" seems repetitive and pointless. "Ladies," by contrast, is one of Tull's folk-based pieces, and one of the prettiest songs on the record, beautifully sung and benefiting from some of Anderson's best flute playing to date. The band is very tight but doesn't really get to show its stuff until "Back-Door Angels," after which the album picks up. "Sealion" is one of Anderson's pseudo-philosophical musings on life, mixing full-out electric playing and restrained orchestral backing in a manner that recalls Thick as a Brick. "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day" is a beautiful, largely acoustic number that was popular in concert, but "Bungle in the Jungle," with a title that went over well, got most of the radio play. "The Third Hoorah" is really a follow-up to "War Child," and opens with one of the prettiest progressions on a folk tune in Tull's repertory, with some lovely harpsichord from John Evan evolving into a powerful rock number with a surprising orchestral break and what has to be the most successful appearance of bagpipes in a mainstream rock song.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder