Sunday, May 28, 2017
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JETHRO TULL - SONGS FROM THE WOOD 40th Anniversary Edition
Here's the latest in the ongoing mega-reissue series of original Tull albums, expanded to glorious size and sound. This, the group's tenth, has been improved to three CDs and two DVDs, by including some unreleased stuff from the sessions, different mixes and edits, live material, and a whole DVD of 5.1 and other advanced sound. As usual, it's all been remixed by Steven Wilson, the king of prog sound. Plus there are detailed notes and essays, lyrics, track annotations, and recollections from the band, in a fine 96-page book. It's the gold standard for reissues.
Songs From The Wood brought about a big change in the hit band, the start of a series of albums that had rural themes, and music best described as folk rock. That should be read as written, folk and rock, because both elements are here. While there are more acoustic moments than in previous Tull albums, there's still heavy stuff as well. The folk is more about the lyrics, with Ian Anderson taking an interest in rural topics. We find out, thanks to the essays, that the whole band had moved into spots in the British countryside. That, plus the gift of a book on British folklore led to Anderson writing about manor houses, dogs by the fireplace, May Day and Solstice bells. Each song has a bucolic theme, and none of the nastiness we heard from the band in the past (think Aqualung).
It's an interesting transition for the group, and while they didn't go heavily acoustic, like many groups do today, it did provide quite a few good songs for the live band, and a new focus for future albums Heavy Horses, Stormwatch and the live Bursting Out. Tracks such as Jack In The Green and Hunting Girl fit in nicely in the live show along old favourites such as Living In The Past and the softer movements of Thick As A Brick. You can hear the integration on the live sets here, and Tull continued to be one of the best live bands working through the 70s. The live material is the great bonus here, as the extra tracks on disc one don't add much to the story. With the book, the live stuff, the high-end audio, this is a steal at $49.99.