Records That Made History

Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood

todayDecember 16, 2023 109

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Songs From The Wood is the tenth studio album by British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, released in February 1977. The album marked a new direction for the band, which returned to celebrating British pagan folk and the countryside in a broad folk rock style that combined traditional instruments and melodies, with hard rock and electric guitars.

The album is considered the first in a trio of Jethro Tull folk rock albums, with 1978’s Heavy Horses and 1979’s Stormwatch following. The album cover features an extended title line reading “Jethro Tull, with kitchen prose, street beats and some Forest Songs”. The album’s title track contains two of these phrases in its lyrics.

UK Music Press wrote: “Jethro Tull present the songs of the wood. A new album of old magical music, Songs From The Wood is inspired by the fact that perhaps nature isn’t as gentle as we’d like and it’s like about the natural and supernatural inhabitants of the woodlands of old Albion. Warm and friendly, with hard and bitter shots, the album includes ‘Ring Out Solstice Bells’, new single ‘The Whistler’ and seven other songs”.

The album was recorded immediately after the group toured for their previous 1976 album, Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! This showed Anderson’s desire to change the band’s musical style, turning musically towards folk-rock and even producing on albums such as Steeleye Span’s 1974’s Now We Are Six. Also, as Anderson said: “After Too Old For Rock ‘n’ Roll, I came back and settled in England, got married and bought a house. So it gave me a chance to evaluate and think about the cultural and historical significance of that decision as commitment to my English living”.

Being the first Jethro Tull album to feature David Palmer as an official band member, their music was rich in complexity and variety, with most of the instruments played having a sound derived from Palmer’s classical leanings and strong electric presence guitar by Martin Barre. Both Palmer and Barre are credited with contributing material to the album. The album highlights the band at the most playful point of their career, both due to the rich production and notable use of keyboards, making it one of their most progressive rock releases. It is worth noting that on the song “Jack-In-The-Green” Ian Anderson plays all the instruments.

Filled with images of medieval Britain, especially in the tracks “Jack-In-The-Green”, “Cup Of Wonder” and “Ring Out Solstice Bells”, decorated with folk elements, as in “Velvet Green” and Midnight “or with intense experimentation on “Pibroch (Cap in Hand)”, where Martin Barre’s guitar simulates the sound of bagpipes, the album was a departure from the hard rock of Jethro Tull’s earlier material, although it retained something of the band’s old sound .

Anderson drew inspiration for the compositions of Songs From The Wood in part from the book Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain given to him by Jethro Tull’s then manager Jo Lustig in 1976. According to Anderson, the book definitely inspired him for the elements of characters and stories that played into the album’s songwriting, which then carried over to the Heavy Horses album and beyond that, the Stormwatch album.

However, the term “folk music” has been dismissed by Anderson and Barre as irrelevant to the album, with the former noting that Songs From The Wood was for all the band members an affirmation of their Britishness.

From this special project, I choose the title track “Songs From The Wood”.

Tracklist

1. Songs From The Wood 4:52
2. Jack-In-The-Green 2:27
3. Cup Of Wonder 4:30
4. Hunting Girl 5:11
5. Ring Out, Solstice Bells 3:46
6. Velvet Green 6:03
7. The Whistler 3:30
8. Pibroch (Cap In Hand) 8:37
9. Fire At Midnight 2:26

Written by: Dimitris Sigalos

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