Definitely one of the most ambitious albums by Jethro Tull and as well, in my humble opinion, one of the jewels of later seventies progressive rock. Jethro Tull began back in the late sixties bringing to the rock scene interesting music, complex arrangements and socially revealing lyrics. In other words, songs that had meaning and depth. But as the seventies progressed, the band’s unique style of progressive rock did so as well and the result is this incredibly good album.
Songs from the Wood not only has great vocal harmonies but for sure it has the most intricate arrangements and well thought out orchestration of any of their previous albums. The album was released in early February 1977 by Chrysalis Records. Perhaps the first part of a trilogy (Songs from the Wood, 1977 Heavy Horses,1978 and Stormwatch,1979), like so many have said, or a stand alone jewel, without detracting anything from the other two albums which I certainly like as well, the truth is that for fans of progressive rock, this effort by Jethro Tull is something to smile about and to listen to over and over again.
There’s a lot of folk influence in Songs from the Wood, no doubt. They sang about English pagan folklore and interpreted it with typical country instruments. But the synthesizers, the keyboards, including the second keyboard of Dee Palmer, who had actually done most of the band’s more ambitious orchestration and who now was an official member of the band, make of this album a very interesting one.
Could this be “the” best progressive rock album of all time? It certainly is for Jethro Tull. It was acclaimed by critics as one of the best albums of the band and some even said it was the best among all the others, including those produced by such high scorers as Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and others that came a little later in the seventies, like, from the US, Kansas and Styx.
I am not a judge, I like what I like and I find no conflict in liking many different albums, many different bands and many different styles of music. But I must say that I do like this album. I have always been a fan of Jethro Tull and had gotten stuck on their older classics, such as Aqualung, yet I was able to make the transition to this new style they were developing quite easily, I would say effortless…
Reference the critics and how Songs from the Wood was received:
Well, it most certainly received very positive reviews. AllMusic (the American online music database) said that the album was “the prettiest record Jethro Tull released at least since Thick as a Brick”. Rolling Stone magazine also praised it saying that this “may well have been the group’s best record ever.” And the album ranks number 76 in Prog magazine’s 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time.
Got to say mates that if you haven’t heard this album in a long time, you’ve been missing some good music, so take it out, dust it off and give it a spin on the turntable. Or on the CD player, or right here: