Given the grand concept albums, both successful and not so successful, of the previous six years,Songs From The Wood was a breath of fresh air. While the music is tied together by style, overall the songs stand on their own as separate pieces.
I am guessing that this is the Jethro Tull album I have listened to the most times during the three plus decades since its release with Heavy Horses and Aqualung running close behind. I have even bought the CD, which is something I rarely do given my loyalty to my old vinyl collection.
The core of the band remained intact. Ian Anderson as the songwriter/flutist/vocalist plus assorted other instruments, drummer Barriemore Barlow, guitarist Martin Barre, keyboardist John Evan, and bassist John Glascock all provided some of the best performances of their careers. David Palmer, who had provided orchestration arrangements for most of their past albums, now became an official sixth member of the band.
The music was a departure from the progressive rock base of the past. It can best be described as a fusion of Celtic folk and rock music. It had a medieval feel with a rustic quality and the lyrics told wonderful stories. It was also an optimistic album which was far from the dark releases that inhabited the band’s history.
There are some Tull albums where guitarist Martin Barre out shines Anderson, but that is not the case here. Anderson’s vocals, and especially his flute work, are consistently excellent.
The album is one of the finest listens in the Tull catalogue. “Cup Of Wonder” is a celebration which makes you want to get up and dance. “Velvet Green” is a journey through time courtesy of the twisted mind of Mr. Anderson. “Ring Out, Solstice Bells” continues the upbeat nature of the album. “Jack-In-The-Green” is a fairy tale on which Anderson plays every instrument.
The album title is just about perfect as it provides tales of the forest, grass, and sky. It remains as one of Jethro Tull’s finest hours.