I remember my initial reaction when I first heard Jethro Tull was releasing a Christmas album: what a terrible idea. The image of Ian Anderson as a mad Santa would not leave my mind. Well, then imagine my surprise when The Jethro Tull Christmas Album was released during September of 2003 and it proved to be their best album in years.
It may not be a traditional Christmas album in the truest sense of the phrase, but in an odd way the music captures the spirit of the season. The tone and texture of the album is actually closer to their Songs From The Wood period rather than their recent hard rock offerings.
The Christmas Jethro Tull consisted of Anderson, lead guitarist Martin Bare, drummer Doane Perry, keyboardist Andrew Giddings, and bassist Jonathan Noyce. There are a group of string players on hand as well to lend a festive air to the project; plus, old friend Dave Pegg makes a holiday appearance on a few tracks.
Anderson re-recorded a number of songs from the group’s past. “A Christmas Song,” the even-better “Another Christmas Song,” “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow,” “Ring Out Solstice Bells,” and a reworked “Bouree” are all resurrected as tasty holiday fare.
And yet I find the seven instrumentals to be the heart and soul of the album. The best of the lot is “Greensleeved,” which uses the traditional “Greensleeves” as its taking off place and the album closer, “ Winter Snowscape,“ written by Martin Barre, which allows him to grab the spotlight.
“Birthday Card At Christmas” is the opening track, written by Anderson especially for this release, and contains over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek lyrics which he's been so good at creating. It's a song about his daughter who is unfortunate enough to have a birthday near Christmas — like myself, I may add. It's just a lousy time for a birthday as it's overshadowed by the materialism and parties of the holiday season, and so too is the true meaning of the season according to Mr. Anderson.
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album marked a return to their musical past and as such produced a nice if somewhat unusual holiday release. As the final notes of “A Winter Snowscape” fade away on this, my 21st Jethro Tull review, I say at least for this classic band, “and to all a good night.”