Songs From The Wood
(Chrysalis Records / Parlophone Records)


For those who missed out on being alive and well and living in 1977, it was truly a brilliant and incredible year for music. Families were united and new ones were forming, while the great, original progressive rock bands were reuniting and coming up with remarkable recording moments. And most of all—thanks to the incredibly devoted and unflinching antiwar efforts of John Lennon and his amazing wife Yoko Ono, and famous friends—the American nightmare of the Vietnam War was gradually fading out of our memory. As a sidenote to those unaware as to how we got there, I still have vivid memories getting my draft notice in early 1972, and then having to appear before the military recruitement officers interviewing me. The same month, I attended the now historic anti-war rally in Bryant Park that was spearheaded by John and Yoko. Sadly, in retrospect, this peaceful, easy feeling in the ear-opening world of 1977 would only last a few short years before floodgates of fear and loathing would reopen, starting with and basically epitomized by the brutal political assassination of John Lennon.

At the crossroads of this showing of the incredible aura of unity and peace in early 1977 was the always brilliant Ian Anderson and his mighty band, Jethro Tull, who were ready, willing and able to rock you with Songs From The Wood—an album that is sometimes underrated in the sizable Jethro Tull canon of musical greatness. Although in the lead up to 1977, Tull had made some otherwise quite impressive albums—including Too Old To Rock And Roll (1976) and Minstrel In The Gallery (1975)—some type of indefinable music magic was missing from the then current Tull sound. That missing Tull magic was once again found and put to good use on Songs From The Wood—an album that Ian Anderson lists in his top five Tull albums—Stand Up being his number one.

I remember sitting dead center, row ten, in Radio City Music Hall the night Tull brought their show back to NYC in January 1977—right at the cusp of that truly magical year, attending with my childhood friend, Tull-disciple photographer / guitarist Peter Malick, who Ian has met before. If my memory serves me well, Peter took photographs of the Radio City show, which I still have! Although not yet on the record racks nationwide, the Lp Songs From The Wood would soon follow that show, almost immediately afterwards. The thing I remember most about the Songs From The Wood Lp, when it came out, was a new blue Chrysalis logo and the fact that the album had been superbly mastered and pressed by Chrysalis on near audiophile vinyl—a fact brought into sharper focus on the back cover of the Lp sleeve which depicted a Shure V-15 cartridge and tonearm fitted on to a freshly cut tree stump with the rings of the poor dead tree appearing like the grooves on a vinyl album!

Right up there with the best sounding albums of 1977, Songs From The Wood had always sounded great—my noting the often-referenced Mobile Fidelity gold CD from 1998—yet the 2017, 40th anniversary Chrysalis / Rhino / Parlophone remix / remaster fashioned by current prog prodigy, Steven Wilson lifts yet another sonic veil off of the CD, giving it a truly magnificent, jaw-dropping sheen. Key to the remix package of the album are a number of Songs From The Wood era songs which never appeared before, at least on an official Tull album, as well as several Songs From The Wood tracks appearing in an unedited / alternativeform, all remixed by Mr. Wilson, and all the while following the original album also given the Wilson treatment. These bonus rarities fleshing out and following the original album remix of Songs From The Wood include rarieties like the nine minute “Old Aces Die Hard” and “Working John, Working Joe” and a never before heard Mike Batt production of Tull’s perennial holiday classic “Magic Bells”—a 4/4 time signature version of “Ring Out, Solstice Bells”—which is track five on the original album. The 2017 40th anniversary 5 disc box set version of Songs From The Wood includes the original album and bonus studio tracks on CD, all given the remix treatments, plus a double live CD of Tull’s November 21st, 1977 concert in Landover Maryland. Two DVDs are also included with DVD 2 featuring the entire Landover show in more than decent looking and sounding DVD video and a DVD audio version of the entire Songs From The Wood album plus bonus cuts on the first DVD.

The entire Jethro Tull band from the Songs From The Wood era was perhaps the best Tull ever—Ian's vocals, flutes and guitars backed up by Martin Barre (guitars), John Evans (piano, organ, synth), Dee Palmer (piano, synths, Portative organ), Barriemore Barlow (drums, percussion) and the late, great bassist, vocalist John Glascock. Long time Tull audio engineering genius Robin Black, who helped make albums like Benefit so momentous sounding, was also on hand helping the band record the original Songs From The Wood album at fabled Morgan Studios in London—the same studio where Tull recorded Benefit and Stand Up. Packaging for this 40th anniversary Songs From The Wood box set includes an attractive, book like package complete with an incisive 96 pages of liner notes, new interviews, lyrics, fresh and revealing anecdotes and more. In a fitting tribute to a once in a lifetime moment, Chrysalis pull out all the stops on their five disc 2017 version of Songs From The Wood—assuring fans and music lovers that this unique period from the time-honoured Jethro Tull legacy will live on well into the 21st century and beyond.


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