It's a Shame (But No Wonder) my Copy Was Stolen
Bud | Seminole, Texas, USA | 03/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For a band named after an agriculturist, Jethro Tull's music has often fit their moniker. 1978's "Heavy Horses" is the last album in the Tull catalog that is almost always universally approved of by music critics (and we know they're always right, right?); i.e. it's often ranked as a great Tull album, and the last to get consistent kindness from the critics (even "Crest of a Knave" is knocked because it inappropriately won a Grammy in the heavy metal category - get over it already).
And "Heavy Horses" is indeed a masterful piece of work, and the last Jethro Tull record to feature one of their most memorable lineups in fine shape (the next album, "Stormwatch" would see ailing bassist John Glascock only appearing on three songs, and by 1980, only frontman/songwriter Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre remained).
Loosely themed as a bit of a wake for pastoral imagery in the age of machinery, both the music, lyrics, and performances fit the "concept" to a T, or to an A, as Anderson's lyrics are quite often baffling, but somehow always poignant and moving, and his vocal performance on the album is one of his absolute best. Tull's signature acoustic guitars, mandolins, and of course the trusty flute, lilt across the album flawlessly, and the electric guitars, basses, and Barriemore Barlow's concise, often furious drumming are welcome as well, and never outweigh or distract from the more earthy elements. The nine-minute title track, unedited, is one of the band's greatest pieces, and the presence of the classic 'No Lullaby,' the intriguing 'Rover,' and the somehow-catchy 'Moths' are music for pleasure, even when jarring."
Then and Now
Old Prog Lover | Indianapolis, IN | 05/10/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let's review this for what it is now, not what it was then. What it was then, was just another Tull album. They were churning out nearly one a year, they were one of the most extensively touring groups in the `70s, they were maturing. Those of us in our teens and twenties were thinking "What happened to our rocking Jethro Tull? Only half of this album rocks and then not very hard." Were we getting bored with them, taking them for granted? Probably. Soon, "Heavy Horses" was relegated to the discount bins as an ill fated "cutout" album. (But, how many of us remember what great finds could be found in the those boxes of "cutouts"! Flipping through hundreds of albums at places like Woolco and walking out with half a dozen "finds" for 99 cents each! Those were the days kiddies!)
What it is now (as we are all older and can appreciate it) is a unique combination of Celtic folk music and rock and roll that has never been and can no longer be duplicated. It can be copied, but one can never duplicate the original. Each song is complex and masterful. Ian Anderson and his mates were at the peak of their artistic prime, turning out phenomenal compositions that, unfortunately, probably did not meet the expectations of their less than sophisticated fans at the time. (I put myself in that group, being in college at the time and wanting to party.) "Aqualung" and "Minstrel in the Gallery" had become the quintessential Tull party albums of the day and we wanted more of that. Both "Heavy Horses" and its predecessor "Songs from the Wood", when listened to with a mature ear, are like hearing them for the first time. They are amazing! We can sit down, take a load off, and listen to the work and appreciate its complexity and artistry. The interplay between each of the players and the instruments is amazing. The sense of timing perfect, and the variety of tempo and rhythm contained in each song is anything but boring. They still manage to rock fairly substantially and more than I realized some 30 years (+) ago.
If you are considering revisiting these Tull albums, and are perhaps reading this review, then by all means consider it no more and get this back on your sound system. (be sure you get the 2003 re-mastered versions) Only now, listen to it. Sit back with a book, or glass of wine and just let it play. You will be surprised how often you just stop, listen to it and think: "Wow" this is amazing stuff. I forgot just how really good it is." There is nothing like it (even close) being put out today, and I am including some cutting edge, fantastic prog such as the Flower Kings and Porcupine Tree. (Yes, I can change and grow with the times as well.) I can't give "Heavy Horses" (and "Songs from the Wood") five stars when compared to Tull's earlier works, (some which are ensconced as "essential" when considering the history of contemporary rock), but it sure is a solid four and 1/2. After a 30 year absence I am listening to this album(s) as if it just came out and I am enjoying it for the first time.
Post script: Don't give up on Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. Be sure to check out later releases such as "Catfish Rising" and "Roots to Branches". More mature works but still the trademark Tull sound."