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Jethro Tull - The Jethro Tull Christmas Album CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.50 | 385 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars In the era of extreme over-commercialization of the Christmas holidays, it seems that everyone and their mother has capitalized on releasing a musical album that commemorates one of the world's most popular holiday seasons which every single year gets pushed harder and earlier in the hope that Santa will be kind to the stock markets. It's all gotten a little too much and with albums being released by everyone from Dolly Parton to Twisted Sister, it can be a little difficult to find that true Christmas spirit. Well, what in the world is a progressive rock lover to do? It seems that the only game in town for the longest time was the Yuletide alter ego of the progressive metal outfit Savatage when they put on their Santa hats and took on their Trans-Siberian Orchestra identity to give the world a true taste of "Jingle Bell Rock." Well, at long last in 2003 one of progressive rocks most revered cohorts came through and delivered us their own take on Christianity's most consecrated occasions. I speak of course of the great JETHRO TULL and with their final album as an official band they went out in the most interesting way by giving us THE JETHRO TULL CHRISTMAS ALBUM and bestowing upon their fans a new way to add some class to their holiday listening season when listening to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" just won't cut it any more.

This final and fairly unique album in the band's canon is a mix of completely new material and re-recordings of previously released tracks. While most of these tracks were created for the special occasion, Ian Anderson found it appropriate to simply adapt oldies but goodies to the occasion and as a result "A Christmas Song," "Another Christmas Song," "Jack And The Hooded Crow," "Weathercock," "Fire At Midnight" and "Ring Out Solstice Bells" find themselves newly recorded and given a holiday makeover to sit side by side with the newly constructed tracks. And also on board is the long time classic "Bourée" which was given a complete identity change and now feels as it was totally created for holiday cheer in the first place. Although it was originally a Johann Sebastian Bach creation that was originally the fifth movement from "Suite In E Minor For Lute, BWV 996," Anderson deliveries it in his famous style and by attaching an "F" to the lute part. He flautist skills shine on this one and the track is much more upbeat and contains other key arrangements.

THE JETHRO TULL CHRISTMAS ALBUM is a bit surprising in that it doesn't sound like a holiday tribute really. It sounds like a one of the laid back folkier albums such as "Songs Of The Wood" plus extra symphonic and instrumental embellishments. In addition to the standard TULL lineup there are a number of extras on board offering mandolin, violin, viola, cello, accordion and choral vocals adding a very refined frosting to the band's acoustic folk rock foundation. The tracks are as catchy as anything JT has dished out in the past and although Ian Anderson's vocals may be showing signs of being past their prime, his flautist flair has never been better as he takes on the role of melodist in chief and like a pied-piper of Christmas leads his musical assemblage to add the twists and turns of their established sound to bring it into holiday mode. While many of the tracks clearly have a wintery solstice feel to them, very few actually convey the holiday season in a blatant way other than the occasional lyrical content that clearly depicts certain aspects. There are key moments like at the beginning of "A Christmas Song" that have sleigh bells which is clearly brings Christmas to mind but they soon subside and allow the mandolin based folk track to shine.

When all is said and done, THE JETHRO TULL CHRISTMAS ALBUM sounds to me exactly like what Christmas would have been like in the English countryside long before the commercialization machine so successfully infiltrated every aspect of the holiday season. The folk rock mixed with acoustic symphonic touches very much corresponds to the wintery grey sky world as depicted by the album cover. This is the kind of album that you could rightfully put on any time of the year as it doesn't sound significantly different from the lighter and airier offerings by JT but should best be experienced with mulled wine, good friends and family as a nice supplement and more serious soundtrack to interrupt the regularly scheduled program of stale kids' songs and cheesy parodies that have outstayed their welcome for quite some time. While this will probably never achieve any top status in the JT canon, it certainly does attain a true respectful and non-commercial representation of the Christmas season and a brilliant way to end a most successful career and for the listener a most stressful year. Highly recommended for those who find themselves not digging the holiday music scene very much. This just might work for you.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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