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Jethro Tull - Heavy Horses CD (album) cover

HEAVY HORSES

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.99 | 782 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Heavy Horses, Jethro Tull, 1978

Tull's second devoted folk album escapes my hatred for all things gratuitously vaguely woodsy. Aside from a mixed but improved set of lyrics relating Ian's pastoral images to actual human life, Ian's voice has grown a bit huskier and the music, while still full of nice melodies, does actually tend to go somewhere. Drummer Barriemore Barlowe outdoes himself here, and the band are completely tight wherever the music has direction.

With less of the tedious repetition and a little more in the way of hooks, the actual quality of the band becomes a little more obvious again. Psychotic opener And The Mouse Police Never Sleeps has the rather underrated Barriemore Barlowe at his finest and a slightly experimental flute sound, while Acres Wild sees John Glascock's bass interwoven into a neat mandolin part. Daryl Way's violin makes the slightly mad jig part and adds an extra flavour to the finely constructed verses.

No Lullaby is the first (and by far the worst) of the album's speed bumps. While it's nice to see Barlowe in a soloing capacity briefly at the start, Anderson's lyrics (and rather grating vocals) seem to have slipped back to an idea without any particular content and for an eight minute song, it appears to have little ot no sense of direction and more of the Songs-From-The-Wood moodless reprises. Good start, good end, not much in the overlong middle.

Moths has one of Palmer's lush orchestrations coming to the fore around a smooth flute part; Anderson's rather cracked vocals work unreasonably well, perhaps it's the calibre of the lyrics or the inexplicably uncluttered feel of the actually quite dense background.

Clear break, followed by Journeyman, the first piece where John Evans and Martin Barre really stand out, with a murky, watery organ and some snarling guitar leads in between a fairly typical little Tull riff... the side two opener has a detail in the orchestration and pulsing rhythm section that rewards repeated listens. Rover has one of Tull's best multi-part riffs, and bursts deliciously out of the opening percussion/bass thing. Anderson's a bit hit and miss on this one... flute great, lyrics have a couple of nice moments but don't really seem to mean much, vocals rather too harsh, though the chorus melody is pleasant. Vocals aside, this could well be one of Tull's finest numbers.

One Brown Mouse has the album's best lyrics and a neat acoustic (the final flourish is delicious)/vocal combination in its favour. The legato-ish organ part in the background is also rather nice. On the minus side, we have some stereotypical Tull instrumental bits (of the sort I really rather disliked on Songs From The Wood) that don't really go anywhere or connect back to the verses.

Heavy Horses is the second extended track (this time, a pleasant nine minutes) and benefits vastly from such basic tricks as contrast, variation and spacing. Aside from some rare piano accompaniment by John Evans, the piece is finely arranged with more of Daryl Way's wonderful folk violin. If I've little sympathy for the beasts in question, Anderson's vocal and lyrics have a fairly winning affection in them (erk, 'slipping and sliding free'... folksiness does not excuse directionless writing). I'd quite happily cut out one or two of the verses and choruses, nice though they are, and most of Martin Barre's limp solo at around 6.00; oddly enough, it constitutes one of Tull's better later longer songs, but I still think its basic content far exceeds the final performance.

Weathercock is a basically satisfying conclusion to the album, with a very fine organ performance and some masterfully brought out folk rhythms. Anderson's rhetorical lyrics, while generally deserving the answer 'no' (I'm a bit of a cynic with regards to yon aulde authenticke folksiness), work for it and his flute part is solid.

Final analysis: mixed bag, where the two long songs drag the whole thing down. Bonus tracks none too shabby, rather less sympathy for Living In These Hard Times than the very fine Broadford Bazaar (whatever that wind instrument is, it's gorgeous). Recommended to any Tull fan and a damn sight more substantial than Songs From The Wood.

Rating: 3 stars, 11/15 Favourite Track: Broadford Bazaar if we count the bonus tracks, otherwise Moths or Acres Wild

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |

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