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Jethro Tull - Heavy Horses CD (album) cover

HEAVY HORSES

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.04 | 1136 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Heavy Horses" is the logical continuation of the solid prog-folk approach delivered in the "Songs From the Wood" album, and what a lovely follow-up it is. The previous release had been an absolute triumph of Jethro Tull's ever-present folkish side refurbished and manifested at its maximum potential of sophistication, in no small degree due to the tasteful synth layers and orchestrations provided by John Evan and the new 6th member David (now Dee) Palmer. What "Heavy Horses" brings as a source of refreshment for this new pinnacle era of Jethro Tull is the use of more natural orchestral arrangements (real strings), as well as a special guest called Darryl Way (yes, the virtuoso violinist from Curved Air). Evan restricts himself to organ and piano, and the synth input is not as abundant. Maybe the occasional portative pipe organ handled by Palmer has more presence than the synths, but again, the keyboard efforts are properly stated in the mix. All in all, the items that are more recurrently featured in the mix (besides Anderson's flute) are the interplaying acoustic/electric guitars and the drums: this album indeed comprises some of the best Barlow work ever, and I'm talking about a musician who always knew how to use his percussive mastery for good effect. As in the "Wood" album (and many other songs from the previous Tull catalogue), the consistent topic of the tracklist focuses on rural things, but now the predominant mood is not one of celebration of the reality and fantasy in the village men's lives: "Heavy Horses" is an overall look at the pros and cons of the life (lovely life, after all) in a farm amidst our modern urban-centered times. '... And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps' is a catchy tune about cats watching for mice in their role of countrymen's best friends; its playful mood is properly perpetuated in the romancing 'Acres Wild' and the candid 'Moths'. Caught between these colorful songs is the grayish 'No Lullaby', full of intense rocking sounds and patently prog-oriented shifts. This song signifies a particular apex for Barre and Barlow as performers. 'Journeyman' ends the album's first half with a featured rhythm section that emulates the driving dynamics of a vehicle with funky-friendly swings that oddly feed the song?s basic blues-rock feel. 'Rover' brings back the album's most candid side with well-ordained flourishes that echo the explicit splendor of "Songs From the Wood", in this way opening the album's second half in a very exciting way. 'One Brown Mouse' is less ornamented but still displays a similar colorfulness - the rural mood works beautifully. But the source of superior beauty comes with the penultimate track, the namesake one, which IMHO is one of the finest Anderson moments as a writer and a poet. This mini-epic that almost totals a 9 minute span celebrates the ancient power of farm horses while calibrating the negative side brought by tractors and other industrial artifacts. The soft piano-vocal passages, the orchestrations exquisite beyond words, the melodic development of the moving guitar leads and Way's majestic violin inputs, the fluid sequences between various moods and time signatures, all of them gather together in a perfectly logical framework that capitalizes the song's beautiful melodic lines. Epic and magical, with a lovely mixture of melancholy and naivety in the lyrics that make sense with the musical material - 'Heavy Horses' is a Top 5 song in JT's history. The album's closer 'Weathercock' brings back a moment of final optimism to complete the tracklist on a pertinently candid note. This album is a must in any rock collection (prog and not prog), and definitely, a wonderful masterpiece from a band whose heyday was still running on by the late 70s.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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