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SONGS FROM THE 
MOTHERFUCKING WOOD
6/27/17

By Simon Glickman

Funny what the universe can throw your way, exactly when you need it. Such as Rhino’s Jethro Tull Songs From the Wood 40th Anniversary Edition: The Country Set.

This handsome batch of remastered discs, concerts and outtakes, replete with a 96-page booklet for maximum fan geekage, is my new standard for “rediscovery.”

When this record was nearly new, I lavished many, many adolescent hours swooning away to its sylvan grooves—and leering at its occasionally lascivious lyrics.

Think that’s a nerdly confession? Nestled among my other 45s is the 7” “The Whistler” single featuring the (until now) otherwise unreleased “Strip Cartoon” as a B-side. The Chrysalis logo revolved in my dreams. I played air flute. I might as well have lived in The Shire.

And I further admit that over the years, I came to think of the album as lesser Tull, lacking the edge of the angry young early-’70s material, so of the city and therefore, somehow, more authentic. But now I’m a gray and withered old hobbit and have experienced the country air and all of its joys. So Songs’ folkloric anthems, fixated as they are on the seasons, on antediluvian lore with the fertile earth at its center, feel warmer and fuzzier than I might’ve imagined.

The reason this album and the music immediately following it hewed to these themes is twofold. One: Ian Anderson and his bride left the city at last and he lived the life of a country squire in Buckinghamshire, where the rites of spring were danced outside his very windows. Two: His manager gifted him with Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, a scholarly guide to the beliefs and rituals of the pre-Christian land. He dove in, and emerged with forest-rocking cuts like “Jack-in-the-Green,” “Ring Out, Solstice Bells” and “Cup of Wonder.” And also sexed-up woodland jams like “Velvet Green” and “Hunting Girl.”

The music marries the band’s tricky, already baroque rock to the timbre of ye olde English folk, but the combination has aged rather astonishingly well. Even with bubbling late-’70s synths all around the hedgerows. Also: Jesus, this rocks. Put on “Pibroch” for your Sabbath-worshiping pals and see them bow down before the blazing riffage of Martin Lancelot Barre.

Couple this with two audio discs and one DVD of a jaw-dropping ’77 show that crystallizes the band’s repertoire, stylistic range and sheer sense of fun better than any I’ve heard, and you’ve got something pretty miraculous. Then there’s all the stuff that takes my geekage to the next level, like the charming trade ad for Marshall amps that finds Barre recounting his nervous Tull audition. Or the interview with engineer Trevor White! What does he say about rolling off 10db in the first submix? Buy the set and find out!

Look, I know this ain’t for everybody, But it sure as shit was for me, and now—when merely cataloguing the terrible things going on in the world is a full-time occupation—it is solace indeed.

Too nerdy for you? Fuck off. I’ve got air flute to play.