Most helpful positive review
113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2003
Hmm...who would have thought it? So many people slapping around one of the truly great rock albums of all time, and yet I still have the heart to listen. Actually, Jethro Tull's critical nadir was reached during A Passion Play (one of their greatest works, by the way), so I guess I can scratch off that criticism of Heavy Horses. Rolling Stone, a most anti-Tull publication, gave HH a great review. Mojo also included it among the top-ten greatest folk albums of all time.
Oh, and being a Tull fan, you can probably guess that I'm not too concerned with the top ten. Actually, considering that bands like Boston and Fleetwood Mac were at their commercial peaks during this era, I consider Heavy Horses NOT reaching the top ten to be a ringing endorsement! As far as any perceived artistic fall is concerned, that is a purely subjective call. I believe that the Songs From The Wood-to-A era to be this band's greatest.
To call these songs "verbose" and "banal" betrays the taste of the person who uttered these comments. Apparently, this person dislikes artfully crafted lyrics (an utterly rare phenomenon in rock music), or this person believes that rock music should forever confine itself to boy-meets-girl cliches or emerging male sexuality.
Actually, I must admit that I found the accusation of HH being "pseudo-literary" to be hilarious. To attack admirers of Heavy Horses as "puerile" is quite harsh, but one is entitled to his or her opinion. But the analysis of the "Acres Wild" lyrics is incredibly pedantic. Anyone who bases their appreciation of poetry or prose on the literary bean-counting of an English comp class will probably end up teaching it. Have you ever read Langston Hughs or Robert Burns?
Some have remarked about Ian Anderson's growl. Well, Heavy Horses describes the harshness of nature; it's not about making it seem mystical or gentle. That growl aptly conveys the message of the album.
Anyway. Heavy Horses is truly an awesome artistic statement. This batch of latest remastered Tull classics represents the band's best work. I think it's fair to say that Heavy Horses represents Tull at their very best; Songs From The Wood & A Passion Play both tie for second.
"...And The Mouse Police..." has incredible charm. Ian whispers a warning to the mice of the encroaching feline gestapo. Musically, the song is impossible to fault. A tightly coiled arrangement and a paranoid ending compliment it perfectly.
"Acres Wild" has some incredible drumming from percussion maestro Barrie Barlow. The song itself is very sensual (despite what some may tell you). The mandolin and fiddle instrumentation accent the pronounced Scottish flavor of the piece. In fact, the whole of the Heavy Horses disc sounds very Scots-Irish.
"No Lullaby" is an endorsement of twitching paranoia. More incredible drumming from Barlow, and some less-than-comforting words addressed to a child remove any of the cheerful feelings fostered by Songs From The Wood. This is one of the most powerful Tull performances!
"Moths" describes the suicidal possibility of True Love, as the moths hover ever closer to the flaming candle. The music is so engaging, and the analogy so clever, that "Moths" is compulsively listenable. I love that song.
"Journeyman" features the melodic bass playing of the late John Glascock. God, what an incredible player! Ian Anderson's description of life on the go is realistic, not banal or self-indulgent (in my opinion).
"Rover" can either apply to a dog or a man on the run. Musically, this piece is closest to the progressive rock of an earlier Tull era. The bucolic guitar part adds a bewitching quality, though.
"One Brown Mouse" is probably Tull's prettiest song. Again, this lyric can apply to a mouse or a man; and incredibly charming it is, too! Musically, it reaches into the furthest reaches of Scottish folk. David Palmer's lovely pipe organ duet with the flute is incredibly appealing.
"Heavy Horses" is a multifaceted epic that encompasses some incredible guitar playing, hymn-like calm, a fiddled wild romp, and (yes) some great lyrics.
"Weathercock" is a tough little rocker, with a blistering guitar coda by Martin Barre, excellent drumming by Barlow, and some effective singing by Anderson. A great closer!
The bonus tracks only add to the grandeur of Heavy Horses. "Living In These Hard Times" is, once again, about the realities of life. The tune is infectious and rollicking, the lyrics dark, like so many other Tull tunes. A very appealing (and schizoid) combination! "Broadford Bazaar" is almost overwhelmingly beautiful. Why it had to wait for release until Nightcap is beyond me. Heavy Horses is, perhaps, the greatest rock album ever. Idiosyncratic it certainly is, but that is exactly what endears it to so many. Hey, give it a try. Thanks to Ian, Martin, John E, Barrie, John G and David!