Review by: Jeremiah Methven
Album assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Best Song: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
First off, I must admit that the Christmas album is not really my preferred genre of music. Sure, the basic Christmas canon has some strong melodies, but there are only so many times I can hear the same piece of music before it starts to become tiresome. What I’m generally looking for in music are original and unique ideas, not minor variations of the same old thing.
Fortunately reviewers with similar biases as mine still praised this particular album, which gave me hope that Jethro Tull’s Christmas experience would be the exception to the rule. And overall, I have to say that it is! On first listen to the album, I was immediately captivated by the opening flute/guitar riff to “Birthday Card at Christmas” and knew I was in for a rare treat – an original and engaging song that still maintains a clear Christmas atmosphere. Indeed, the combination of Ian Anderson’s flute and Martin Barre’s guitar sets the appropriate classical Christmas vibe throughout, and combine that with the strength of the tracklist – originals, reworkings of past Tull songs, and some more traditional Christmas instrumentals, and you get a Christmas album that actually stands up to immersive listening.
I also I admit I’m more of a Tull dabbler than acolyte, so several of the reworked tracks are new to me (e.g., the two ‘Christmas Songs,’ ‘Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow’) and I rather enjoy them. I also quite like the rearrangements of the songs I did already know (‘Weathercock,’ ‘Bouree’) as well as the new songs here. And since as a rule I’m inclined to dislike straight Christmas covers, I applaud Tull for managing to breathe new life into old chestnuts like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” In fact, that particular track is probably the standout of the album with the variation and complexity of its arrangement worthy of any strong instrumental track, Christmas or no, – from flute intro to laidback guitar to piano solo to an almost-metal electric guitar riff.
If there’s a flaw, it’s that the sound is pretty similar throughout, so I do find myself starting to fidget a bit by the time this hour of Tull Christmas music starts to wind down. And since it’s fairly limited in scope, it’s hard for me to rate it as ‘essential’ in the context of all rock albums. But overall, I would happily recommend it to anyone in the mood for a Christmas album and it’s certainly one of the best in its genre that I’ve ever heard.
This review is also posted on my personal review page.