Jethro Tull,
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album
(Fuel 2000, 2003)

Progressive rock just doesn't say Christmas to me.

That matter aside, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album is an excellent progressive rock album that manages to inject a little holiday spirit into Tull's trademark sound. Several tracks, in fact, are reprised from previous, nonholiday recordings.

The strongest argument for adding this album to your holiday rotation are several instrumental tracks that apply Ian Anderson's distinctive flute stylings to traditional Yuletide tunes and medleys. Anyone who loves the Tull flute sound -- and who doesn't, really? -- will eat these up like tollhouse cookies.

Otherwise, many of the band's original songs take a contemplative look at the season. In Anderson's "A Christmas Song," he sings, "Once, in Royal David's City, stood a lowly cattle shed, / Where a mother laid her baby. / You'd do well to remember the things He later said / When you're stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties." In "Another Christmas Song," he asks, "How many wars you fighting out there, this winter's morning? / Maybe there's always time for another Christmas song."

Anderson pricks the Christmas conscience with "Jack Frost & the Hooded Crow," which urges everyone to "spare a thought this day for those who have no flame to warm their bones at Christmas time." "First Snow on Brooklyn" paints a vivid picture of a cold night of separation, while "Fire at Midnight" gives us warmth and companionship. "Ring Out Solstice Bells" of course celebrates one of the other holidays marked at this time of year.

Besides Anderson on flute, vocals, acoustic guitars, mandolin, piccolo and percussion, Jethro Tull is Martin Barre on electric and acoustic guitars, Doane Perry on drums and percussion, Andrew Giddings on keyboards, accordion and keyboard bass, and Jonathan Noyce on bass guitar. Guest musicians on this album are James Duncan on drums and percussion, David Pegg on bass guitar and mandolin, and the Sturez String Quartet.

The Jethro Tull Christmas Album doesn't say Christmas in the same obvious way a Bing Crosby record might, but the season is certainly an appropriate time for thoughtful contemplation of the issues Anderson so eloquently raises.

by Tom Knapp
23 December 2006

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