Jethro Tull has been one of my favorite bands since I heard “Too Old for Rock n’ Roll, Too Young to Die” on some compilation album when I was growing up. I played it on repeat until I got a “Best Of…” album then explored all the albums and found that there even better songs.
Today is the birthday of the man behind Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson, and I thought I would celebrate with, what I think are, the ten best Jethro Tull songs ever. These are the songs that I will never tire of hearing and songs that have influenced my own writing quite a bit.
10. Witch’s Promise
“Witch’s Promise” is an earlier Jethro Tull song released before Aqualung but it’s reminiscent of the songs that come later on albums like Songs from the Wood and Minstrel in the Gallery. This is where Jethro Tull starts to veer slightly away from the blues forward style they started with in their music and begin to incorporate more English folk, celtic and classical forms. Plus the story and lyrics are great to.
9. The Whistler
The beginning of “The Whistler” has always given me goosebumps. The energetic strumming, quick chord changes and the play of vocals between left and right speakers is a great way to start a song like this with lots of celtic influence.
8. Sweet Dream
This is another early Jethro Tull song released before Aqualung that foreshadows future styles that they would eventually incorporate into their music. Plus the horns are a great addition. The chorus of Sweet Dream is also one of the most catchy followed close behind by “The Whistler”.
7. Heavy Horses
Like many other Jethro Tull songs, you’ll find shorter versions of “Heavy Horses” but the best is the full length version. The way the piano comes in at the beginning and how the passion builds throughout the song cannot be overlooked and shorter versions of this song is just an injustice, plain and simple.
6. Velvet Green
I’ve always loved the way Jethro Tull incorporated baroque and medieval styles into some of their music and “Velvet Green” is a great example of this and probably the most extreme example. Also the odd time signatures, which change on multiple occasions, and the great lyrics should put “Velvet Green” on everyone’s best songs list. Also, “Velvet Green” about a sexual experience in the countryside. So really, what’s not to like about this song?
5. Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day
“Skating Away…” sounds a lot like many other Tull songs but what really grabs me about this one are the lyrics. It seems to speak to a situation we all find ourselves on an almost daily basis: should you escape from a traditional life and plain job to follow your dreams with high risk of failure or stay where you are? Since I have chosen the former by following my dreams of a music career, this song really speaks to me.
One of the most popular Tull songs ever and for a good reason too. The production and songwriting here are of the highest quality. Enough said.
3. Baker Street Muse
This is another epic Tull song that deserves more attention that it regularly receives in conversations about Jethro Tull. These types of songs are really hard to write and record and I have a ton of respect for Jethro Tull because they were able to do this sort of thing on a regular basis.
2. Locomotive Breath
This is another extremely popular Tull song. True lovers of Jethro Tull know exactly when Anderson grunts and spurts during his flute solo and will grunt along with him every time.
1. Thick as a Brick
Thick as a Brick is, without question, a masterpiece and truly an epic. And I’m talking about the entire thing not just the first three minutes that you hear on the radio. The concept behind Thick as a Brick is about facing more responsibilities as you grow older but also that it is a poem written by a child named Gerald Bostock. As confusing as this may seem to be, I think it’s simply genius. At the same time, Anderson says that the entire album is a parody of other concept albums that were being released by Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and others during the early 1970s. No matter how complex the story behind Thick as a Brick can get, the song will always be my favorite Jethro Tull song. Ever.
What’s your favorite Jethro Tull song? Also, do you think any song deserve to be in a top ten list that aren’t mentioned here?