Songs from the Wood

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Songs from the Wood
Jethro Tull Songs from the Wood.jpg
Studio album by
Released11 February 1977
RecordedSeptember - November 1976
StudioMorgan Studios, London
GenreProgressive folk, progressive rock
ProducerIan Anderson
Jethro Tull chronology
Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die!
Songs from the Wood
Repeat – The Best of Jethro Tull – Vol II
Singles from
Songs from the Wood
  1. "Ring Out, Solstice Bells"
    Released: December 3, 1976
  2. "The Whistler"
    Released: February 11, 1977
  3. "Songs from the Wood"
    Released: 1977 (New Zealand only)

Songs from the Wood is the tenth studio album by British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, released February 1977. The album signalled a new direction for the band, who turned to celebrating British pagan folklore and the countryside life in a wide-ranging folk rock style which combined traditional instruments and melodies with hard rock drums and electric guitars.[1]

The album is considered to be the first of a trio of folk rock albums: Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses (1978) and Stormwatch (1979).[2] On the album cover appears an extended title line: "Jethro Tull – with kitchen prose, gutter rhymes and divers – Songs from the Wood". The title track of the album contain two of these phrases in its lyrics.

The UK music-paper adverts read: "Jethro Tull present 'Songs From The Wood'. A new album of Old Magic. Songs From The Wood. It's inspired by the thought that perhaps nature isn't as gentle as we'd like to believe. And it takes as its theme the natural and supernatural inhabitants of the woodlands of old England. Warm and friendly, harsh and bitter by turns, it includes 'Ring Out Solstice Bells' as well as Tull's new single 'The Whistler' and seven other songs. Find a quiet spot and listen to it soon."


The album was recorded immediately following the tour of the previous album, Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976). It demonstrated the desire of Anderson to change the musical style of the band, encountering, as he was, music from the folk rock scene, and producing albums such as Steeleye Span's Now We Are Six (1974). Also, as Anderson said: "After Too Old to Rock and Roll, we returned to England, and I settled down, got married and bought a home. It gave me an opportunity to evaluate and reflect upon the cultural and historical significance of making that commitment to English residency."[3]

Being the first Jethro Tull album to feature keyboardist David Palmer as an official band member, their music gained complexity and variety, with more instruments being played and a sound that derives from Palmer's classical leanings and the strong presence of Martin Barre's electric guitar. Both Palmer and Barre are credited for contributing material to the album. The album highlights the band at its most playful and due to its lush production and more noticeable use of keyboards is perhaps one of the band's most obviously progressive rock-oriented releases.

The song "Jack-in-the-Green" features Ian Anderson on all the instruments.

Musical style and themes[edit]

Filled with imagery from medieval Britain (especially in the "Jack-in-the-Green", "Cup of Wonder", and "Ring Out Solstice Bells" lyrics), and ornamental folk arrangement (as in "Velvet Green" and "Fire at Midnight"), or the experimentalism of "Pibroch (Cap in Hand)" where Martin Barre's guitar simulates bagpipes,[2] the album was a departure from the hard rock of earlier Jethro Tull material, though it still retained some of the band's older sound. Anderson was partly inspired by the book Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain which was given to him by Jethro Tull's then manager Jo Lustig in 1976. According to Anderson, the book "certainly gave me thoughts about the elements of characters and stories that played out in my songwriting on the Songs From the Wood album, which then carried on over to the Heavy Horses album and even beyond that into the Stormwatch album."[4]

The descriptive term "folk music" has been dismissed by Anderson and Barre as not relevant to the album. Folk has a strong connotation of American singer-songwriters performing activist songs in coffeehouses, whereas Songs from the Wood was composed and performed as a tribute to the UK.[5] Anderson said that the album was "for all the band members... a reaffirmation of our Britishness."[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[1]
NME(Very favourable)[6]
SputnikMusic4/5 stars[7]
Sea of Tranquility5/5 stars[8]

Songs from the Wood was the first Tull album to receive unambiguously positive reviews since the time of Living in the Past (1972). AllMusic called the album: "the prettiest record Jethro Tull released at least since Thick as a Brick".[1]

In the Heavy Horses (1978) review by the Rolling Stone magazine, it is recalled that Songs from the Wood "may well have been the group's best record ever."[9]

Songs from the Wood was included in the list The 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time by Prog magazine at number 76.[10]


The album sold more than 1,000,000 copies in United States, reached No. 8 on the Billboard album chart, making it the last top ten album for the band in the US. The song "The Whistler" was the only song to chart as a single in the United States, peaking at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1977. In Denmark, it made the Top 10, peaking at #8,[11] a position it held for two weeks. In the United Kingdom the album sold more than 100,000 copies, peaking at No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart.[12][13]


Although the front cover carries no credit to the effect, the back cover features the credit "front cover painting by Jay L. Lee". In fact, it is a photo on which outlines, lines and contours have simply been drawn with a pen (see tree branches, the dog's snout and Anderson's boots), with paint only occasionally added over the photo (as in the fire). The fact that this is a photo and not a painting is backed up by several other similar photos from the same photo session, some of which were used in the programme for the British tour in 1977, as well as on the concert poster. The credit "painting by ..." is probably based on a typical trick by Ian Anderson, who likes to joke with his fans. "Painting by" could also only refer to the post-processing of the photo. The LP cover depicts Ian Anderson sitting on a campfire after a successful hunt with a dog and prey. Under the band name is the line with kitchen prose, gutter rhymes and divers, 'including the album title (ie: "Jethro Tull // with kitchen prose, gutter rhymes and divers // songs from the wood").

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Ian Anderson with additional material by Martin Barre and David Palmer.

Side one
1."Songs from the Wood"4:52
3."Cup of Wonder"4:30
4."Hunting Girl"5:11
5."Ring Out, Solstice Bells"3:43
Side two
6."Velvet Green"6:03
7."The Whistler"3:30
8."Pibroch (Cap in Hand)"8:35
9."Fire at Midnight"2:26

2017 40th Anniversary The Country Set Deluxe Edition[edit]

On May 17, 2017 Jethro Tull released a five disc ‘bookset’ version of Songs from the Wood with a 96-page booklet that includes a track-by-track annotation of the album and its associated recordings by Ian Anderson. It is similar to the band's other 40th Anniversary reissues, with the first disc containing another Steven Wilson stereo remix followed by ‘associated recordings’ including the previously unreleased "Old Aces Die Hard" and "Working John, Working Joe." The second and third discs contain 22 previously unreleased live tracks, recorded on the American leg of their 1977 Songs From The Wood Tour, from November 21 (Landover, Maryland) and December 6th (Boston), remixed to stereo by Jakko Jakszyk. The set also includes DVDs.[14]


Jethro Tull
Additional personnel
  • Robin Black – sound engineering
  • Thing Moss and Trevor White – assistant engineers
  • Keith Howard – wood-cutter
  • Jay L. Lee – front cover painting
  • Shirt Sleeve Studio – back cover


  1. ^ a b c Eder, Bruce. Jethro Tull - Songs from the Wood (1977) album review, credits & releases at AllMusic. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b Hughes, Rob (23 January 2015). "Jethro Tull: keeping the folk fires burning". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b Scapelliti, Christopher (September 1999). ""Tull Tales" article on Guitar World". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ Martin Webb. Songs From the Wood 40th Anniversary Edition booklet. Chrysalis Records. p. 13.
  5. ^ Nollen, Scott Allen (2001). Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968–2001. McFarland. p. 121. ISBN 9780786411016.
  6. ^ Humphries, Patrick (5 March 1977). "Jethro Tull Press: Jethro Tull - Songs from the Wood (1977) album review on New Musical Express". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Jethro Tull - Songs from the Wood (1977) album review by vanderb0b". 1 August 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  8. ^ Pettengill, Steve (2004). "Review: 'Jethro Tull: Songs from the Woods (remaster) – Sea of Tranquility – The Web Destination for Progressive Music!". Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  9. ^ Bloom, Michael (21 September 1978). "Jethro Tull - Heavy Horses (1978) album review". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  10. ^ "The 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time". Prog magazine ( 6 August 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  11. ^ Jethro Tull - "Songs from the Wood" song on Danish Charts at
  12. ^ "Worldwide album charts of Jethro Tull albums". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  13. ^ "Official Charts Company of Jethro Tull - Songs from the Wood (1977) album". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  14. ^ Sinclair, Paul. "NEWS Jethro Tull / Songs From The Wood / 40th anniversary deluxe edition". Super Deluxe Edition. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  15. ^ Jethro Tull - Songs from the Wood (1977) album liner notes [Album cover]. Chrysalis.

External links[edit]