Heavy Horses

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1978


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's an unwritten rule in the world of rock and roll: no matter how hard you try, the album you release after a blockbuster is almost always viewed as a disappointment. This is not always the artist's fault -- after all, they can't control the expectations of the fans. Worse yet, they can't please all of the fans.

For Ian Anderson and crew, they faced this dilemma for the second time in 1978. Coming off of the wonderful disc Songs From The Wood, it was hard to imagine how Jethro Tull could top this effort. The answer: they couldn't. The follow-up disc, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Heavy Horses, contains some fantastic material, combining the worlds of folk and harder-edged rock (kind of like merging their two previous albums into one), but otherwise falling short of the target.

Anderson and his bandmates do try to build on the folk basis they created with Songs From The Wood, and they often do well heading in this direction. "One Brown Mouse" might be a throwaway idea, but it is a charming little song and remains a hidden gem in the Tull discography. Likewise, the title track brings back memories of "Songs From The Wood," mixing gentle, harmonized vocals and drifting melodies in with some solid rock (thanks in no small part to the guitar work of Martin Barre).

Indeed, Heavy Horses starts out strong enough with the one-two punch of "And The Mouse Police Never Sleeps" and "Acres Wild." And while "No Lullaby" sometimes feels like it overstays its welcome, it is a decent enough track to keep the listener's interest for most of the song.

But much of Heavy Horses sounds like Jethro Tull is growing a little listless in their musical direction. Tracks like "Moths," "Journeyman" and "Weathercock" don't seem completely comfortable in their musical skins, even sounding a tad forced. Whereas Songs From The Wood was an organic experience which overflowed with joy in the performances, Heavy Horses features performances which sound labored at times. And while the strong tracks are well worth the listener's time, they just aren't enough to salvage the entire disc.

Does this mean that Heavy Horses is a bad album? No. But it has become one of the "forgotten" Jethro Tull albums, most likely because it contains no hit singles or tracks which get played ad nauseam on classic rock radio. The disc still has plenty going for it, and does deserve some attention. Maybe, had Songs From The Wood not come out, this disc would be seen in a brighter light, since there would be no comparisons drawn. But while Heavy Horses tries to follow in its predecessor's footsteps, it occasionally stumbles.

Rating: C+

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© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.