Focusing just on the studio release albums, here are the best. Crest of a Knave (1987) did have 2 of the best Tull songs, and just missed it at #11. The Top 10 Jethro Tull albums:
#10 PassionPlay (1973) Jethro Tull's 2nd major concept album (following Thick as a Brick), where the whole LP is one song told in two 45-minute tracks. It's one of their most under-appreciated albums, even though it reached #1 both on the UK and US Billboard charts back in 1973. The weaving of music is ambitious, intricate, and unforgettable.
#9 Living in the Past (1972) A 2-LP set. There are a string of short songs here that just make me smile. Fast songs and deep words from Sweet Dream to Dr. Bogenbroom. I especially like Wond'ring Again and Up the Pool. All very short and sweet.
#8 Stormwatch (1979) An excellent, slightly serious and dark album geared around songs of the sea and storms. It even has a stormy feel. This marked the end of a certain stage in the band's career. Their next albums would have a very different feel. This was the cap on the end of a trilogy of albums based on an earth/woods/green concept. Orion, and Home are my favorites on this LP. All elements agree, in sweet and stormy blend
#7 Aqualung (1971) Perhaps their most famous album, Aqualung did not reach #1 on the charts, but it was played continuously on FM radio in the 70s. It's likely one of the best-known LPs in music history (at least among rock and progressive rock fans). Cross Eyed Mary and Locomotive Breath were played extensively on FM radio. Aqualung sent Jethro Tull into the spotlight with this religious themed rock-fest.
#6 Broadsword and the Beast (1982) The best of all album covers, the painting warns of the wicked mythology you can expect inside. This LP was very heavy, dark, and loaded with tales of sea beasts, ships, hard times and demons (real or figurative). Seal Driver is another classic Tull story song, and Slow Marching Band is one of the most beautiful of all their tracks. The Clasp is a stand-out song.
#5 Rock Island (1989) Pure rock, driven and hard. I love this album for its bold songs that recaptured some of the style that launched the band in earlier days. The drums in the title track are perfect. Their sequel Christmas song still gets played every year, rightly so. Whaler's Dues is a power tale. Strange Avenues is a suitable, strong closing track. Great cover art, too.
#4 Minstrel in the Gallery (1975) This was a mix of heavy rock, organ/acoustic/bass, and a story-driven approach. The songs are unique in their change of tempo and mood within each song. Baker St. Muse is a well crafted tale in song. Black Satin Dancers, one of my favorite tracks, has three mood changes that I really like. It's dark and brooding, but a schizophrenic waiting to come out. A complex album that could likely not be made now (or accepted). It's a testament to the 70s, and to the band's artful craft. Thin wind whispering on broken mandolin ...
#3 Heavy Horses (1978). The middle piece of a trilogy (I. Songs from the Wood, II. Heavy Horses, and III. Stormwatch) that tells the tale of cities taking over rural areas. This album was a cry for keeping the world green. Every track tells a soft tale of some creature's plight. I especially like Moths and Weathercock, but the title track is one of my all-time favorite songs. Ian Anderson was on a roll during these years, and he wrote furiously. Many tracks were cut and later added back in CD re-releases. A madman with a pen and flute.... the results were glorious.
#2 Thick as a Brick (1972). Their first #1 LP, it soared to the top of both the US and UK charts. This was not just an album, it was one song... told in two 45-minute tracks. These concept albums were popular in the 70s with progressive rock bands, and Thick as a Brick is likely the best. It's a combination of many songs woven together into a continuous stream of music. Words cannot describe, you need to listen to it. You'll either love it or hate it; few people find middle ground with this one. I absolutely love it. It proved Ian Anderson as a genius songwriter.
#1 Songs from the Wood (1977). Let me bring you song from the wood, to make you feel much better than you could know.... This was the core Jethro Tull voice, and possibly the most dynamic of their albums. Every song is perfect, and the theme is very happy and upbeat, woodsy and full of flute and chimes. It's the ultimate expression of Tull in the woods. Ian Anderson penned one masterpiece after another, from the title track on to the final Fire at Midnight. You can't just listen to it once. It calls you back again and again. I particularly like the long tracks: Velvet Green and Pribroch. This was also the last time Tull broke the US Top 10 charts (peaking at #8). Charts never mattered to them, though. It was always for the music.
Me, I'll sit and write this love song as I all too seldom do
build a little fire this midnight. It's good to be back home with you.
For a band intro and list of their top 10 Songs, check out: Best J Tull Songs here on top2040.com
Also click the Jethro Tull Category for more Tull articles.
Nothing beats a good hot coffee, a free day off, and a great Jethro Tull album.