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Although both albums share a marked sense of rural enchantment and find Jethro Tull at the very apex of their folky prog-rock ingenuity, 1978's Heavy Horses
is often unfairly portrayed, by fans and critics alike, as a thematic follow-up to its immediate studio predecessor Songs from the Wood
. Both offerings are excellent, but they do deserve to be appreciated in isolation. While Songs from the Wood
evokes a magical atmosphere of mysterious nature-worshipping spirituality, Heavy Horses
is far more earthly, a nostalgic glance at agricultural realism with a Cornish pasty--not a book about fairies--in its back-pocket.
Indeed, on the progressive, nine-minute-long title-track--a most poetic ode to the English countryside's traditional ploughing beasts of burden--Ian Anderson almost sings with the sorrow of an old-time farmhand witnessing the combine harvesters and crop-sprayers coming over the horizon for the first time. One can even forgive him the rather randy line "Let me find you a filly for your proud stallion seed, to keep the old line going". Sure, there's plenty of prattle about drinking afternoon tea with mice, but tracks like "Moths" and "Acres Wild"--the latter a Scottish-jig flavoured homage to Ian Anderson's salmon-farming locale of Skye--mark Heavy Horses out as a must-own in the Jethro Tull canon. Somehow, they were never quite as good, as often, again. --Kevin Maidment