Finally the album fans have always demanded of Anderson -- and he delivers with aplomb, wit, finesse, and endless inventiveness. It's a wonder Birds hasn't become a classic among Tullites, since it easily surpasses Tull's outings from the nineties onwards. While it may not have the flying sparks of "The Witch's Promise" or the cheeky melodies of "LIfe's A Long Song", this acoustic dish satisfies more with each listening. Perhaps its near cult status owes to the fact that it steers away from rock and a heavy band sound, focusing on that folk playfulness Ian masters so charmingly.
The acoustic backdrop brings many treasures to the fore. Anderson's voice, for one. It feels effortless and nimble without the strain of a rock setting. While his enunciation in such a context allows him to bring out more shades of personality, it also evokes both a range of moods and genuine intimacy. Second, the songwriting is freer, jauntier, and often delicate and subtle. And in every song it's top notch. Further, there's a beguiling light touch, carefree yet wise as well as a wryly amused attitude to both the music and Anderson's observations.
My only quibble is with the seemingly digital engineering. The sound is shallow and a tad flat, highlighting how much more depth and roundedness acoustic instrumentation gains from analog recording. Well, one more quibble comes to mind. That's Gidding's orchestration. It veers dangerously towards the 'lite' side and robs the instrumentation of gravitas. Matter of taste, really.
Still, this is Anderson's best solo work (Rupi's Dance has nothing on Birds). Here's hoping a Part II is in the offing.