When Tull & Chrysalis Records (a division of Capitol) finally announced that the bulk of the band's catalogue would be remastered & re-released, in droves the fans roared their approval. This was a motion long overdue! The original pre-'90s CD releases never sounded as good as their vinyl counterparts — each transfer simply lacked crispness, not to mention punch — with the direst case being Broadsword & The Beast. A nightmare! As of this writing, everything from This Was through A has been reissued with bonus tracks (taken from the 25th Anniversary box) and vastly improved sonic quality (with at least Broadsword through Crest Of A Knave due to receive like treatment). Also, the previous CD releases contained no lyrics; you had to have the LP if you wanted to read along. Not anymore, thankfully!
Songs is the perfect hybrid of medievally-charged, pagan-derived acoustic folk, symphonic, and contemporary electric rock styles — don't look for the seams, you'll miss the forest for the trees, so they say. From the opening solo vocal and lone acoustic guitar of the title track's commencement, to the grandiose finalé of "Pibroch (Cap In Hand)" with [guitarist] Martin Barré's probing buzz-saw affectations and [keyboardist] David Palmer's looming orchestral synths, the album plays more like a series of movements than a "bunch of songs." Founder-vocalist-songwriter Ian Anderson, commonly depicted before a mic stand with flute in hand and one raised leg, enchants us with tales woven upon his reentry into rural living. His rediscovery of nature's beauty and innate peace is represented by the title track, while "Hunting Girl" smacks of the freedom of wanderlust, and a great many elusive paths — which, once found, lead to simpler, less complicated modes of living — are mapped out in "Velvet Green."
Anderson's lyrical genius has rarely been more prominent than on this platter; the instrumentation is beefy and intricate. As a detailed painting requires multiple views to be properly appreciated, Songs demands many listens. The interlocking rhythmic and melodic parts in "Hunting Girl" won't be taken in on the first pass, and John Evan's elegant harpsichord intro to "Velvet Green" only leads to more riveting avenues in one of this album's best cuts. As usual, drummer Barriemore Barlow and bassist John Glascock are in top form. Barlow & Glascock made up Ian's best rhythm section (perhaps matched by Pegg and Perry, but this was during the Best Days of Tull!).
Bonus material: a great, echoey live version of "Velvet Green" and a fantastic rocker from the Songs sessions called "Beltane." The icing on the cake! Pleasurable listening doesn't get much better than this.
Thrust your head between the breasts of the fertile innocent
And taken up the cause of love, for the sake of argument
Or while the kisses drop like a fall of shot from soft lips in the rain —
1. Songs From The Wood
3. Cup Of Wonder
4. Hunting Girl
5. Ring Out, Solstice Bells
6. Velvet Green
7. The Whistler
8. Pibroch (Cap In Hand)
9. Fire At Midnight
— Bonus Tracks —
11. Velvet Green (live)
Total time: 53:03