Monday, December 15, 2008

Jingle Bells: Ring Out Solstice Bells

Jethro Tull: Ring Out Solstice Bells


Most people count “Aqualung” as their introduction to the music of Jethro Tull. That certainly was the case for me. And for years, I never went beyond that. Jethro Tull seemed to be another hard rock band following in the footstep of Led Zeppelin, distinguished mainly by those weird sounds that Ian Anderson got out of his flute. My wife, however, taught me that there is much more to Jethro Tull than that..

It turns out that Jethro Tull came out of the same British folk-rock scene that spawned Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, and many others. In its later years, the members of Jethro Tull even included former members of Fairport and Steeleye. So it is not surprising to find the influence of British folk music in the work of Jethro Tull.

I have discussed the presence of pre-Christian elements in British folk tradition before. On Jethro Tull’s album Songs From the Wood, Ian Anderson has taken what is subtle in traditional British songs, and made it explicit in his original compositions. “Ring Out Solstice Bells” describes what a druid solstice ritual might have been like.

So let me wish everybody a very happy Solstice. And if anybody knows any Hanukkah bell songs, I hope we’ll hear them this week, (I can’t think of any, or I would take care of it myself).

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