Friday, October 8, 2010

Discoveries: Cold Wind to Valhalla

Jethro Tull: Cold Wind to Valhalla


If you have read a number of my posts, you know that I grew up listening to FM radio in the 1970s. If you remember those days, you may want to know how I can call Jethro Tull a discovery. Isn’t that like saying you discovered breathing? And why didn’t you post Aqualung? Surely that was the first Jethro Tull you heard? Indeed it was. Let me explain.

This week, we have seen that there are a number of ways to discover music. A song can follow you around. You can read about it in a newspaper or magazine. You can win tickets to a show. Or a friend can make introductions. In my life, there was another route to musical discovery, a big one. I married it. If you care deeply about music, you are going to marry someone who does too, at least to some extent. Or so it was for me. When we decided to join our lives together, we also joined together our record collections. Now I had heard Aqualung long before, as I mentioned. I didn’t like it. I dismissed the song as hard rock, and I never bothered to find out what else Jethro Tull might have done. But my wife did before we met. As she learned my musical taste, she began to insist that I had to hear their albums Songs From the Wood and Minstrel in the Gallery. Finally, I did, and I was amazed. The lyrics, while not strictly authentic, were steeped in the mythology and folklore of the British Isles. And the music took the ideas of folk-rock as pioneered by Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, and took them to the next level.

Cold Wind to Valhalla starts as a folk piece, and then turns electric. But notice how the electric guitar is mirrored by a fiddle. It sounds kind of hard-rockish, but there is more to it than that. Cold Wind is on Minstrel in the Gallery, and musically, it is the perfect bridge from what I thought I knew about Jethro Tull to what I discovered.

Incidentally, the image I have chosen for this post is obviously an album cover, but it’s an odd shape. That’s a cassette cover. To this day, we only have Minstrel and Songs on cassette. Luckily, we still have something that will play them.

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