Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Der Bingle's Essentials: "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album"

Occupying slot number 3 in Der Bingle's Essentials is "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album", the 2003 (US) release by one of the most innovative and enduring rock bands of our time.  As a collection of new and previously released songs, this album is outstanding, unique, and a must-play every season (and frequently played in the off-season) in my house.

I was a marginal Jethro Tull fan back in '03.  I had my well-played vinyl copy of "Aqualung" from college (who didn't have one of those?) and a second copy of "Thick as a Brick" (the first copy was ruined in the back window of my car due to sun kisses - har), and had heard "Bungle in the Jungle" way too many times on the local Classic Rock radio station (never did get that song), but that was about it.  I liked Tull well and good, but they were as yet not in my top tier.

So, I recall one day seeing an ad for "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album" on Amazon.  It caught my attention immediately.  Like, "Huh??!?  Jethro Tull has a Christmas album?"  Curiosity getting the best of me, I ordered it (on November 3, 2003, to be exact, according to Amazon).  And once it arrived in the mail and I put it in the CD player, from the very opening notes of "Birthday Card at Christmas" I was hooked.  Absolutely loved it.  Through and through the songs were of the classic Jethro Tull sound, and they were of Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and many things seasonal but yet atypical of the usual Christmas song fare.  

The originals - "A Christmas Song", "Another Christmas Song", "Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow", "First Snow on Brooklyn", and especially "Ring Out Solstice Bells" are wonderful, edgy, a bit pagany in spots, and completely signature Tull.

The re-imagined standards - "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "We Five Kings", and "Greensleeved" are masterworks.  These are the ones that hooked me completely, and soon graced my annual Christmas compilations over the next couple of  years. 

And that leads to an interesting aspect of this essential album.  After including those three standards on annual comps, it was many years before I could find the right spot for any other song from this album, finally placing "Ring Out Solstice Bells" in the 2016 edition.  Jethro Tull doesn't fit next to Bing or Frank or Dean or Johnny or Doris.  But as a collection of amazing seasonal music by a Heavy Metal Grammy-Award winning band (look it up if you don't know the story - worth the read), it's a beautiful collection.  Ian, Martin and the rest made some remarkable Christmas music.

By the way, since buying this album, I've acquired most of the Jethro Tull catalog, seen them live once (with the angelic Lucia Micarelli joining them on violin), and am considering seeing Ian Anderson's 50 Years of Jethro Tull later this summer.  

This is in my personal top 10, and is an absolute essential.  If you have never heard their rousing cut of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", head to Amazon or Spotify or Youtube and listen.  Whew!


  1. Herr Bingle, do you take requests? I discovered "A Renaissance Christmas" by the Waverly Consort on your blog, and am now searching for "A Waverly Consort Christmas: Christmas from East Anglia to Appalachia."

    Any chance you can scare up a copy for the 2018 season?""Many thanks.

    1. I will keep my eyes open for it - thanks for the suggestion!