Heavy Horses was the first Tull album I bought after seeing their live broadcast from Madison Square Gardens in 1978.
Second in the so-called ‘folk-rock trilogy’, it’s darker than Songs From The Wood but not as dark as Stormwatch, in which Ian Anderson turns into Private Frazer from Dad’s Army (“We’re dooomed! Dooomed!”).
And I’m not blind to its faults. Musically it’s not as interesting as SFTW, it has the wrong opening track (should have been Acres Wild, not The Mouse Police), the obligatory long song No Lullaby is not really worth its seven-odd minutes, John Glascock’s bass was mixed too low (and sometimes played too high) and Martin Barre does not get much chance to shine.
So why is this box set worth 30 of your hard-earned quids, or whatever is your local currency equivalent? Well, Steven Wilson’s remix is definitely an improvement – he’s given the bass and drums more punch and more bite to Barre’s guitar. Anderson’s vocals are a bit more powerful, especially on the sinister repetition at the end of The Mouse Police, and overall there’s a warmer, more rounded feel to the audio than was present in, say, the 2003 remastering.
I always felt the two people who really shine on this album are drummer Barriemore Barlow and keyboardist/arranger David (now Dee) Palmer, and this remix serves to drive that home with even more conviction. Barlow has a playful skip to his drumming that gives even Anderson’s most ponderous songs a bit of swing, while the remix reveals more of Palmer’s keyboard flourishes and tasteful strings.
Indeed, it has forced me to reconsider some of my preconceptions: Mouse Police, which contains some of the my favourite Tull lyrics but least favourite music, takes on a grittier, darker hue; Rover sounds even more fabulous; Moths reminds us what a brilliant songwriter Anderson can be when he really puts his mind to it.
Add the wonderful title track and I think, on the whole, Lord Chuckletrousers has given HH the wash and brush up it really deserves.
The obligatory out-takes include tracks Tull fans will already be familiar with if they bought the 20 Years Of Jethro Tull collection – the almost-single Living In These Hard Times and the should-have-been-a-single-cos-it’s-so-good Beltane.
But there’s also some surprises – another version of Hard Times, an early attempt at Jack-A-Lynn, a studio version of Barre’s live workout Quatrain and four other tracks you’ve probably never heard before – not essential but certainly interesting.
But where is Broadford Bazaar, which appeared on the 2003 remaster? Forgotten or put aside for the Stormwatch remix?
Let’s turn now to the two live CDs, recorded in Berne in 1978 and essentially the Live – Bursting Out album with a few extra songs (even more if you have the single CD version).
This recording actually supplied some of the tracks for the live album. Mixed by King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyck it shows the band at the peak of its powers – tight and exciting, professional but playful, with a catalogue of great songs stretching back nine years that sound so damn good live. In my opinion Tull have never sounded better than they do here.
Add two DVDs with the obligatory 5.1 surround sound mixes of both the studio and live material, some promotional video footage and a 96-page booklet with plenty of pictures of, um, horses, and you have here a box set that is definitely worth the contents of your wallet.
Together, Steven Wilson and Jakko Jakszyck haven’t just put new shoes on this heavy horse – they’ve fitted it with a V8 engine and go faster stripes.
01. …And The Mouse Police Never Sleeps (3:12)
02. Acres Wild (3:24)
03. No Lullaby (7:54)
04. Moths (3:31)
05. Journeyman (3:58)
06. Rover (4:30)
07. One Brown Mouse (3:23)
08. Heavy Horses (9:03)
09. Weathercock (4:01)
10. Living In These Hard Times [version 2] (3:20)
11. Everything In Our Lives (2:46)
12. Jack-A-Lynn [early version] (3:49)
13. Quatrain [studio version] (3:49)
14. Horse-Hoeing Husbandry (4:11)
15. Beltane (5:18)
16. Botanic Man (3:15)
17. Living In These Hard Times [version 1] (3:10)
18. Botanic Man Theme (2:47)
Total Time – 75:21
01. Opening Music (Quartet) (2:49)
02. Introduction by Claude Nobs (0:26)
03. No Lullaby (4:49)
04. Sweet Dream (6:01)
05. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day (3:28)
06. Jack-In-The-Green (3:10)
07. One Brown Mouse (4:01)
08. Heavy Horses (9:54)
09. A New Day Yesterday (3:11)
10. Flute Solo Improvisation/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Bouree (5:32)
11. Living In The Past (instrumental)/A New Day Yesterday (reprise) (1:48)
12. Songs From The Wood (5:09)
Total Time – 50:18
01. Thick As A Brick (13:25)
02. Hunting Girl (5:33)
03. Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll, Too Young To Die (3:51)
04. Conundrum (8:03)
05. Minstrel In The Gallery (5:29)
06. Cross-Eyed Mary (4:24)
07. Quatrain (1:24)
08. Aqualung (8:08)
09. Locomotive Breath (5:33)
10. The Dambusters March/Aqualung (reprise) (3:30)
Total Time – 59:20
Same tracks as CD1 remixed to 5.1 DTS by Steven Wilson, plus original stereo mixes of the Heavy Horses album
Same tracks as CDs 2 & 3 remixed to 5.1 DTS by Jakko Jakszyck, plus promotional videos of Heavy Horses & Moths, plus TV ads for Bursting Out
Ian Anderson – Vocals, Flute, Acoustic & Electric Guitars & Mandolin
Martin Barre – Electric Guitar
John Evan – Piano & Organ
David Palmer – Keyboards, Portative Pipe Organ, Saxophone & Orchestral Arrangements
John Glascock – Bass & (uncredited) Backing Vocals
Barriemore Barlow – Drums & Percussion
Darryl Way – Violin (2 & 8)
Record label: Chrysalis
Country of origin: UK
Date of Release: 2nd March 2018 (original album release 2nd April 1978)