Heavy Horses is the eleventh studio album by British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, released on 10 April 1978. It is considered the second album in a trilogy of folk-rock albums by Jethro Tull, although folk music’s influence is evident on a great number of Jethro Tull releases. The album abandons much of the folk lyrical content typical of the previous studio album, Songs from the Wood (1977), in exchange for a more realist perspective on the changing world – the album is dedicated to the “indigenous working ponies and horses of Great Britain”. Likewise, the band sound is harder and tighter. The third album in the folk-rock trilogy is Stormwatch (1979).
Produced by Ian Anderson and recorded and engineered by Robin Black in London, Heavy Horses marks the last Jethro Tull studio album with full participation of bass player John Glascock. Anderson stated that the recording of the album came at a time when other artists were moving towards the new trends in music, and the band decided they did not want “to appear as if we were trying to slip into the post-punk coattails that were worn by The Stranglers or The Police […] They were bands that were seen as being part of the punk world, but they weren’t”.
Heavy Horses bares more earthly and prosaic themes compared to its predecessor. Songs about the conformist view of daily life (“Journeyman”), or dedicated to Anderson’s dog (“Rover”) and cat (“…And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps”), or even another one for his new son, James (“No Lullaby”). However, an element already present in Songs from The Wood, Heavy Horses served as a discourse on transience and disappearing worlds. The title track – one of two complex suites on the record – is compared by Anderson to an “equestrian Aqualung “.
Other tracks, such as “Acres Wild” and “Weathercock”, works as a plea for better days ahead. But, alongside the changes on themes, the music went much harder, too. The mini-epic of the title track flowing from a piano ballad to a fiddle-fest (of Curved Air’s Darryl Way) to full gallop, is a great example of the album’s style as a whole. “No Lullaby” rushes from a crushing Martin Barre riff as “Weathercock” starts full folk, to add progressive rock flavours. Barre declared that ” Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses are two of the best albums from my time in Jethro Tull”.
Rolling Stone’s contemporary review was positive, calling the instrumental arrangements lavish and stating that Heavy Horses and the folk genre, as a follow up to Songs From the Wood, suited Jethro Tull perfectly.
The album reached No. 19 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and peaked at No. 20 on the UK Albums Chart.
Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, guitar, mandolin)
Barriemore Barlow (drums, percussion)
Martin Barre (guitar)
John Evan (keyboards)
John Glascock (bass, background vocals)
Dee Palmer (keyboards, portative pipe organ)
Darryl Way – violin (on “Acres Wild” and “Heavy Horses”)
01. …And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps 3.14
02. Acres Wild 3.25
03. Heavy Horses 8.59
04. Journeyman 3.58
05. Moths 3.27
06. No Lullaby 7.55
07. One Brown Mouse 3.23
08. Rover 4.16
09. Weathercock 4.03
All tracks written by Ian Anderson with additional material by Martin Barre and David Palmer.