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Jethro Tull - Catfish Rising CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

2.60 | 418 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars If the heavy Met-Tull period existed for any reason, any reason at all, it was to create this monster. Honestly, on the one hand, I don't see why this album is all that different from Crest or Rock Island. But on the other hand, if I hadn't started with this thing, I would not be capable of liking Crest and Rock as much as I do. You see, on the surface, this is just another metal-fest-west, but at it's heart, there's so much more. And her name is desperate energy!

Compare the opening tracks of these albums. Which do you honestly prefer: "Steel Monkey" with its dorky keyboards? "Kissing Willie" with its cheesy riff? Or "This Is Not Love," possibly the best thing to come out of this period, and easily the best track on the album, with its steady drum attack and the band playing like they actually want to play? This is the first time they've been energetic since Under Wraps!

"This Is Not Love" is a desperate rocker about good ole lost love, and it has a memorable, unassisted flute solo! When was the last time that happened? "Black Sunday?" "Occasional Demons" is the mandolin based rocker that "Kissing Willie" could never have been. It's got a terrifying flute solo, and some Satanic lyrics! Does that make it the most metal song ever? Of course, it's impossible to judge something like that...but yes, yes it does.

"Roll Your Own" is a folksy jam band number that's pleasant, but lasts maybe a little too long. Was the repetitive coda really necessary? Maybe not. However, "Rocks on the Road" makes it all up. A masterpiece of progressive blues, it takes a stand as the only mini-epic from the heavy met-Tull period I can actually get behind. Some of the depressing delivery is almost on par with the likes of "Cheap Day Return" in terms of pure emotion! When was the last time THAT happened? "Under Wraps #2?" And dig that jazzy instrumental mid-section, which almost gets upbeat. Almost. Ha! Ian thinks he's so clever.

"Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall" is a mid-tempo folksy rocker that is nothing more than pleasant filler. "Thinking Round Corners" is amazing though, a really weird song with terrifying vocal delivery (and equally terrifying guitar soloing). This, and the "Flute Solo Improvisation," have me convinced Uncle Ian is possessed (and let's not forget that "Witch's Promise" video).

"Still Loving You Tonight" starts with a truly heartfelt opening, but as soon as we hit the chorus, we're hit with a wall of cheese. Too bad, it sounded promising. "Doctor to my Disease" is the last of the heavy numbers, and, just like the others, it's not bad. It manages to be catchy without being totally stupid. Just stupid enough. "Like a Tall Thin Girl" is a kinda throwaway-ish Indian flavored piece, but at this late stage in Tull's career, it's practically cool! We haven't heard this crap since "Fatman," and I love "Fatman!"

But then the worst thing imaginable happens. I mean that in all honesty. "White Innocence" sounds...EXACTLY like "Budapest." How much does it sound like "Budapest?" When I saw Ian live, and he started playing "Budapest," I thought he was playing "White Innocence." I hadn't heard "Budapest" before, but I didn't go, "Oh, what's that new song?" I went, "Oh! White Innocence." This IS "Budapest," just without the violin. And that song sucked. But at least it was original. This is not. Skip it.

"Sleeping With the Dogs" is a decent enough bloozy piece (better than "Seamus," in theory at least), with some amusing flutework. Hard not to love the doggy noises. "Gold Tipped Boots, Black Jacket and Tie" is an energetic folk piece, that's not bad at all. Toe-tappin' with plenty o' folksy soloing. And "When Jesus Came to Play" is a folksy, bloozy bit of nonsense that, uh, well, it ends the album (interesting lyrics though). Wow. What a long, strange trip it's been.

So what's right with this record? Plenty. The lineup seems to be stabilizing. The keyboardist Ian relies on the most is Andy Giddings, easily my favorite post-Evan dude. Doane Perry is the new drummer, which is not the best thing in my books. He's not quite as annoying as he was in "training" on the past few albums, but he still likes to remind you from time to time how inadequate he is with a sudden burst of "technique."

Unfortunately, the bass playing is getting a little loose. Not that it's bad, it's just that Dave (who really mellowed out during the met-Tull period, so I likes him now) spends half his time washing his hair. But he turns the reins over to his son, who I actually don't mind one bit. Better than his dad? time.

The instrumentation is also great. Way more flutes 'n guitars than dorky synths. And the mandolin is used like a real instrument! Sometimes on Rock Island, I got the sense that Ian was plucking that thing just to show us he could play it. Here, it feels like a necessary component to the whole. Marty's guitar work is even better. He plays so much angrier than before (fitting the downbeat mood of the album perfectly) that I can't even call this stuff radio metal!

And finally...the songs are great! That's important. There are a couple of bad pieces on this thing, but as a whole, it's a pleasant experience. But therein lies the problem too.

I can't rate this any higher (despite my love of the album) because a little too much of it feels like filler. Which is totally unnecessary when you consider that the thing is over and hour long. I think Ian was abusing the CD format a little too much (I hate CDs, by the way). I mean, "Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall" and "When Jesus Came to Play" are both decent songs, but do they really have to be here? Probably not.

But, if you to trim out some mistakes, snip out some filler, and kick out "White Innocence," boom! The rating would magically go up to a four. "This is not Love" proves that Tull can still play heavy, and "Rocks on the Road" is proves that Tull can still be proggy, and both are classics of the neo-Tull setlist, you can't argue with that (just check out how they were "re-tooled" for Little Light Music).

Alright, alright, so it IS a nostalgia piece. But come on! What nostalgia. This record brings back old memories of flute 'n organ rock, folk, blues, "Fatman" AND "Budapest!" How's that for thorough?

(Considering the fair amount of spare material from the Catfish period, I state that, once again, this is a sign of a healthy band. Or a healthy Ian ego, I don't know. But there's only two tracks, both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we miss out on such wondrous little ditties as "Truck Stop Runner," but then again, one of my problems with the CD was length, so, I think it's probably for the best. The "album title track" we missed out on, "Night in the Wilderness" is my favorite of the bonuses. It's a catchy (and hilarious) blooz rocker that's not quite "This is Not Love," but still WAY better than anything off Rock Island. The live version of "Jump Start" is not bad. The lineup is kind of interesting. Who's that on drums? Mostly the four-by-four banging, but occasionally something cool. And is the keyboard really necessary? Oh well, concentrate on Barre's violent solo, and you'll be fine (although, can someone explain the extended ending, or the "heavy metal crew?" The significance is lost on the audio audience). But, uh, no change in overall rating.)

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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