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Jethro Tull - Crest Of A Knave CD (album) cover

CREST OF A KNAVE

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.22 | 384 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
2 stars (That's a 2.5)

So it's finally happened. Our greatest fear has been realized. Jethro Tull has bubbled down to Ian, Martin, Dave and a drum machine. Yep. With a wave and a cry of "Follow me boys, I know what I'm doing," Marty and Dave followed the Minstrel as he asked random people on the street, "Can you play mandolin? No, but you play synths? EVEN BETTER! How would you like to be an unofficial honorary member of Jethro Tull for the rest of the afternoon?" And thus begins the long strange trip of Crest of a Knave, and therefore, the heavy met-Tull period.

It would seem natural to compare this with A, the OTHER entry into new Tuller territory. I rate them both the same, but trust me, A is the superior product. And it hurts to say that. This baby gets by on pure style points alone; A is much better played, and contains far catchier, intelligent melodies.

Case in point: the first number, "Steel Monkey," is really quite bad. When a Tull album opens with those cheeezy keyboards, you know it can't be good. What, are they supposed to be menacing? And then Ian steps in on vocals, and it's even worse; yes friends, this is the introduction of the "new Ian voice!" Don't even start with the Barre solo. Didn't this man once play "Aqualung?"

"Farm on the Freeway" is not good, but at least it's not insulting. I think it's supposed to be eerie again, but I can't be sure. At least it's plodding instead of irritating. Now, "Jump Start" is strangely good. I can't quite figure out how it slipped in. Less emphasis on the Casios, and more on violent flute and guitar riffage. Ian and Martin are somehow able to squeeze the best soloing on the album into that one.

Okay, we've heard the first side of this record, the, uh, "rockers" I guess. Let's call 'em "radio metal!" You know, metal songs that aren't really lofty, and they just use squeaky clean guitar tones, so you might even hear 'em played on your local hard rock station. But now we come in with the ballads!

"She Said She Was a Dancer" is actually kind of amusing. I'm not sure that was the point, but that's how I hear it. I mean, come on, the lyrics? "Well maybe I'm the king of ole Siam?" Gotta be for humor. The vocals are some of the best on the album I guess, and the guitar behind is practically good. The song almost jerks a tear. Almost.

Now, there is one number that's highly underrated on this a here thingy: "Dogs in the Midwinter." That little introduction with the flute 'n organ? Charming. Same thing with the rest of this folksy pop rocker. Easily the best song on the album. I even don't mind the Barre-tar as it fades.

Now, up to this point, it's been hit or miss. But don't worry, Ian has decided to get more consistent. From now on, ALL the numbers will suck! "Budapest" is often hailed as the best of the bunch. Oh. Holy crap. Maybe they're right, maybe Tullers are mindless slaves to the flute who will buy anything...NO! This thing is awful. It's another ballad, but unlike "Dancer," there is no sense of fun, and it's way long, with no real melody. And the attempts to prog it up? Useless. Is that really a violin in the background? If you hadn't mentioned that, I never would have known, I figured it was just another synth. This Ric Sanders guy lacks the proto-metallic buzz of Daryl Way or the sheer virtuosity of Eddie Jobson. Pathetic Ian. Didn't you pen "Thick as a Brick?" Maybe it honestly was that kid...

Okay, what's next? "Mountain Men?" Right, now that we've butchered the marathon ballad, let's go with a marathon rocker! Okay, in truth, I actually hear a little potential in this number. Mostly from an atmospheric point of view though, and it's still way too long. And the synths really start to grate here, were they even in tune? Can synths be OUT of tune? Plus, that drum machine is really starting to get irritating...oh, wait, my bad. That's, uh, that's Doane Perry. Sorry.

We fizzle out with the next two. If there's anything good about country-ish ballad "The Waking Edge," it's that Ian's vocals take on a Keith Richards-esque quality. Which is honestly nothing to be proud of. Rocker "Raising Steam" is strangely like "Steel Monkey" in its ability to piss me off. It's a little more guitar heavy, for all it's worth, but it's WAY dopier. "I may not be coming back." Ugh. Please don't, at least not until you've had a chance to write some better material.

The strange thing about Crest is that you can actually tell whether a number will be worth it by listening to the introduction of each song. "Steel Monkey?" Bad keyboards, crappy song. "Waking Edge?" Boring introduction, dull song. "Jump Start?" Cool flute 'n guitar, tricky riff and solos. "Dogs in the Midwinter?" Folksy flute 'n organ, charming song. Go figure.

There is really so much against this album. You can pretty much neatly divide it into "dorky radio metal," and "ballads that are about Ian trying to have sex with foreign chicks," with the occasional "addition to the next 'Best of Tull' collection." Yeah. Pretty sweet, ain't it?

Alright, so there are a couple of redeeming factors to the album. Oddly enough, I can't mark the thing down on too many counts of barely passable melodies and irritating production coupled with pretentiousness. I mean, most of the rockers are just trying have a good ole family farm sellin', monkey stealin' good time! Or something like that. I mean, they even have some good old fashioned pee in the bushes photos in the liner notes (ala Who's Next). Just try not to take the first side seriously, then skip "Budapuss," "The Wanking Edge" and "Dazed-and Steamed," and you should be fine.

There! I didn't even mention the 1987 Grammys OR Mark Knopfler.

(There is but a single bonus track on the remaster of Crest, which I guess says a lot about the lack of group creativity at the moment, since usually Ian can't shut up long enough to allow less than sixty songs a second out. Anyway, "Part of the Machine" is a little roots rockier in form and feel than anything on the album. But it's not that good. Of course, it's not that bad either. Think "Mountain Men," only less irritating and shorter, and a nicer introduction. Okay, wait, it's actually pretty long. But the soloing is energetic, so...it's okay, but hardly anything to write home to Jethro about. No raise in rating.)

The Whistler | 2/5 |

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