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

CREST OF A KNAVE

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.21 | 361 ratings

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Raff
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Everybody knows the amusing story of how this record - in spite of its actual musical content, as well as its medieval-sounding title and elegant artwork - ended up winning a Grammy Award as best Heavy Metal album, beating none other than the mighty Metallica in the process. "Crest of a Knave", released three years after Jethro Tull's commonly acknowledged lowest point, the dismal "Under Wraps", is in many ways a return to form for the band - if one doesn't mind the occasional presence of drum machines, the only true link with the previous album. Anyway, on most tracks there is a real drummer performing, American-born Doane Perry, who ended up joining the band permanently.

Martin Barre's guitar is probably the main reason for the ridiculous 'heavy metal' tag - Barre's playing has always leaned towards the harder end of the spectrum, and "Crest of a Knave" is no exception. On the other hand, as the previous reviews have pointed out, some of the slower, more melodic tracks show the influence of a band that was very popular at the time of the album's release - namely, Dire Straits. For a lover of the Newcastle band as I am, there could be much worse influences than that... However, it is true that, with only a few exceptions, this is not a very proggy album, and could therefore sound like a disappointment to some fans of the band's earlier output.

Since my fellow reviewers have already provided enough input, I'll spare my readers an unnecessary track-by-track analysis. I'll limit myself to pointing out those songs which, in my opinion, are the highlights of the album. My own personal favourite is the poignant "Farm on the Freeway", which boasts some typically terse, and at the same time meaningful lyrics by Anderson. In only three stanzas, he outlines a story all too common in the American heartland - a man having to give up his home in order for yet another major road to be built: "And what do I want with a million dollars and a pickup truck?/ When I left my farm under the freeway..." Those simple two lines at the end of the song have the power to bring tears to my eyes. Anderson's vocals (which by that time had already begun to show signs of wear and tear) are somber and understated, enhancing the overall mood of sadness and loss. The instrumental middle section sees a fine example of the interplay between Barre's sharp, metallic guitar and Anderson's melancholy flute.

"Budapest", certainly the most celebrated composition on "Crest...", and a frequent feature of Jethro Tull's live set, is a 10-minute mini-suite about an encounter with a mysterious woman with legs that 'went on forever' in the titular Hungarian capital. Introduced by some romantically wistful piano, it develops into an interesting song with plenty of time changes and instrumental breaks. "Dogs in The Midwinter" is a more energetic, upbeat number, with an almost dance-like rhythm; while the laid-back "She Said She Was a Dancer", as suggested earlier, takes us right into Dire Straits territory - Ian Anderson even sounds a bit like Mark Knopfler here.

Though I enjoy this album quite a lot (certainly much more than its follow-up, "Rock Island"), I cannot really bring myself to give it more than 3.5 stars. As good as most of the music is (and the only bonus track, "Part of the Machine", is a strong addition, sounding a lot like 'classic' Tull), I would hesitate to call "Crest of a Knave" in any way essential. However, it makes for a very pleasant listen, and "Farm on the Freeway" and "Budapest" alone make it worth the purchase.

Raff | 3/5 |

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