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Jethro Tull - Rock Island CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

2.71 | 524 ratings

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2 stars Beyond just being tired of hearing Anderson ramble on about his 'willie' ("Kissing Willie"), this album is a fairly tired rehashing of things done before with not many of them being all that good the first time. "Undressed to Kill" is another of Anderson's perverted fantasies set to music. Not that I'm a prude, it just gets old after a while.

Sometimes referred to as Crest of a Knave II, 'Rock Island' continues the progression of Jethro Tull from an innovative and colorful progressive force to just another aging prog dinosaur trying to find their niche in the musical abyss known as the eighties. And not doing it very well. 'The Broadsword and the Beast' started this transition but at least that album had some spark and rather creative production and some variety. This album sounds like a compilation of the band's b-sides. Nothing at all stands out, and if I recall the album sank like a stone when it was released, which is a shame for a band of Tull's caliber.

One thing that tends to bore me about this band, and particularly their eighties albums, is Anderson's tendency to write songs with limited lyrical appeal. Too often the theme of a tune is an inside joke for the band, or a retelling of a tale the rest of us know nothing about, or some clever play on words that Anderson has to go to the trouble of explaining in a live setting or interview since the rest of us don't get the punchline. I much preferred his writing when it was more fanciful, literary and colorful.

Some others who have reviewed this album have pointed to "Another Christmas Song" as the standout track and I have to agree, mostly because nothing else is worth pointing out and because that one ended up on the band's Christmas album (which I do like quite a bit).

Otherwise I'd say this ranks right about as low as 'Under Wraps' as a forgettable Tull album. There are no interesting guest musicians, no musical or studio innovations, and no really noteworthy tracks. Just another one mailed in much like 'Knave' but in this case even without the benefit of extensive liner notes like that one had. This is just a collection of rather tepid heavy-rock tunes that only get tagged as progressive because Ian Anderson wrote them and because there's a flute. Otherwise this would be lumped in with what Dire Straits were doing around the same time. In fact except for the flute this sounds a bit like 'Making Movies'.

If you aren't familiar with Jethro Tull then I wouldn't make this the album you choose to get acquainted. Stick to their classics ("Aqualung", "Thick as a Brick", "Heavy Horses" and "A Passion Play") and leave this one somewhere around the bottom of your list if you ever get to the point where you decide to become a completionist of the band's music. That makes this by definition a two star album, which is what I'll close with.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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