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

CREST OF A KNAVE

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.22 | 583 ratings

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thief
2 stars I've just realized most of my reviews pretty much agree with consensual opinions. In my view, post-Stormwatch albums are generally a bit weaker (in rare cases substantially). Even the lowest rated records have enjoyable moments though, which ultimately proves that Jethro Tull is a band of professionals. Heavy synthesizer use gives mixed results, aping Dire Straits is a lazy attempt to stay relevant, progressive rock is pretty much gone on 80s records. This is common knowledge now. Nevertheless I differ on one issue: it's hard to name "Crest of a Knave" a return to form, other than edging "Under Wraps" fiasco.

"Steel Monkey" introduces very subpar synths - almost annoying, really - in a hard rock formula of ZZ Top breed, I guess. Not sure about this comparison because I always avoided mindless, weary hard rocking of 1980s - you either do it convincingly ("Perfect Strangers" is a rare example) or switch to heavy/thrash metal. I hate that pseudomasculine riffing and fake bravado. "Farm on the Freeway" starts more gently, but I quickly realize we're dealing with another 80s guitar ballad-blabber without rhyme or reason. I can hardly sit through to the end - it's not an embarrassing song, but very dull and cheesy. Minus one point for senile guitar tone, it sounds like a Les Paul connected to a brown amplifier with tad of chorus and tons of boredom. Ceterum censeo - Mark Knopfler is a fraud among electric guitar "greats".

"Jump Start" is more organic and for that reason alone it ranks higher than aforementioned songs. Sure, it's still a bunch of safe ideas and too obvious guitar licks, but at least the acoustic part makes the job done. Please take notice of flute solo - maybe the best on the album. But then we have "She Said She Was a Dancer" - cringeworthy ballad featuring the cheapest keyboard sound possible. Do you remember how Zappa mocked romantic serenades of yesteryear on "Joe's Garage"? This time Jethro does it in the chorus, but takes it seriously. Now I know why this song eludes my mind when I think of "Crest of a Knave" - I always skipped it and advise you the same.

And now for some good stuff. "Dogs in the Midwinter" is both pretty and memorable, thanks to catchy intro, attractive flute melody and nice chorus - even if it's full of 'everlasting' drums and hairspray. Hard to call it 'progressive', but 'charming' is a fitting description. The song fades out with another unremarkable guitar solo - good call with cutting it short.

"Budapest" is the centrepiece and ranks above average as well. Disclaimer: I'm not interested in Ian's sexual adventures on tour AT ALL, so I just refuse to pay attention to the vocals. Let's focus on guitar arrangements instead: the acoustic licks and violin ornamentation work fantastically, and the sombre, low-key nature of the song reminds me of "Minstrel" days. Not that it's strong enough to make it then - studio outtakes from 1975 generally rank higher for me, but if you like that nocturnal atmosphere of Old Europe, "Budapest" will please you. Especially the extended instrumental part in the middle - I think it could save "Crest of a Knave" from 1 star rating singlehandedly.

"Mountain Men" is deeply entrenched in late 80s spirit, but this time musical themes behind it make up for that. Proud and steady lead guitar work echoes Iron Maiden slightly, Ian's voice is convincing despite its limitations. The middle section is my favorite 'daddy rock' part of the album. Organ/keyboard sounds are also more pleasing than usual - you can safely call it a winner.

"The Waking Edge" could use a crafty keyobardist though, it's just too simple and predictable. Fortunately Martin Barre comes forward with a pretty little solo and saves this ballad from mediocrity. The album concludes with "Raising Steam", basically copying cheesy formulas of "Steel Monkey". No thanks!

I don't recognize "Crest of a Knave's" superiority over "Rock Island", really. Sure, we have a run of decent songs between "Dogs..." and "Mountain Men", but they aren't necessarily better (or more numerous) than its successor highlights. Speaking of highlights, I really enjoy "European Legacy" or "Tundra" as well, but it doesn't prevent "Under Wraps" from getting one star rating. Applying the same logic here, "Crest of a Knave" deserves two stars (maybe 2.5, like "Rock Island") only because its lowlights are tedious, not outright embarrassing (save for "She Said She Was a Dancer").

Even if we counted "Part of the Machine" as a core part of the LP, "Crest..." remains an average recording marred with late 80s esthetics and trends. I give it a spin from time to time and enjoy half of its content, but same can be said about any other JT album. I recommend you giving it a chance if you're Jethro junkie - maybe you're more forgiving of ZZ Top/Dire Straits brand of rock.

thief | 2/5 |

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