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

CREST OF A KNAVE

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.23 | 587 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Crest of a Knave" is a very good album, comprising enough moments of musical greatness as to make the whole listening experience a full-range realization of the sort of creative recovery that Jethro Tull achieved after the gradually less satisfying two studio efforts that preceded it. This album isn't alien to modern sounds with noticeable accents on digital procedures (synthesizers, you know), but it mostly delivers a solid and well crafted return-to-form in terms of folk and rock elements, those elements that played such a relevant role in the band's continuous apex during the 70s. Another thing that catches quite rapidly the listener's attention is the assimilation of Dire Straits-related moods in Barre's guitar playing and Anderson's singing style (already in a decreasing phase, but still then handling the vocal duties in a genuinely dignified fashion). The Dire Straits factor has already been mentioned by a zillion reviewers and commentators before me, but no review on this album would be complete without bringing it out. The opener 'Steel Monkey' mixes industrial techno foundations with impetuous hard rocking guitars: almost like waving a last farewell to the sonic mechanics of "Under Wraps" (and Anderson's first solo album "Walk into Light") while opening back the doors to good old fashioned rock. This catchy opener was actually the first single, but it barely can be perceived as a proper signal of the band's predominant moods. 'Farm on the Freeway' and 'Jump Start' are, and as such they must be appreciated as manifestos of what this "reformulated" JT aims at for the latter half of the 80s: a lighter version of the stylish folk-rock that the band went on refining in the late 70s all the way until the "Stormwatch" album. The reflective disappointment of 'Farm' and the joyful cynicism of 'Jump Start' work well as neighbor songs, with the former focusing on majestic moods and the latter going for more frantic ambiences. 'She said She Was a Dancer' is the ultimate expression of the Dire Straits-factor in this period of the band. So, now let's go for 'Budapest', oh, the lovely 'Budapest': this 10+ piece is one of the most ambitious Anderson explorations on his lyrical side, staging a perfect portrait of melancholy and romanticism with its various motifs and atmospheres. Everything works great throughout the developments of melodies and the linkages that make the whole; it's just lovely, the last true grandiose gem written by Anderson. 'Mountain Men' recaptures the stylish framework of 'Farm on the Freeway' albeit with a more extroverted twist after the introductory theme. Another example of the successful return to form that I referred to earlier in this review. 'Raising Steam', on the other hand, closes down the original tracklist with patent similarities to 'Steel Monkey' - so, this album ends on a modern note. But there are three bonus racks in the most recent re-edition of "Crest of a Knave': my fave one off those has to be 'Part of the Machine', deeply Celtic and pastoral as something that might as well have been part of "Stormwatch" or "Heavy Horses". Why wasn't it included in the original album? - if so, the return to form would have felt more complete. anyway. So, all in all, everybody is aware of the conceptual fiasco that occurred when, in 1988, the Grammy people decided to give Jethro Tull the award for the best hard rock/heavy metal album of 1978 for this "Crest of a Knave". On the other hand, this mistake was an act of justice in disguise considering not only the magnificent greatness that JT gave of the world of rock from day one, but also considering the efficient way in which Ian Anderson and co. could cope with the anti-art-rock airs prevalent in the 80s music business and release some more of good prog rock in a consistent way. A least, more consistently than Yes with their "Big Generator" project. anyway. Just like an island in the mainstream ocean of AOR, heavy metal and R'n'B, "Crest of a Knave" shines brightly among the waves that crush eagerly against its rocks.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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