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Jethro Tull - Rock Island CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

2.71 | 524 ratings

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3 stars The band sounds good on this album, much in the same vein as Crest of a Knave. Ian Anderson is adjusting to his new vocal limitations, while Martin Barre is maintaining the sharper, leaner sound he developed for the previous release. Judicious use of the flute is effective. Most of the keyboard work is performed by Peter Vettesse, but Martin Allcock plays on a couple of songs and is photographed with the rest of the band. To fill out the lineup, David Pegg and Doane Perry remain. Ian even plays keys and drums on this outing.

Proceedings get underway with the opening rocker, Kissing Willy. Nice energy, catchy tune. This is followed by another rocker, except Rattlesnake Trail is more mid-tempo. The song rocks, but it is a silly idea. Ears of Tin is another mid-tempo tune. After this comes Undressed to Kill. Ian Anderson's aqualung (that is dirty old man) comes out in this one. Most of the tune is mid-tempo, but it hits a faster beat for the outgoing instrumental section. To be honest, I find the lyrics rather silly again. The title song, Rock Island is a bit of an epic. It starts slowly, invoking a misty atmosphere. The vocals come in, and the song keeps going in its leisurely pace, augmented with short dramatic bursts. All speeds up for a signature Tull instrumental passage with some good breaks and changes. Sadly, this stops abruptly and the song turns too quickly to the earlier section. Another mid-tempo song, Heavy Water, comes up. There is a good vocal melody on this one, but it is not that catchy. More aqualung here, and some good Tull breaks. One of the best songs on the album follows. Another Christmas Song has great lyrics and a good melody. This one should take its place alongside the other (endlessly) played holiday tunes during the season. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. One of the other best songs ensues with a great opening that moves to an ominous chord progression. The Whaler's Dues features provocative lyrics. Despite the fact that many of them are from the perspective of a whaler, the song is definitely not in support of whaling. As the one refrain goes: Are you with me? No!! Can you forgive me? No!! This song, like Rock Island, is a bit of an epic as well. For some reason, Big Riff and Mando seems intended to be the climax of the album. It features perhaps the most careful construction of all the songs, with plenty of changes. Unfortunately, I don't find it convincing and don't feel it succeeds in its purpose. There is a good instrumental passage, the best of the whole album, but as earlier, it ends much too soon. The album ends with Strange Avenues, a moody closer that packs a lot into its few short minutes. Most of it is instrumental, and it features great drama. It references Aqualung and gives us a coda on the song Rock Island. The Tull magic is conveyed here, but alas, it is short-lived.

Overall, this is a good Tull album, but not a great one by any means. It is consistent in sound but not in quality. My biggest complaint is that virtually all the up-beat instrumental sections placed within the songs end quickly and abruptly. Just when it sounds like the band will really let loose and kick it, everything stops. These endings are good in themselves, but I want to hear more jamming, and would much prefer them as pauses that only lead to more flute and guitar solos. Three stars.

Progosopher | 3/5 |


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