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Jethro Tull - Rock Island CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

2.71 | 524 ratings

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Andrea Cortese
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Strange Avenues, where you lose all sense of direction."

May Jethro Tull have lost their direction with 1989 Rock Island?

As always it depends on what you were expecting..another Songs From The Wood sounding like? In 1989? Ok, after that great success of 1987 Crest Of A Knave (and of the 20 Years Of Jethro Tull box set, released in 1988) it was almost impossible to write and record a new album that would meet the same high standards. But they did (in my opinion), this one is even better than the previous.I'll explain the reasons why:

Sincerely, it's just with this one that Jethro Tull exit definitively from the (by many hated!) 80's! Most of the material has a hard rock feel, featuring Martin Barre's electric run-wild-guitars. What the album lacks is the previous humour and lightness. This seems to make all too serious. Ian Anderson has been the first one to admit that. The same happened to earlier albums like Benefit and Heavy Horses and are by fans sometimes referred to as "the dark albums" (when you look at the lyrics, much of this album deals with themes of alienation and loneliness-see the cover's lonely island), separation from the mainstream of society and wandering down (those) "Strange Avenues". There's nothing on here to compare with the warmer, more comfortable stuff you've seen previously (the theme is then continued in 1991 Catfish Rising, but there it's tempered a little bit).

The Doane Perry's percussion was recorded at Dave Pegg's Woodworm's studio. To apply different keyboard playing styles, Ian invited Martin Allcock, Peter-John Vettese and JOHN EVANS (!!!), but the latter refused having lost his interest in music years before (I think he became a constructions' boss or similar.).

Rocky flute-shape-mount in a solitary and tart Island seen from the distant, by the bull's eye of a ship (nice cover).

The first song is Kissing Willie, a good hard rock one. The first thing you see with the song is that Ian wrote it in a first-person perspective. The second thing is the relationship between narrator, Willie and the "she" person. The first question to ask is: who is Willie? Or rather WHAT is Willie? Well I don't seems to be HIS PENIS!!! (or Ian has a friend called Willie, but I would bet he doesn't!!!!). Some (indirect) proof lies on the lyrics: "She shows a leg, shows it damn well"; ".Willie stands and Willie falls"; "Me and Willie just can't help come, when she calls"!!!!

The Rattlesnake Trail reminds me of Jump Start while the good Ears Of Tin was originally destined to be titled "Mainland Blues" (Ian was really touring a lot.).

Rock Island: individual people isolated on their home ground ("Doesn't everyone have their own Rock Island? Their own little patch of sand?"). There is no connection to each other ("And all roads out of here seem to lead right back to the Rock Island"). Great song, anyway, with un-expected electric guitar parts by "Monsieur Le Barre".

Another Christmas Song (remember the "first" Christmas Song? It was a far 1968's single that now you can catch also as a bonus track of the This Was remastered album). By the way, the song praises the importance of home, family and harmony. The narrator describes an old man who wants to gather his children around him: I'm going to call, call all my children home" (....) Calling for his sons and daughters, yeah - calling all his children round." .and then I was "shocked"! because the only reason the Old Man is calling all his children round is not that Christmas' approaching. He is dying and his life is at the end!!!!!! (I told you that Rock Island is not a lightness' example!): ".proving that the blood is strong!". This great song is findable now in the last 2003 JT Christmas Album, in a newly arranged (and fine) version.

Then, BRUTALLY it's up to The Waler's Dues: "Now I'm old and I sit landlocked in a back- country jail to reflect on all of my sins". This is the apex of this album and represent the decisive reason why I'll rate it with 4 stars! This is a must-have in your CD player, or to put it as a mp3 in progarchives!!! What an incredible opus!!!

Other remarkable ones are Big Riff And Mando and Strange Avenues. Excellent, excellent (I, at last, confirm!). I can recommend to all you out there!

P. S. Is in the ISLE of Skye where Ian managed and builded up his famous salmon farm???

Andrea Cortese | 4/5 |


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