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Jethro Tull - Rock Island CD (album) cover

ROCK ISLAND

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

2.69 | 445 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars 2,5 stars really!!

Knave part II. As Tull had a mini-surprise success (both commercial and artistically as the album was the first relatively convincing Tull album since Heavy Horses) in 86 with the previous album COAK album, they certainly sought out to duplicate the formula of the Hard-Blues-Rock (I'm being a little reductive here, but it is to stress my point) developed in that album. I say that this era (from Knave to Catfish Rising also - so from 86 to 92) is more convincing than the previous one (from Stormwatch to Under Wraps - so 79 to 84) , but I did not say that the songwriting is more imaginative or inventive. Quite the contrary, the music is definitely more conventional on this Rock Island album than in the directionless but inquisitive Stormwatch or Wraps albums. Obviously Tull not successfully experimenting on those albums, they chose to play it safe and duplicate the Knave formula.

Opening on the fast-tempoed Kissing Willy (always reminding me of Pussy Willow, for some very strange reason), the album follows on an 80's-esque rhythmed Rattlesnake Trail, the atrociously uninventive Undressed To Kill and wheezy Ears Of Tin; RI is not off to a good start, but let's face it, Tull is down to its "business-as-usual" tricks and apparently most un-demanding fans are easily satisfied with minimal efforts from the mad flauter. From the title track onwards, the album does take an upward swing, but don't get your hopes up too high: this means that the better tracks would find space on SFTW or HH, bumping some filler tracks, but not much more than that, even if Whaler's Due (better in concert) and the closing Strange Avenues (used as an intro to another track in concert) are indeed fairly interesting.. But most of the RI album is made of uninventive songs that might qualify as fillers if they weren't so numerous. Just to get a good idea at the general inspiration of this album, the ill-advised track called Another Christmas Song (yep, another one of those!!!!!!) speaks loads and undermines much of the album's credibility.

So in a way for a newbie to Tull music, this is likely to be a safer bet than A, SW and TB&TB, but it will be only safer. BTW, I don't have any problem that Anderson sounds like D S's Mark Knofler (not that obvious a remark, though), as the "Tramp" had some voice problem in the nineties (his voice was weakening and now he forces on his vocal chords too hard) to answer another review below (He also got operated to a leg because of his prolonged one-legged-stances). I have another "BTW" remark: I haven't heard the remaster bonus tracks, which are live versions of early 70's classic tracks, thus no doubt providing an undeniable added value to the album, bur unfortunately underlining that era's weakness ? this also highlights than Ian was using all of his ideas to make an album, when he had plenty of choices/ideas some 15 years sooner to construct an album. As I said above: business as usual; so please don't go looking for anything essential with this album. Reserved to second or third generation Tull fans at best.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |

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