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Jethro Tull - Rock Island CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

2.69 | 445 ratings

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3 stars Here's the thing: sometimes appreciation of an artist is almost absolute. High points and low, blatant sellouts, uninspired contract-fulfillers and what-were-they-thinking moments, it's all of interest to the diehard fan. Not because followers are blind, deaf or gullible, but because they want to hear any new work by a band proven over years to produce music a true devotee will probably dig. And while Rock Island is no shining moment, this 1989 follow-up to Crest of a Knave is several miles from their worst. An honest, straightforward offering of well-recorded songs with enough minstrel rock, Anderson's pipings, and Martin Barre's icy diacritic chords and slippery circumfusions to please most fans. Neither very prog nor very pop, the record is just fine and I'm at a loss as to the cold shoulder it often receives, except perhaps because so much of the group's other work is exemplary. But it can't all be gold, guys, and Rock Island stands firm as a solid affair that will get few complaints if put on unexpectedly for a room full of people.

A recurring theme of debauchery and prostitution appears in the material, as on opener 'Kissing Willie', a pop-rock chugger with a suggestive double entendre. Quasi-cowboy 'Rattlesnake Trail' keeps the pace for a dusty hike over the range and is continued in proggie 'Ears of Tin' with more outdoor adventure and a mariner's yearning. Strong echoes of the previous album in 'Undressed to Kill', an ode to a lady of the evening, and the centerpiece title is typically strong 80s Tull with a soft intro, catchy verse, rockin' midsection and tasty twin phrasing from Ian & Marty. It's followed by leviathan 'The Whaler's Dues', a powerful rock chantey of men determined to live the cetacean life. A killer cut and among this period JT's best, finishing with the Andalusian warmth of 'Strange Avenues'.

Nothing to run out and grab but if your itch for all things Tull has been bothering you and you're curious, find it used and I don't think you'll end up using it as a coaster. At least I hope not.

Atavachron | 3/5 |


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