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Jethro Tull - Catfish Rising CD (album) cover

CATFISH RISING

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

2.60 | 416 ratings

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thief
1 stars Well, if you deem "Rock Island" a disappointment, I'm really curious of your opinion on this one.

I don't think there is much sense in reviewing "Catfish Rising" track-by-track. Most of them share the same story, which is: oversized collection of tired, half-baked tunes with no progression or shred of originality, devoid of memorable melodies or emotion, full of cheap guitar riffs and middle-aged AOR banalities.

Although tame, "This is Not Love" might just be the least harmful attempt at fast-paced hard rock on the album. Ian Anderson seemingly got another 8 years older since "Rock Island", barely reaching notes he intends to, but never matching the intensity and cool delivery he was capable of ten years earlier. And then it goes DOWNHILL. On "Occasional Demons" his vocal struggles are obvious even to a stranger. "Roll Yer Own" tries more bluesy approach, resulting in a very docile and forgettable song. That first trio of songs is borderline disaster.

Thankfully, "Rocks on the Road" brings hope with its cool intro, reminiscent of Americana and singer/songwriter esthetics. That type of song is much better suited to Ian's limited range of 1991, so that was a good call. The bridge around 3:00 minute mark turns out nice as well. Let me be clear: in no world this song would be a smash, but heck, for "Catfish Rising" standards, it's clearly a highlight.

"Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall" also starts with some promise, but soon it transforms into granpa rock with choruses cheesier than Green Bay. How come nobody at Chrysalis Records came down hard with ban hammer on this one? "Thinking Round Corners" sounds like a poorer version of 1976 "Taxi Grab" - a dull record itself. If that's not discouraging enough, "Still Loving You Tonight" comes around with its lifeless and amateurish form. If you're familiar with Gary Moore's "Parisienne Walkways", please imagine how it sounds after being stripped from volcanic solos and guitar virtuosity - similar results. Very simple and uncooked love song that makes me cringe.

The latter part of "Catfish Rising" is just a tad better, in my opinion. "Doctor to My Disease" tries formula similar to opening, 'hard rocking' tracks, but with more biting, angular guitars, which is usually a good thing. Yeah, I sort of enjoy guitar licks and flute's ornamentations throughout. "Like a Tall Thin Girl" is definitely a nice piece as well: cheerful mandolins and adventurous flute solo remind me of "Fat Man" and other songs from the days of glory, despite subpar vocals. Well worth checking out. "Gold Tipped Boots, Black Jacket and Tie" has a similar feel and fits the definition of passable/decent song; again, the flute does a good job.

The remaining tracks, "White Innocence", "When Jesus Came to Play" and "Night in the Wilderness" only reinforce my opinion of "Catfish Rising" being a corny and uninspiring album. Almost forgot: "Sleeping with the Dog" deserves being singled out for its boredom, even greater than the neighbouring pieces - I don't know how Ian pulled it out.

A strong argument could be made for "Catfish Rising" as the weakest link in Jethro Tull's discography. Its shiny production and delightful album cover aren't enough to give it a pass. Listening to it in one session is a chore, as only a couple of songs deserve mentioning (and only to Jethro's most avid fans). I just wish they had saved that pretty cover art for something decent, such as their next release.

thief | 1/5 |

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