Review Summary: Jethro Tull finally stops playing deathly boring synth rock and starts playing slightly boring prog rock.
After four years spent by Jethro Tull futilely advancing into electronic territory, and especially after the synth-laden mess that was Under Wraps
, it was easy to overvalue the band’s supposed return to form, Crest Of A Knave
. The album was instantly lapped up by critics and especially by fans, happy that Anderson finally decided to return to familiar ground. And yet, soon after the band was awarded the infamous 1989 Grammy for best hard rock performance (one that arguably should have belonged to Metallica), it seems that the general public realized that Crest Of A Knave
contained rather little to be excited about, and was really a rather average album for Ian Anderson and friends.
The first thing one realizes when listening to Crest Of A Knave
is Anderson’s weakened voice: prior to recording the album, the singer experienced throat surgery. The minstrel's voice on this album was often likened to that of The Dire Strait’s Mark Knopfler, a comparison that is very valid. Unfortunately, Anderson’s vocal range suffered greatly during the operation, and so the melodies stay confined to a very small register, and, on songs such as The Waking Edge
, his voice has a harsh, raspy quality to it. Consequentially, the music never really is given the opportunity to become as interesting as on past albums such as Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die!
or Stand Up
The next thing that one realizes is that most of Crest Of A Knave
is really quite boring. The drum machines featured on some of the songs are incapable of replicating the attention-grabbing theatrics of Barrimore Barlow who, despite his love for flashy drumming always knew when to restrain himself. Unfortunately, he human drummers that are present on the majority of the tracks rarely are able to do any better than the aforementioned machines. The melodies are all sterile, and seem like the kind of thing that would be left over from one of The Dire Straits’ weaker albums, and the majority of the songs spend half of their runtimes meandering aimlessly.
That’s not to say anything on Crest Of A Knave
, aside from the atrocious Steel Monkey
, is offensively bad, but almost equally little is particularly captivating. Indeed, only two songs on the album are worth the full price of admission: Said She Was A Dancer
. The former is a tender, particularly Straits-esque tune, and is oddly enthralling, while the latter is an adventurous, ten minute-long epic. Budapest
, like a majority of the band’s other epics, does end up occasionally drifting off into aimless drivel, but such moments are rare and the song really does have more interesting melodies than all of the other tracks combined.
Truth be told, Budapest
and only Budapest
makes Crest Of A Knave
worthy of one’s attention. Aside from this song and, to a far lesser extent, Said She Was A Dancer
, the majority of the album is painfully average and, ultimately harmless. Still, Crest Of A Knave
fares far better than it’s successor, Rock Island
, which offered very little (by this I mean virtually nothing) of interest.
Said She Was A Dancer
Postscript: The 2005 remaster contains one bonus song, Part Of The Machine
. I thoroughly recommend getting this song, it’s quite nice, like most Tull’s bonus tracks are. As always, I’m at a loss as to why tunes such as Steel Monkey
were included over this.
I also believe that this would be an appropriate time to mention how horrible the lyrics are on Budapest
. By this point, Anderson’s texts had greatly diminished in quality, but some of these lines are downright embarrassing. She wouldn't make love/but she could make good sandwich
comes to mind as a prime example of this quality.