Review Summary: Not the album that it could have been, and definitely not the album that Tull fans were asking for, Catfish Rising is still highly enjoyable.
By the time that the 1990’s came about, Jethro Tull was in desperate need of doing something to once again become relevant. For the past ten years, boring release came after boring release, with only two somewhat worthwhile (or, rather, not entirely embarrassing) albums being released in this relatively long time. It seemed that by now, Ian Anderson, whose voice was severely weakened, couldn’t write an entertaining tune, a notion acutely reinforced by the disastrous Rock Island
. And so, in 1991, out came Catfish Rising
. Was it the comeback that the band needed? Probably not, when considering that it did little to change anyone’s opinion of the band, but that doesn’t stop Catfish Rising
from being a rather interesting listen.
Often overlooked as just another dreary post-Heavy Horses
album, Catfish Rising
actually saw Jethro Tull significantly improving upon their newer, almost Dire-Straits-esque, sound. The album moved away from the superfluous, aimless atmospherics and metallic meanderings of songs such as The Whaler’s Dues
and Strange Avenues
and towards a raw, bluesy sound, and for this the album is all the better.
Strangely enough, it all works. The melodies are almost always memorable, the flutes sparkle with energy, and the guitars, once again gritty and rough, spit out solos that could have been taken straight from Stand Up
. For the first time in ages, Anderson’s charisma and energy is evident, and it’s obvious that the band is genuinely making an effort to make Catfish Rising
sound good, something that can’t be said about many of the album’s predecessors. Martin Barre in particular surprises, with his soloing showing an unusual amount of restraint and relying less on flamboyance than usual, something exhibited perfectly by the melancholy Still Loving You Tonight
, whose leads elevate a good song into absolute bliss.
Despite the bluesy direction taken by the band, one can find a fair amount of acoustic material, with the Indian-themed Like A Tall Thin Girl being a particularly refreshing listen (although, I should note that the song is marred by some of Anderson’s worst lyrics). Also of note is Rocks On The Road, a fun, quirky little number that quickly became a live favorite, with good reason.
The album’s biggest downfall comes in it’s lack of diversity. Unlike the eclectic releases of old, Catfish Rising
is content with alternating between only gritty, electric bluesy numbers and soft, acoustic bluesy numbers, these occasionally including slight elements of Celtic or Indian music. Due to this unfortunate lack of variety, the album is much more tedious than it should be, especially when the music’s quality is placed into consideration, and this is in no way helped by the sixty minute length of the album.
Despite the fact that Catfish Rising
is certainly a step up from the likes of Rock Island
and Under Wraps
, one can’t help feeling that much of it pales in comparison to the band’s back catalogue, especially when examined from a lyrical standpoint. In the end, the album seems like a less diverse, slightly more sterile Stand Up
, but that really isn’t a very bad thing at all.
Rocks On The Road
Still Loving You Tonight
Doctor To My Disease