The excellent Jethro Tull remaster series continues with Crest of a Knave, the album that rather infamously won the band a Grammy® for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1988. Though Crest of a Knave is not at all heavy metal and only occasionally hard rock, it probably still stands as Jethro Tull's best album from the 1980s, a decade that saw a spate of mediocre Tull product such as Under Wraps and Rock Island.
The tracks that hold up best are the epics "Farm on a Freeway" and "Budapest", both of which still regularly appear at Jethro Tull gigs. Another old favorite is "Said She Was a Dancer", a ballad that owes a hell of a lot to Mark Knofler, especially Ian Anderson's newly gravelly vocals and Martin Barre's clean and fluid guitar tone.
Parts of the album have not aged so well, especially the tracks that bookend the album. "Steel Monkey" is still a catchy tune, but those drum machines are better suited to background music for an episode of Miami Vice as opposed to the driving rhythm of a Jethro Tull song. "Raising Steam" is a frankly duff track that once again is completely antiquated by the tacky synthesizers. Likewise, the production is unusually stiff by Jethro Tull standards, with little to no separation between instruments. Even the acoustic snare drum sounds rather processed. Thankfully, the remaster is redeemed by the excellent bonus track "Part of the Machine", which originally appeared on the Twenty Years of Jethro Tull box set.
While not perfect, Crest of a Knave is one of the better Tull albums of the past twenty five years. Though Martin Barre's guitar tone is considerably different here than on albums like Aqualung or Songs From the Wood, he's technically never been better. In many ways, the album's greatest strength is that it shows just how underrated Martin Barre is. Another vital asset is that Ian Anderson's lyrics are as sharp and perceptive as ever. Overall, a solid latter day Jethro Tull release.
- Steel Monkey
- Farm on the Freeway
- Jump Start
- Said She Was a Dancer
- Dogs in the Midwinter
- Mountain Men
- The Waking Edge
- Raising Steam
- Part of the Machine (bonus track)