Jethro Tull - Rock Island (1989) (Remaster Editi 2006)
"Rock Island" is an album for those Jethro Tull fans who are more inclined toward the heavy rock side of Tull over their folkier, accoustic side. It opens with the fast paced rocking "Kissing Willie" and is followed by the riffy "The Rattlesnake Trail" complete with Martin Barre's searing guitar fills.
Then comes my personal favorite from the album "Ears of Tin." It's one of those 'stop-go' songs. The verses are melodic, featuring mandolin and flute while the refrains contain pulsating hard rock. Next is "Undressed to kill," a slow, steady rocking song. Then comes the title song, which is fairly subdued until the fast paced instrumental break.
"Heavy Water" is another moderate to slow paced rocker, which is followed by the subdued and melodic "Another Christmas Song." Then comes the another of my personal favorites: the slow, brooding "The Whaler's Dues." Between Martin Barre's jagged electric guitar fills and Ian Anderson's wheezing flute, the song just gets under your skin and stays there.
The last two songs from the original release, "Big Riff and Mando" and "Strange Avenues" are lackluster, in my opinion. But overall, "Rock Island" is a consistently enjoyable album. The song quality might not be as high as on their previous release, "Crest of a Knave," but it has the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on taste) of containing far fewer ballads than 'Crest.'
There are many who believe that the quality of Jethro Tull's music began a permanent decline following "Aqualung" in 1971 or "A Passion Play" in 1973. However, the music on "Crest of a Knave," "Rock Island" and "Catfish Rising," Tull's 1987, 1989 and 1991 releases, convinces me that Ian Anderson's songwriting has, if anything, improved over time.
As with most Tull albums, you'll need to give this one a half dozen spins in your CD player before familiarity breeds enjoyment...M. Denver
01 Kissing Willie 3:33
02 The Rattlesnake Trail 4:01
03 Ears of Tin 4:55
04 Undressed to Kill 5:23
05 Rock Island 6:54
06 Heavy Water 4:12
07 Another Christmas Song 3:31
08 The Whaler's Dues 7:53
09 Big Riff and Mando 5:59
10 Strange Avenues 4:13
11 Christmas Song Live / Bonus 3:06
12 Cheap Day Return/Mother Goose Live / Bonus 3:09
13 Locomotive Breath Live / Bonus 3:38