Rock Island

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The passage of time has not been particularly kind to Jethro Tull.

While Ian Anderson and crew declared back in 1976 they were Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die, the band did indeed rock to their own beat, and did so, more or less, successfully for about 20 years. But as the '80s came to a close, Jethro Tull found themselves more adrift in a sea of genre pigeonholing than they ever had found themselves -- a situation not made any easier by their winning the first Grammy for a hard rock/heavy metal performance.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Rock Island, the 1989 effort from Jethro Tull, features the band trying to continue in the vein they mined on Crest Of A Knave, but the results are far more disappointing this time around.

Whereas most Jethro Tull albums have at least one song you can walk away from whistling, none of the 10 songs on this disc stand out as being exceptional. In fact, the whole vibe of the disc can be summed up in one word: blah. It was almost as if Anderson and company chose to just put something out to keep their name in front of the fans, some of whom may have been gathering due to curiosity from their Grammy win. Instead of building on the successes on Crest Of A Knave (and there were indeed successes on that album), Rock Island has the feel of tracks which didn't make the cut the first time around -- and, in fact, never should have seen the light of day.

The entire first half of the disc never seems to recover from the weak leadoff track "Kissing Willie," a song which is as much of a momentum killer than anything Tull had recorded in their history. Tracks like "Ears Of Tin," "The Whaler's Dues" and the title track fail to recover any ground -- but one even has to question whether they would have had success on their own. To my ears, they would not have. Instead of sounding like a band rejuvenated by attention from younger ears, this sounds like a band barely able to stay focused on the songs at hand.

It is only at the disc's close when the track "Strange Avenues" suggests that there is life left in this band -- pity it took 45 minutes to make this discovery. Pity, too, that it came too late to really salvage the disc.

Anderson would still have some tricks up his sleeve, and Jethro Tull was, by no means, a dead (or worse yet, an oldies) band. But Rock Island did suggest that the group had struck a reef, and was taking in water quickly.

Rating: C-

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© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.