Crest Of A Knave was released during September of 1987, but it was at the Grammy Awards in 1989 where is caused a great deal of controversy. It won the award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal Or Instrumental. The fans of Jane’s Addiction and Metallica, who were nominated for the same award, were more than a little miffed. I have to agree that, while this is an excellent Jethro Tull album, and maybe even Grammy worthy, it was a stretch in this category.
The album cannot really be compared to their classic seventies material as the music is vastly different. The group does move in a hard rock direction and places Martin Barre’s guitar out front, which is always positive, but the music retains its unique flavor through Ian Anderson’s flute playing. It all added up to their best album of the eighties. Their fans agreed as it became their most commercially successful release of the decade as well.
Official membership in the group had dropped to a trio. Bass play Dave Pegg and lead guitarist Martin Barre were still on board. Ian Anderson basically took care of everything else. He wrote all the songs, contributed the lead vocals, and played an array of instruments. Two drummers, Doane Perry and Gerry Conway, are mentioned in the credits, but Anderson used his trusty drum machine for three tracks.
There is a lot of good music here. “Budapest,” at just over ten minutes, does everything right. It begins acoustically and builds from there. It tells one of Ian Anderson’s classic tales and even manages to incorporate a violin into the mix. “Farm On The Freeway” is his rant against urban sprawl but has fine instrumental performances on the breaks. “Jump Start” is Martin Barre doing what he does best. “Steel Monkey” is another fine rocker except for the preprogrammed drums. “She was A Dreamer” is one of those whimsical pieces which Anderson could create seemingly at will. This one concerns a rock star which was appropriate.
Crest Of A Knave may be over looked at times, but it is one of the better albums in the vast Jethro Tull catalogue. It is a well balanced release and in some ways served as a nice comeback. It remains one of the essential modern Jethro Tull releases.
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