Great Rock Albums of 1987: Jethro Tull- Crest of a Knave

An album which came clearly out of the blue for me in 1987 was Jethro Tull’s “Crest of a Knave.” I had thought they went out with the 1970s. So much so, that I thought their 1982 “Beast and the Broadsword” album was a product of that decade. Otherwise, it would have been included in the tour of 1982. I had no idea they had put out an album in 1984 but there were so many great albums that year, combined with the heavy metal explosion, it would have been easy to miss. It didn’t help them that “Under Wraps” album was rather unsuccessful. That is why I was rather shocked to learn that they had a new album out in 1987.

Jethro Tull decided to change things up with “Crest of a Knave” and that can be heard from the opening track. “Steel Monkey” has a guitar riff that would have many metal bands salivating in envy. It definitely stamps its authority like any good album opening track should. Things don’t taper off much with the second track, “Farm on the Freeway” either. However, while it’s still a heavy track, Martin Barre shows that he can smoke the six string, there are strong hints of traditional Jethro Tull on the track. The flute of Ian Anderson, which sets Tull apart from other bands, makes its first appearance in the song. Things continue to progress with the next track, “Jump Start,” where Anderson and Barre do a guitar solo, flute solo trade off and it sounds great!

It is the middle part of the album where some critics have been less praiseworthy. When I first heard the track, “She Said She Was A Dancer,” my initial reaction was to ask, “When did Mark Knopfler join the band?” This track could have easily been a Dire Straits song, at least pre- “Brothers in Arms” anyway. Then again, I can’t see the problem because the song sounds really good and again Martin Barre proves he can play guitar at least as good as Mark. But it’s not just the guitar, Ian Anderson’s vocals sound like Mark’s too. However, thanks to a little pre-post study on my part, the change in Ian’s vocals was down to a throat operation. If I had known this back then, I would have told the critics to leave the band alone. Okay, I might not have been that diplomatic back then.

“Budapest” is where everything done on the previous tracks all come together. There is the Dire Straits sound along with the traditional progressive 70s progressive rock sound. On the earlier parts of the track, Ian and Martin do sound like Dire Straits in regards to vocals and guitar but then go off on a great progressive rock tangent taking the track to over ten minutes in length. I love the acoustic guitar solo in the middle.

Following the Dire Straits/progressive rock tracks, Tull go back to the hard rock of the beginning with possibly the best track on the album, “Mountain Men.” When I listen to this track, I’m surprised that some metal band didn’t attempt to recreate the sound with a flute. Some heavy metal traditionalists might say that a flute has no place in heavy metal. In that case, I would invite them to listen to this track because they go very well together on it. “Raising Steam” takes the album out with some great guitar work from Martin. It’s a great rocking way to end the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Steel Monkey
  2. Farm on the Freeway
  3. Jump Start
  4. She Said She Was a Dancer
  5. Budapest
  6. Mountain Men
  7. Raising Steam

Jethro Tull

Ian Anderson- vocals, flute, guitar, keyboards, percussion, drum programming (tracks 1 and 5)

Martin Barre- guitars

David Pegg- bass

Additional Musicians:

Doan Perry- drums and percussion (tracks 2 and 7)

Gerry Conway- drums and percussion (tracks 3,4,6)

Ric Sanders- violin (track 6)

In spite of some misguided critics, “Crest of a Knave” won a Grammy for Best Rock or Heavy Metal Performance. It was considered one of the biggest upsets in Grammy history as it beat out Metallica’s “And Justice for All.” When Metallica did win a Grammy in 1992, Lars UIrich thanked Jethro Tull for not putting out an album that year. When I listen to “Crest of a Knave,” I’m not totally surprised.

Next post: Fleetwood Mac- Tango in the Night

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at:

8 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1987: Jethro Tull- Crest of a Knave”

  1. I didn’t even know this existed. Cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tull once won Best Metal Act at an awards show. “Aqualung” was my favorite Tull album.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve recently gotten into a bunch of Tull stuff. This is a good album for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: