Crest of a Knave is the sixteenth studio album by British rock band Jethro Tull, released in 1987. The album was recorded after a three year hiatus caused by a throat infection of vocalist Ian Anderson, resulting in a changed vocal style by Anderson. Following the unsuccessful electronic rock album Under Wraps, Crest of a Knave saw the band returning to a more hard rock sound. The album was their most successful since the 1970s, and the band enjoyed a resurgence on radio broadcasts, appearances in MTV specials, and the airing of music videos. It was also a critical favourite, winning the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental in what was widely viewed as an upset over the favorite, Metallica‘s …And Justice for All. The album was supported by “The Not Quite the World, More the Here and There Tour”.
Even though Doane Perry had been a member of Jethro Tull since 1984, several tracks still featured drum programming instead of a live drummer. Keyboardist Peter-John Vettese was also absent and it was Ian Anderson who contributed the synth programming. The album sleeve only lists Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and Dave Pegg as official band members. Barre remembers this production as being “the album where a lot of things were of my invention. There are still chunks of the music where lan very much knew what he wanted, but I think my input was far greater on that album than on any other”.
The cover was designed by heraldic artist Andrew Stewart Jamieson. The single “Steel Monkey” has the cover designed by art director John Pasche.
This album was released simultaneously on LP and on CD, but the vinyl edition did not feature the songs “Dogs in the Midwinter” and “The Waking Edge”. Both tracks appeared on vinyl as B-sides to the singles.
The album back cover shows in the credits that the album was: “Recorded just round the corner from the kitchen in the room behind the door which used to be painted white but isn’t any more”. And also: “Martin would like to thank Paul Hamer (Hamer Guitars). Ian and Dave would like to thank almost everybody else.”
The album relied more heavily on Martin Barre‘s electric guitar than the band had since the 1970s. The style of Crest has been compared to that of Dire Straits, in part because Anderson no longer had the vocal range he once possessed (the result of recent throat surgery).
Ian Anderson later stated about the musical style of the album: “‘Steel Monkey’ was based around a sequencer riff, and it didn’t have any flute in it. So it was yet another atypical Jethro Tull song that was a radio hit. By comparison, both ‘Farm On The Freeway’ and ‘Budapest’ are very typical Tull songs. ‘Budapest’ is the kind of song I like to write because it embodies a lot of different nuances which I think are subtly joined together. It sort of moves from classical to slightly bluesy to folk, and it just slips between them and you don’t see the stitching.”
Crest of a Knave explores various themes in its lyrics, as Anderson often does. The song “She Said She Was a Dancer” shows that Tull’s frank treatment of sexuality was unabated. The album contains the popular live song “Budapest”, which depicts a backstage scene with a shy local female stagehand. “Farm on the Freeway” on other hand, profiles a farmer who has lost his land through eminent domain, and who now possesses only his truck. “Mountain Men” became more famous in Europe, depicting a scene from World War II in Africa and the Falklands War. Ian Anderson referred to the battles of El Alamein (WW II) and also South America (1982), drawing historic parallels of the angst that women left behind by their warrior husbands might have felt.
Crest of a Knave went on to win the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, beating the heavily favoured …And Justice for All (Metallica) and critics’ choice Nothing’s Shocking (Jane’s Addiction).
The Grammy award was highly controversial as many did not consider the album or the band to be hard rock, and certainly not heavy metal. Under advisement from their manager, no one from the band turned up to the award ceremony, as they were told that they had no chance of winning. In response to the controversy, the band’s record label Chrysalis took out an advert in a British music periodical with the line, “The flute is a heavy, metal instrument!”. The Grammy award was split into two categories and renamed after the event.
In 2007, the win was named one of the 10 biggest upsets in Grammy history by Entertainment Weekly.
Rolling Stone listed the Grammy Award as the 18th Most Awesomely Retro Moments in Grammy History.
In 1991, Metallica won the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal album, and during their acceptance speech, drummer Lars Ulrich affably added “We would personally like to thank Jethro Tull for not releasing an album this year!”
All tracks are written by Ian Anderson.
|2.||“Farm on the Freeway”||6:31|
|4.||“Said She Was a Dancer”||3:43|
Joani Thompson is the founder of Airstreaming Radio and Character Driven Media. She is an award winning director and her work in live theatre includes sound, lighting and set design. She is a radio and television host and producer, a published writer (PWAC) and photographer (PPOC). As the owner of D’Angelo Studios Joani was the cover photographer for Island Kids Magazine and her work appears in many other publications. She has been teaching filmmaking workshops for creative kids since the mid-90s and has been a regular workshop presenter for the Victoria International Film Festival. She founded the Behind the Lens Kids’ Film Festival in 2003.Joani has been producing and hosting CharacterDriven on CHLY 101.7 FM since 2010 and is passionate about the Airstream project, an opportunity to bring a variety of programming to listeners around the world via independent, internet-based radio.