Top critical review
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on 20 August 2011
"We`re all kinds of animals coming here:
Occasional demons too."
So sings Ian Anderson on the second track of this 72-min(!) disc in the admirable remastered reissue series of Tull`s back catalogue, with notes by IA himself - he was always a good man for sleevenotes and all these reissues are graced with his often wryly witty musings on times past. In an oblique way, the quote above sort of sums up both the subject matter & personnel of Tull and their music over the decades since they potently announced their arrival with This Was over forty years ago.
Tull are one of the few `prog` rock bands of the late 60s/70s vintage whose records
still sound good, rarely at all dated. Anderson was and is a canny cove who knew what he was doing. There have been a few duds in their prolific output over the years, one or two almost good ones, some excellent - Roots To Branches, Minstrel In The Gallery - and a handful of classics, eg. Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses, Benefit, Stand Up.
Catfish Rising is frustratingly quite good, very good in parts, often a tad underpowered. As a collection of songs, its lengthy running time (which includes two extra `bonus tracks`) tells against it; the Tull-meister might have done better to rein himself in. What we get is a highly listenable set of lyrically intriguing, catchy songs that rarely come truly alive. It`s all a little too slick, too tidy.
The opener is a terrific song, This Is Not Love, a single that should have been a big hit, though Tull were always more of an album band who occasionally had a surprise hit. (When they did, their presence brightened up the charts no end.)
Not much else to say really, and I wish I could be more enthusiastic. In certain moods, this sounds like one of the better Tull efforts. I think it falls between two stools: it isn`t quite what I call `English pastoral` Tull, and it doesn`t quite rock out either.
Standouts are This Is Not Love, Like A Tall Thin Girl, and the blistering Doctor To My Disease. The slower Still Loving You Tonight is a pleasant enough Tull ballad, but it could have been so much better somehow.
7 out of ten. I`m giving it a less than generous three stars, but newcomers to Tull may well like it a lot, and I`d recommend this to a Tull fan who hadn`t heard it, though not as heartily as I would, say, Roots To Branches, another later album, and a much better one.
Worth hearing. Not Tull at their best, but nowhere near their worst.