"I was completely thrilled with this album, which once again shows how Tull can change musical direction at will. I've appreciated all the Tull rock, folk, Celtic, jazz, etc. over the years, but "Catfish Rising" brings them all together. Among my particular favorites are "Rocks on the Road", "Still Loving You Tonight", "Roll Yer Own", and "When Jesus Came to Play". Oh, heck, I like them all -- any *true* Tull fan will know what I mean.And what do I mean? Only that Ian continues to play with the English language as subtly as he does with his flute and mandolin, that he draws us into corners both dark, devious and delightful, and that the rest of the band fills in with great artistry. Tull is the one band that cannot be defined, because it so often changes course and says to its fans: follow if you can! "Catfish Rising" is a wonderful example of Ian and the boys having a stretch, saying let's try something new, and succeeding wonderfully at it. Way to go! (Psst... Buy this album! It will grow on you until you will wonder how you could ever live without it...)"
R Smith | London, UK | 07/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Tull's best since Stormwatch. Many of us gave points for effort on A and Broadsword and the Beast, cringed through Crest of a Knave and Rock Island, and took hope in the unreleased cuts on 20 Years of Tull that were better than many of the songs that made it onto the albums. Now on Catfish Rising Tull gets away from the trendy tackiness of the 80's albums and mines the grit that fueled grunge and unplugged-ness. The production is more intimate, getting away from the trite reverberating arena sound, but it blasts you at close range, with Martin's guitar sounding like a razor-sharp axe. The jam at the end of the opening track This Is Not Love works, strangely enough, because the flute for once is not at the front of the sound; it's wailing back there with the guitar and rhythm section, competing instead of dominating. The lyrics in Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall, criticized by some as not rock-like, seem agreeably humane coming from a rock star, and are made non-saccharine by the faintly sleazy, Aqualung-ish undercurrent of a mature man taking an inordinate interest in the welfare of a schoolgirl. Still Loving You Tonight will attract some scorn for being non-ironic, but can the Dylan acolytes offer a better bittersweet song about a restless rover? Doctor to my Disease plants Tull firmly in the 90s, and Sleeping with the Dog with its growling guitar would bring a cordial nod from Howlin Wolf. And, Gold Tipped Boots Black Jacket & Tie is a fey, possessed caper that sly, wild-eyed jesters throughout history would appreciate. Anderson shows vocal maturity on this outing, singing rhythmically with perfect timing and emphasis, making us forget momentarily that his roasted voice is a shadow of its former deep husky glory. Drop the fill-in tracks like White Innocence and Jesus coming to play (Tull in all honesty hasn't fared well with filling up a 60-minute CD), and you have an album that gives reason to think that Tull will soon be recognized alongside Neil Young (and the much less deserving Stones) as the good sort of dinosaur that justly refuses to become extinct."
Better appreciated years later
Michael Arrowood | 11/20/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I gave one of the earlier reviews and after listening to Catfish again recently, I have to increase the rating. When Jesus Came To Play and Sleeping With The Dog are now my favorite tracks -- and just plain cool bluesy tunes. Check 'em out. This is still the least '70s Tullish of all albums since the early days."
Tull Fans Should Not Ignore This Offering
Bellagio | Las Vegas | 01/27/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a lengthy album which could be rated even higher butfor a few seriously sub-standard inclusions. It is also an albumwhich may rank as the most overlooked by Tull fans. This is probably because it sounds less like a "Tull album" than any other save Under Wraps. The songs on the album are presented without a great deal of adornment and with production values notable for their austerity. This album is redolent of the blues favored by the first incarnation of the band, and in places stirs in rockabilly flavors as well.The opener, "This Is Not Love", is a mundane rocker, enhanced by interesting lyrics and some excellent drum work by Doanne Perry. It isn't what one would call an auspicious beginning, and neither is it representative of the music on this album. The second cut is another rocker, though this one is blues-tinged, boasting a very catchy hook. "Occasional Demons" is another installment in that interesting Tull quirk: Placing their best rockers in unusual spots on the album. This fine rocker sounds, lyrically, like something which could have appeared on the first side of "Broadsword and the Beast." We move straight from a blues-edged rocker to bluesy rockabilly. There are places in "Roll Yer Own" (especially toward the end) where you might need to pinch yourself to remember you're listening to Tull not the Grateful Dead. The song is well performed by the band -- as is almost everything on the album. Lyrically it is quite raunchy in an odd sort of way. We come now to a place where two beautiful, classic blues ballads sandwich the two most unfortunate entries on the album. "Rocks on the Road" matches poignant lyrics with a compelling main melody which, in the brief middle break, comes very close to transitioning from blues into jazz. And is Mr. Anderson claiming to "roll his own" there in the second verse? The other side of the sandwich is "Still Loving You Tonight", a straight-forward blues ballad again combining a lovely melody with marvelous lyrics. On occasion, the lead vocals show serious strain under Mr. Anderson's inflections. However, overall it is an excellent presentation, musically and lyrically.An aside regarding these two songs: Throughout his career, Mr. Anderson has written of the loneliness, trials, and even the terrors of life away from loved ones at home -- and, conversely, of the joys of returning after being absent: "To Cry You a Song", "Fires at Midnight", "Home", "Black Sunday", "Jack-A-Lynn", "The Waking Edge", "Gift of Roses", and these two songs here. No matter how often he returns to the well-spring of this subject matter, he never misses the mark."Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall" is the first of the two songs sandwiched by these classics. It contains some nice music which is completely ruined by the unfortunate lyrics. Beyond the uncertainty of the point he's trying to make (some kind of advice to young school girl?), some of the lines are so corny as to be embarrassing: "There's nothing wrong with sparrows but try to be a sparrowhawk." "Too much broth can spoil the cook". We're used to much better. "Thinking Round Corners" contains lyrics just about as bad as the previous song -- but this time the music behind them is just as awful. "Doctor To My Disease" provides a nice change-of-pace with an effective rocker that sticks around a just bit too long, slightly damaging the effect by outlasting its welcome. It's back to folksy rockabilly with "Like a Tall Thin Girl". Amazingly, Tull actually manages to pull off this odd piece of overt humor. The song gets a tad raunchy at the end, when the humor goes over-the-top. Again, there is a problem at times with Mr. Anderson's modulations moving beyond the breaking point of his vocal range."White Innocence" is a straight-forward ballad with a very comely leading melody. Superficially, because of the subject of the lyrics, some listeners have compared it to "Budapest." However, structurally, it is very much a simpler piece than "Budapest" -- which is much more like a modern tone-poem than straight rock ballad (which "White Innocence" is). The song is nicely bisected by the exceptional middle-section break, almost a development section, which serves to prevent this very long song from becoming repetitive.We go back to straight blues in "Sleeping With The Dog." Way back indeed -- this song is like something right out of "This Was", with a subject line that humorously harks back to that album's cover picture as well. Think that Ian Anderson couldn't have been successful as a blues writer? This song will disabuse you of that thought. Think Martin Barre wouldn't have made great blues guitarist? Well, listen very closely to this song and "Rocks on the Road." Great lyrics which, like all good blues, are heavily-laced with effective humor. Absolutely wonderful.If there were an accordion in "Gold-Tipped Boots, Black Jacket and Tie" I'd swear I was listening to Cajun music. This is another strange entry for Tull, and somewhat hard to get used to, but manages to work out alright. That may be especially true because it doesn't stick around too long.Appropriately enough, it's back to folksy blues to finish off the album. "When Jesus Came To Play" boast a fine melody which moves forward swiftly with a funny lyrical story (especially the "ugly friends"). It is nicely presented and maybe even manages to slip a little message in around the good humor. A very nice closing number which, like the entire album, gets very little attention from Tull fans. Methinks they ignore it in error."