ARGUS: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
In August 2007, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash entered Liscombe Park Studios, Soulbury, Buckinghamshire to lay down a brand new recording of Wishbone Ash's seminal masterpiece, Argus.
"We had already decided to do an Argus tour, performing the entire album on stage for the first time ever. We were going into the studio to rehearse and it quickly became apparent that if we were doing this music in a recording studio, we might as well record it as well. However, rather than simply recording a live rendition of the album, we decided to approach it as a more considered studio project. I'd always wondered what the music would sound like recorded with modern technology."
The resulting album Argus: Through The Looking Glass received favourable feedback from fans of the classic line-ups of Wishbone Ash, with the album being viewed by most as an ideal balance between remaining faithful to the original arrangemnets, yet at the same time leaving just enough space for reinterpretation.
The album also featured guest appearances from Asia members John Wetton (harmony vocals) and Geoff Downes (Hammond organ) on 'Throw Down the Sword'.
The basic tracks for Argus Through The Looking Glass were recorded by Martin Turner, Keith Buck, Ray Hatfield and Rob Hewins during August 2007. Additional recording took place in November/December 2007 (Geoff Downes and John Wetton's parts) and July 2008 (additional guitar/vocal contributions from Danny Willson).
I've now listened to this three times and here's my view:
Firstly the singing hits previously unheard of (in any version of WA) heights across all the tracks. Almost barber-shop levels at times, which is a significant enough change in its own right. I think the singing was good enough on the original, no problem with it, but this is just a different league. The singing is enough of a reason for any WA fan to hear this.
"Time Was", "Warrior", "Blowin' Free", "The King Will Come" are all superbly played but don't move too far away from the originals. However there are enough subtle differences to keep you interested.
"Throw Down The Sword" was never my favourite Argus track (sacrilege I know, but I always thought it was bit of a dirge!!) but I reckon the end soloing is as good as the original.
The standout tracks are "Ssometime World" and "Leaf and Stream". "Sometime World" has a changed ending and I reckon (gulp) the guitar soloing (Keith Buck, I presume) eclipses the original. There, Ive said it. The singing and playing on "Leaf and Stream" are just extraordinary and the enhanced ending just elevates this to another level.
Is it different enough? The sleeve notes tell how the band crafted every last note on the original, everything is as it was intended, so to veer away too far would be pointless, and Mart hasn't done that. But make your own mind up. He pays due respect in the notes too to all the MK1 band members and their contributions and its great to have the full story. Much better than the scant 'Lyrics by/Music by' on the original.
I'm very impressed with this new CD, it's striking the right balance - a new recording, yes, and very respectful to the original, overall you get the feeling it is Martin making a statement that this is his life's work and he's very pleased that so many of us appreciate it for what it is.
Also worth noting is a kind testament to Andy, Steve, Ted and Laurie. I like that. It's like Martin saying thank you to fans and band mates alike.
So Mart has a new version, the fans have a new version, and the band members presumably get new royalties. Nothing wrong with any of that.
At a time of economic trouble, this CD gives a warm feeling - isnt that what good music is all about? I'm now going to play the original, I'm reinvigorated.
This is a very professional job, with some very nice touches. Worthy of particular comment are the triple lead "Throw Down The Sword" solo, the extra percussion on "Leaf and Stream", and the solos on "Sometime World".
A lot of people thought "why remake Argus?" but Martin has produced a very listenable album with enough differences to the original to make it worth having in addition to the classic album.
I absolutely love Argus Through The Looking Glass. What an amazing recording!
I've been listening to the original Argus and it's incarnations for 36 years now and wasn't sure what to expect from ATTLG other than it would be well played (I've heard MTWA perform some Argus tracks live and also have the New Live Dates Vols 1 & 2). Well played? It's friggin' awesome!
Not a total remake of the original (thank goodness) nor so different as to alienate those who grew up with this iconic work. This is a remarkably good album and worthy of sitting next to the original in my collection. Martin, you and all who worked on ATTLG are to be congratulated on a fantastic album.
MTWA got the balance perfect here. Close enough to the original so as not to offend the purists, let with enough variation to take it away from carbon-copy territory. Highlights - the acoustic picking and harmony vocals on "Time Was" intro are so clear, it sounds as though Martin and Ray are in the room with you. The new percussion sounds on "Leaf and Stream" give the song a more contemporary feel, and Martin's howling vocals at the end creep on you from nowhere. Martin and John Wetton's vocals on "Throw Down the Sword" blend together very well, a perfect match of voices giving an indication what a WA line-up with Wetton singing classic WA material may have sounded (and making us once again question why his voice was not used to better effect when he briefly joined the band). The closing section of "Sword" is breathtaking. The guitar solo has of course become an Andy Powell staple over the years and wisely MTWA make no attempt to copy or compete, instead bringing a totally different flavour. Love those strange sounding guitar figures in the chorus too and Geoff Downes' Hammond swirls complete a beautifully painted picture.
The biggest delight of this album is the sheer quality of Martin's voice. Unfairly maligned by some members of the WA fan base over the years, this release reinforces just how vital a part of Argus MT's voice is. Argus without it is akin to a visit to a zoo without an elephant - the children have a sunny day out but ultimately go home having not had the total experience. The harmonies add greatly as well; this could well be the best vocal work to grace any "WA" related album to date.
This album is simply beautifully played, sung, and produced. Top marks to the album designers too for putting together an attractive looking package with Martin's interview very informative. A Wishbone Ash fan could not ask for a better product. Well done to all involved.
Lee Van Streem
I generally agree with most of the posts above. It's a well played, well executed album that does not stray too much from the original (so as not to offend die-hard fans) and yet there are a few added twists to keep it interesting. Favourite tracks on it for me are "Time Was" and "Leaf and Stream".
I just gave my first listen to Argus: Through The Looking Glass and was blown away. I will admit to being one of the people that wondered why it was necessary. But as time went by I was really looking forward to hearing it, and was it ever worth the wait.
My first impression was of what a first class production it is, but I did not expect any less from Martin Turner, he proved once again that he is a whiz in the studio. And I am a huge fan of a finely crafted studio album. As for the music itself this is the first time that I have heard Martin's band play, they are really good. Leading the way is Mr. Turner himself, he is a fantastic bass player, I know that WA is known for their twin lead guitar attack but I have always felt that Martin's bass playing was a big part of it all, a great example of it is on "Sometime World", just brilliant.
I was also very impressed with the guitar playing, those guys just nailed their parts, and threw in some nice extra's also. Exactly what I would expect from a band calling themselves Wishbone Ash. As I said I only listened to it once but I know that I am going to enjoy it for years to come, this is not in any way shape or form a copy of Argus, this is a fresh take on a classic album. Martin should be very proud of it.
Two listens straight through so far today, and I love it. Everyone's playing is immaculate, the vocals are astonishingly good, the production is first class and the whole package looks great. Very, very impressive piece of work from Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash. You really need to hear this one, folks.