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Classic Ash album review - Sounds, May 1977 by Tony Mitchell
Here is a compilation which is probably just right for all those millions of people who have never bought a Wishbone Ash album but are sufficiently aware of their standing amongst their fellows to feel a bit guilty about it. This collection has probably their best known toons on it – even I know, well, some of ‘em.
What’s this, you say, Mitchell, calls himself a musician, doesn’t know every Wishbone Ash ditty by heart? Shame? Well, maybe so, but ya see, to be, their music represents so many of the things I find most dull in rock music.
It epitomises the clinical British approach to rock – everything clean neat and in place. Not on the entire album is there a note which doesn’t fall exactly on the beat and to judge from this one, the production on every album has been equally flat and lifeless. Everything just so. Listen a little closer and you find the same half dozen ideas repeated over and over again – always the minor key, the stilted playing, the predictable twin guitar harmonies which sound like they were written for a string quartet instead of a live rock ‘n’ roll band, the weak vocals and limp lyrics, the frequent no-quite-in-tune singing and playing (which really surprised me – you don’t expect to find that on otherwise ‘tidy’ studio productions)…all very disappointing and the sure explanation of why I’ve never spent my money on this band.
But, as Soundsperson John Peel reminds us in his copious liner notes, at least one of their albums – Argus, released 1972 – was considered such a classic by one and all that it was voted album of the year in Sounds and another, more boring, weekly music paper. So maybe I’m wrong about these lads, but I’m sticking to my guns just the same.
Okay, so you want to know what’s in the collection, right? Well, the obviously outstanding tracks are ‘Blind Eye’ (from Wishbone Ash), ‘The King Will Come’ (Argus), and ‘Outward Bound (New England). As for the rest they comprise ‘Phoenix’ (Wishbone Ash), ‘The Pilgrim’ (Pilgrimage), ‘Blowin’ Free’ (Argus), ‘Rock and Roll Widow’ (Wishbone Four), ‘Persephone’ (There’s The Rub) and ‘Throw Down the Sword’ (Live Dates).
A fairly representative collection, no doubt, but no enough to overcome my own lack of interest in the band.