WISHBONE ASH — Wishbone Ash (review)

WISHBONE ASH — Wishbone Ash album cover Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Once upon a time before the twin guitar effects of bands such as Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy made the practice common place, a humble blues rock band named WISHBONE ASH gestated the technique in the nascent proto-prog days of the early 70s and in the process became one of the most successful bands in all of the 70s UK and has only become more so worldwide as time goes by. Despite a rather bizarre moniker, this band that was blues rock based found a way to incorporate a nice mix of blues, jazz, progressive rock and psychedelic improvisation into their sound without anything sounding forced.

This Torquay (city) band from England copped the perfect blues rock attitude in 1970 with the eponymously titled debut that took a clue from the American scene a la The Allman Brothers, Johnny Winter and The Yardbirds and created a bona fide pillar of transitional glory between the blues rock oriented 60s and the more progressive rock 70s. Formed as the quartet of Andy Powell (lead guitar, vocals), Ted Turner (lead guitar, vocals), Martine Turner (bass, vocals) and Steve Upton (drums), this band found success opening for Deep Purple in early 1970 when Andy Powell dared to jam with Ritchie Blackmore whom he impressed and scored a record contract from the get go.

While many worship the altar of the more sophisticated “Argus,” i have to admit i much more admire this extremely adventurous debut which finds six tracks that are blues rock based taking extreme liberties. While each is imbued with the status quo blues rock elements of bluesy developments, beautifully constructed melodies and typical 60s zeitgeist constructs, i have to admire the band’s ability to transcend into the next level of sophistication without eschewing the paradigms of the era. Basically this album takes a fairly typical blues rock style that was common in the era and ramps up the energy until the final climaxes of the closing lengthy “Phoenix” takes the listener on a voyage of blues rock / jazz / progressive possibilities of the given era.

While steeped in the blues rock of the era, WISHBONE ASH deviated from the pack by creating a dual harmonic approach with two guitars creating a tapestry of melody instead of merely one guitarist picking up the slack. The results were quite successful and became a staple in much of 80s metal music with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest becoming the most successful successors of the technique. With a firm grasp of boogie rock with more than a touch of radio friendly riffage, WISHBONE ASH skirted the fine line between commercially acceptable and progressively challenging. While the tracks are rooted in in a graspable blues rock easy to grasp sensibility, they equally challenge the listener with lengthy jamming instrumental prowess as well as unwarranted sophistication unexpected from typical commercial bands of the era.

WISHBONE ASH eschewed a predictable formula, yet every track is easily accessible and easy to get one’s hooks within its essence yet still the tracks take you to places unexpected and even now several decades later, this still sounds interesting and innovative without any sense of where things will lead. The dual twin guitar attack of Andy Powell and Ted Turner provide the main impotence of this then-fresh approach to blues rock but it was done so extraordinarily well that i find this debut album extraordinary exciting even several decades after its release. While not as complex as other blues rock bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, WISHBONE ASH took a different route and one that worked quite well. Think of this band as the Grateful Dead that didn’t require drugs to appreciate!

This album is roughly broken up into two parts. The tracks are for the most part vocally based blues rock track but there are equal amounts of instrumental jamming sessions. Perhaps the most diverse is in “Handy” that not only provides a lengthy guitar jamming session but also displays a major drumming session that doesn’t sound too show-offy for one’s sensibilities. I dunno why i luv this one so much but it definitely registers high on my blues rock with prog touches. A major accomplishment for WISHBONE ASH at an early stage and although they would find success all through the 70s, this one remains my absolute favorite of their entire discography. Cheers, mates!
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