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Wishbone Ash – Blue Horizon

 
04 March, 2014
 
 
 

Photo Cred: wishboneash.com/epk

 

 

By Chris Burrage

 

 

For many, Wishbone Ash will be a faint, but pleasant memory of 1970s Anglo-Saxon rock music, instilled with elements of blues, folk, progressive rock and free jazz. To date the band have survived an indelible 40 years in the music industry. They are perhaps most memorable for pioneering the twin lead guitar technique, ahead of acts like Thin Lizzy and Boston. But what can they offer us in 2014?

 

'Blue Horizon' is the band's 22nd album (yes, you can research that if you like), helmed by Andy Powell, the band's front man and only remaining original member. And it begins with 'Take It Back', a piece that emerges with languid but rhythmic certainty. Then comes its opening melodic statement. And it's a bold one, delivered with vim and vigour. A violin compliments the handy guitar work from some distant corner of the mix. This is folk-rock, and no mistake.

 

The contemporary sound the band are striving for stands up in the chorus. Confusion ensues. Meandering, indistinct chord progressions litter the subsequent pieces, vocal melodies are often stifled, unsure, sedated with reverb. And as a result, vocal lines and song structure feel hesitant throughout the album.

 

Powell, unfortunately, cannot rival the original vocalist, Martin Turner, in tone or range. And this is a great shame. Turner, in the band's heyday projected his voice with pastoral prowess. Here, we have something far less enthused. The lyrical narratives lack the captivating prose that work such as their seminal 1972 album 'Argus' bestowed upon its listeners. In 'Blue Horizon', one finds themselves enticed by the melodies and rhythms instead, which, in their favour, are executed and accented brilliantly.

 

This album revives a few stylistic elements of previous records, namely militaristic snare rolls, folk melodies and progressive jazz textures. 'Being One' and 'American Century' revisit the progressive component, but are again torn in stylistic direction. Some of the more confident pieces are 'Deep Blues', a rowdy but perfected blues piece and 'Tally Ho!', which opens with oddly seductive, intertwining guitar lines.

 

'Blue Horizon' is the third album from this line-up, and sadly suffers from an identity crisis. It does not know what it wants to be, but wanders from song to song, exploring more than it can commit to with any tangible conviction. It begs the question: 'Where was the producer?'.

 

But not all is lost. The finale, 'All There Is To Say', is a prescribed piece, reminiscent of the 'Argus' epic 'Throw Down the Sword', beginning in the same sombre fashion, before reaching an instrumental interlude that brims with Celtic soul. This is where the album rises to its full majesty, and it is a pity that this folk-rock group dynamic isn't exploited further.

 

'Blue Horizon' is a rambling album, a testament to the band's ever developing and transient sound. It is hard to be kind to much else but the record's steely production and the group's effective use of rhythm and melodic phrasing. Of course, one cannot ignore Wishbone's howling blues chops. Alas, the album cries out to be given cohesion, a theme. In future they could just hire Turner to do the job (in my dreams!). With a more solid musical identity this record would be riper. For fans of the Powell-era this is an acceptable volume, but for newcomers to Wishbone's legacy, 1972's 'Argus' should be your guide.

 

 


 

 

QUICK ALBUM FACTS

 

Primary Genre: Classic Rock

 

Secondary Genre: Progressive Rock

 

Release Date: 4th March 2014 (already available on Spotify)

 

Label: Solid Rockhouse

 

Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, King Crimson, Free, Opeth

 

Album Highlights: 'Take It Back', 'Tally Ho!', 'All There Is To Say'

 

 


 

 

 

 

Wishbone Ash - Blue Horizon (Album Trailer)

 


 

 

 

Wishbone Ash - 2014 Live Tour Teaser & Interview

 


 

 

Wishbone Ash - Throw Down the Sword (1990)

 


 

 

Wishbone Ash - Warrior (1973)

 



 

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