Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wishbone Ash - 1972 [2002] "Argus"

Argus is the third album by the rock band Wishbone Ash. It is the most popular Wishbone Ash album and widely considered their greatest by fans and reviewers. It was named "Album of the Year" in the 1972 year-end issue of Sounds magazine. The album features a blend of progressive rock, folk, and hard rock, and is considered a landmark album in the progression of twin-lead guitar harmonisation later adopted by bands such as Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden. The sound engineer on Argus was Martin Birch, who also worked with Deep Purple, later with Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and other hard rock bands. The bulk of the melodies and lyrics were provided by bassist/lead vocalist Martin Turner, although all members contributed to the song arrangements.
With the success of Argus, the band also became one of the most popular live attractions of the day.
In 2002, an expanded CD was released, featuring a remix (by Martin Turner) of the original album as well as 3 live tracks from the EP Live from Memphis promotional EP, recorded in the studios of WMC-FM.
In 2007, a deluxe edition was released. This included the 1972 mix as well as additional BBC Session tracks.
In 2008, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash released a new studio recording of Argus. Andy Powell's incarnation of Wishbone Ash also released its own live version of the album entitled Argus "Then Again" Live. Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash played the entire piece live for the first time in February 2008 – the first time any incarnation of the band had done so – and embarked on a lengthy Argus tour. Andy Powell's band followed suit and added the full piece to their repertoire for several shows.

This LP only reached #169 on the charts but is now renowned as a prog-rock classic. This 30th-anniversary reissue is remixed, remastered and expanded with the debut release of the entire promotional EP Live in Memphis , recorded during the Argus tour! 

I was eagerly anticipating the reissue of this album. Bassist/vocalist Martin Turner remixed the tracks on this disk a few years ago for their inclusion in two great Wishone Ash compilation sets "Distillation" and "Time Was". This is the first time the new mixes have been remastered and included in the original "Argus" album context. The sound is excellent. Three bonus tracks from the "Live In Memphis" promo ep which was released in 1972 are also included.
Their third album "Argus" from 1972 features the classic line up of Andy Powell on guitars (Gibson Flying V)and vocals, Ted Turner on guitars (Fender Strat)and vocals, Martin Turner on bass and vocals and Steve Upton on drums. This set at the time of release was voted as album of the year by a few British music magazines. The band hailed from Britain and their unique style is spotlighted at its best on this album. The band's influences ranged from progressive rock, folk, jazz, and blues/boogie. Tracks like "Time Was" and "Sometime World" progress from acoustic opening sections to more rocking numbers by their end. "Blowin' Free" is perhaps the band's anthem and the new clarity of the remix allows for further examinations of the bands harmonic guitar approach. Martin Turner's bass much to my approval also seems to be more "up front" in the new remixed version of "Argus". The new remastering enhances the harmony vocal approach which the band often utilized. "The King Will Come" a song about the second coming of God contains a great riff and one of my favorite guitar solos by Ted Turner. "Leaf And Stream" shows the band's more folk/rock approach. The tandem of "Warrior" and "Throw Down The Sword" end the album on a high note and fit in perfectly with one of Storm Thorgerson's classic Hipgnosis album covers. The music and melodies are haunting while the axe work both harmonic and solo is outstanding.
The success of this album landed them the opening slot on the Who's 1972 tour. The "Live In Memphis" ep was recorded during the time and adds three of their better tracks featuring the Powell, Turner, Turner, & Upton line up. "Jail Bait" is a great stomping boogie rocker, while "The Pilgrim" also from their second lp shows the more progressive/jazzy nature of the band and is mostly instrumental. "Phoenix" from their first lp was their closing show stopper and evolves from a more subdued number to an energetic guitar showcase near its end. The bonus tracks are a welcome addition. I highly recommend this reissue. If you enjoy this cd I would also recommend the 4 disk anthology "Distillation" which summarizes the band's career with live material and rarities to that point or "Live Dates". Now if only Universal/MCA would reissue the "Live Dates 2" album on cd.

This album has some of the finest guitar-based rock music ever recorded. The solo work on 'Sometime World' is breathtaking, it still sends a shiver down my back and I've been listening to this album since it was first released in 1972. Other notable highlights are 'The King Will Come' and 'Warrior' which both feature totally original, inventive and exciting playing. The only disappointment is the 'bonus' track ('No easy road') which, as is so often the case, does not fit in with the overall feel of the 7 tracks from the original vinyl.
I was fortunate to see Wishbone Ash in 1972 when they were touring UK universities (I had lunch with them, nice lads!) and the concert they played, featuring numbers from their first three albums, remains the most memorable I've ever been to. Even the 'warm-up' session they did after lunch, where they jammed in front of a couple of dozen curious onlookers, was fantastic.
I cannot recommend this album too highly. It is totally brilliant. 

This is, simply put, one of the best albums of all time. My jaw dropped when I first heard Blowin Free on the radio, I was speechless when I first heard the double leads in Sometime World and Time Was after buying it an hour later, and I still get goose bumps when I hear the opening chords of Warrior and the syncopated axework at the beginning of Throw Down the Sword.
Every song on the album is incredible. The melodies and harmonies are infectious and the musicianship is impeccable. Even the vocals (never their strongest suit) sound good. But it's the double leads on Argus that make this the best twin guitar album ever (just my opinion Allman Bros fans). This is Wishbone's best album and it still sounds fresh after 30 (jeez - I can hardly believe it) years. Over those years I've turned a number of friends on to this album and almost all of them have become WA fans.
The remix is great -- probably a little crisper than the original. I'm personally not crazy about throwing in the three "Live From Memphis" songs as I feel it detracts from the feel of the Argus "concept," but if it exposes listeners to more of this band's music then I guess it's a good thing.
Too bad they couldn't have included a big fold-out of the original Argus album cover art in the cd case -- I don't know how many hours I've spent looking at that barely perceptable spaceship in the upper corner.
Enough nostalgia. For those of you that haven't heard this album, please take a listen. For those that have, I highly recommend checking out this remix -- it'll blow you away. Again.

Track listing:

01 "Time Was"
02 "Sometime World"
03 "Blowin' Free"
04 "The King Will Come"
05 "Leaf and Stream"
06 "Warrior"
07 "Throw Down the Sword"
08 "No Easy Road"
09 "The Pilgrim" (live in Memphis 1972)
10 "Phoenix" (live in Memphis 1972)

Personnel

    Martin Turner – bass guitar, vocals
    Andy Powell – lead and rhythm guitar, vocals
    Ted Turner – lead and rhythm guitar, vocals
    Steve Upton – drums, percussion
    John Tout – organ on "Throw Down The Sword"

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