Wishbone Ash: Buyer's Guide

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With more than 120 different releases listed on Amazon, Wishbone Ash’s back catalogue is both extensive and convoluted – forbiddingly so to newcomers. Given its richness and diversity, that’s a real shame. As progenitors of a twin-guitar style that paved the way for the likes of Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, the band have created some of the most undervalued rock music of the last four decades.

Formed in the sleepy seaside town of Torquay by bassist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton, the pair relocated to London in 1969 and teamed up with guitarists Andy Powell and Ted Turner (no relation) via a Melody Maker ad. Their mystical blend of rock and folk came into sharp focus on their third album, Argus, which beat Deep Purple’s Machine Head and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust to be voted Album Of 1972 by the readers of both Sounds and Melody Maker.

Wishbone Ash Mark 1 came screeching to a halt in 1974 when Ted Turner abruptly quit both the band, and the entire music business; the guitarist subsequently travelled to South America, bought a donkey and headed off in search of the lost city Of Mu in Peru. His replacement, Laurie Wisefield,ushered in the Mk 2 line-up, and with it a more wide-ranging approach that found them setting their sights on the US to the point where they would decamp to Connecticut in 1975.

There were more serious ructions to come when Martin Turner left the band following 1980’s turbulent Just Testing, leaving Andy Powell as the sole original member and kicking off a series of line-up changes that continue to this day. The bassist rejoined the band twice – from 1987-91 and again in 1995-96 – although he would resurface with his own alternative line-up in 2004, to Powell’s chagrin. As Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, they even re-recorded Argus, effectively putting paid to a much hoped-for reunion to mark Ash’s 40th anniversary in 2009.

While everything here dates from that glorious decade between 1970 and 1980, Andy Powell’s Wishbone Ash continue to release new music, the most recent being 2014’s Blue Horizon. Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash are also very much a going concern, touring throughout the year. But with Turner and Powell still at each others’ throats, sadly the chances of the two of them ever getting back together are remote.

ESSENTIAL - CLASSIC

ESSENTIAL - CLASSIC

SUPERIOR - REPUTATION CEMENTING

Wishbone Ash

MCA, 1970

Although the band had signed their record deal thanks in part to the recommendation of Ritchie Blackmore, their debut album did not rely on hard rock histrionics alone. It’s bookended by a couple of belters – Blind Eye is based upon a powerful stop- start blues-boogie riff and _Phoenix _signs off with a gently ascending though unmistakably ferocious climax – but their sound was much broader-based than they would be given credit for, taking its cues from jazz, blues, progressive rock and folk music. An example of the latter is the beautiful and free-flowing Errors Of My Ways, which brings to mind Fairport Convention.

SUPERIOR - REPUTATION CEMENTING

SUPERIOR - REPUTATION CEMENTING

SUPERIOR - REPUTATION CEMENTING

GOOD - WORTH EXPLORING

GOOD - WORTH EXPLORING

GOOD - WORTH EXPLORING

AVOID

This was published in Classic Rock issue 178.