Last year marked Wishbone Ash’s 50th anniversary. But as the estranged ‘classic’-era members didn’t unite for that, then the chance of them ever doing so stands at slim to none.
Nonetheless, the current Ash, led by guitarist/vocalist Andy Powell, plough ever onwards. In contrast to the overly bluesy direction of their latter-day albums, Coat Of Arms has pleasing, prominent overtones of their classic sound.
Powell has credited recent addition Mark Abrahams (guitar) with re-energising the band, and, sure enough, strident opener We Stand As One bursts out of the traps with a renewed edge and hunger, twin guitar riffs to the fore.
The blustery title track and the folky Empty Man hit the mark with intricate long-form arrangements, allowing Powell and Abrahams to weave harmonised leads over shifting rhythms.
A couple of weaker tracks (Floreana, Back In The Day) fail to connect, but the overriding consistency and variety make Coat Of Arms their strongest record in years.