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Wishbone Ash - Nouveau Calls CD (album) cover


Wishbone Ash


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2.92 | 72 ratings

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2 stars So after issuing a promising debut and an uneven but still hopeful second album, Wishbone Ash hit on all cylinders with the instant classic ‘Argus’ in 1972. That was followed by their obligatory ‘getting away from it all in a cozy studio to be introspective’ album ‘Wishbone Four’, which apparently didn’t go well because the band fractured and began a lengthy period of musical chairs for their lineup for almost fifteen years after the fourth album released. Just about everybody except the hardcore faithful fans (of which I was certainly not one) pretty much forgot about these guys, but apparently they were still plugging away touring and releasing the occasional tepid album.

Along comes Miles Copeland in 1987 with the idea to create a new, all-instrumental label under the IRS Records banner that he had founded, and he needed an inexpensive way to draw attention to the label with a big name. Having been Wishbone Ash’s original manager, he sort of had an ‘in’ with the band and leveraged that to convince them to reform the original lineup and release a new album of vocal-less music. (Just as an aside, anyone know where IRS Records got its name? Or where Copeland’s brother Stewart came up with the band name ‘the Police’? Their father was an American CIA agent back during the Cold War (and a big hawk when it came to American intelligence operating covertly in other countries’ affairs, by the way), so the names are a sort of nod to their bureaucratic connections. His mother was a British intelligence agent. After their father retired in 1983 he granted a lengthy interview to Rolling Stone magazine where he issued a prophetic warning about the emergence of Middle-Eastern terrorists as a major future threat to western nations. It’s kind of an interesting read twenty-three years later).

Anyway, the band reformed and the album was released, although the professional reviews were rather weak, and I don’t think it sold all that well (my copy is from a cut- out bin anyway, which tells me something). I believe they enjoyed a few years of touring success due to the reformation though, so at least something good came of it.

Like I said, there’s no vocals on this album, the only of its kind for the band that I’m aware of. The band also employs a few more instruments than on the early albums like banjo, slide guitar, a mandolin, and even some keyboards (which are pure eighties- sounding, by the way). Overall the album sounds like a lot of the stuff Jeff Beck, Summers-Fripp, Group 87, and Steve Morse were doing around the same time, although only Beck and Morse approach the level of skill Turner and Powell exhibit on guitar.

Surprisingly the band wrote their own arrangements, which is worth a mention at least. None of the tracks here stand out in particular, although “Clousseau” has some very nice electric picking in it, and “Arabesque” has a rather exotic feel to it, albeit mostly due to the keyboards.

About the closest the band comes to the heavy guitar sound of their early albums is on “Something's Happening In Room 602”, but even here the keyboards give the track a very eighties sound that doesn’t wear all that well over time; and “The Spirit Flies Free”, which is almost devoid of keyboards and as such is probably the best representative Wishbone Ash track on the album (although here the mandolin is quite prominent).

“T-Bone Shuffle” is included on some reissue CD versions of the album, and this is a much stronger guitar composition than anything else on the original release. I’m not sure where this one came from, but if you pick this up, look for the CD version that includes this track as it’s worth a listen.

This is the oddest sound of a band that has certainly had their share of incarnations over the years. I can’t say it’s necessarily a great or even memorable sound, and the keyboards and comparatively subdued guitar riffs place this music squarely in the eighties, so I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone but devoted Ash fans. This would be the last Wishbone Ash album I ever bought (so far), although from what I understand they had a bit of a resurgence in the mid-nineties, so those records might be worth checking out at some point. It’s very close to three-star material just for the great production and tight arrangements, but it’s lacking in spark and doesn’t showcase the band’s strongest talents (guitars) all that well, so I’ll settle for two stars.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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