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Wishbone Ash - Argus  CD (album) cover

ARGUS

Wishbone Ash

 

Prog Related

4.23 | 475 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
3 stars Wow... this is daunting. It's not the idea that I'm reviewing this album, it's more that I'm the first person to give this album under four stars AND write a review to defend it. Well, let me say first that this three star rating really means three point five. Argus was voted album of the year in 1972 over my two favorite albums, Thick as a Brick and Foxtrot, but I have no animosity towards the album, as it has some truly amazing music. Unfortunately, it also has some music that seems bland and does little for me. I love keyboards, but there are none here. While this did not automatically affect my rating of the album, I'm sure their presence could have helped.

What this album does feature are twin guitars, and they are my first exposure to that. Needless to say, when they're on form, the double lead guitars create excellent effect. As you can probably figure out from the prog-related label on this album, it's more straight rock than prog, but don't discount it just for that. Clearly, given the reviews so far, it has something magical, and, while I don't see this in all of the tracks, this album has some incredibly high high points (in other words, Argus has some high points you'd expect to find on five star albums). Also, the cover art is excellent (you can see it at the top of this page).

The album itself is very progressive, despite the fact that the music isn't always particularly so. The album starts of not so great, getting steadily better until finally it reaches a pulse-pounding climax. Time Was is probably the most progressive track on the album, but it does surprisingly little for me. The music just doesn't grab me, and the lyrics don't strike me as particularly intriguing or well-written. It opens softly, then builds up for three minutes until it becomes more upbeat straight rock, though it has progressed. Well, I'm generally not a fan of just straight rock, and this doesn't do it for me. There are a few more changes in the song, but all I would say about them is more of the same. It really doesn't grab me.

Sometime World is a softer song, and relatively progressive, much like Time Was. Around three minutes in, it really starts getting interesting, with some nice vocals and guitar and a great overall feel, but it takes too long to get there, and I find myself bored until the song changes. It's a great improvement over Time Was, but it has a few too many problems for me to really consider it "great" or "classic."

Blowin' Free gets me skeptical before it even starts. What's the need for the apostrophe in the title? But the music disappoints, which is rather more important. It's more straight rock, and this time, it's not very progressive at all. No changes, and I don't really like the main theme of the song, so I have no choice but to dislike the song. The opening minute, where it builds and has a nice guitar solo, is very good, but the ending guitar solo is equally bad. It simply sounds like noise pelting my ears. But do not despair, the best is coming.

From here on out, the tracks get progressively better (well, Warrior and Throw Down the Sword are tied in goodness). The King Will Come opens very nicely, building up to a great bit of guitar. This goes away to some nice vocal harmonies, but lurking behind this are unimaginative drums. This is the first song on here that has really grabbed me and said, "hey, look here, inpraiseoffolly, I'M GOOD!!!! NOW LISTEN!!!" And it is good. It's less straight rock than the earlier songs, which is good. It is liberally sprinkled with excellent guitar solos, which is also good, but best are the vocals and lyrics, and the melody of the vocals, which is what really sucked me in. The album still has better to offer though, so get ready.

Before we hit the apex of the album, we have the lovely, softer Leaf and Stream. The very beginning gets you interested, and then the beautiful vocals come in, carrying very good lyrics. The song isn't particularly progressive (neither is The King Will Come), but neither is it just straight rock, blasting along without regard to how it might be sounding. Leaf and Stream combines rock with a progressive feel if not actual progressiveness, and the effect is very nice. But now, what you've all been waiting for, and the very best of Argus.

Warrior has an amazing guitar intro, then everything else comes in, with one guitar carrying the song, and one soloing, which is a very nice effect. It goes on in this manner for a short while, then mellows out a bit for the vocals. Lyrically and vocally, these last two tracks are the best on the album, and musically, they're miles above everything else found on Argus. Over the course of the song, the music builds up steadily, eventually leading to the stellar ending, the repetition of the chorus, "I've got to be a warrior, a slave I couldn't be, A soldier and a conqueror, fighting to be free." Before this, though, the "time will pass away" section is also particularly excellent. I guess I prefer this track to Throw Down the Sword, but honestly, they're both too good to be picky about which I like more.

Throw Down the Sword features excellent vocals and lyrics, but never builds up to the sheer energy of Warrior. Rather it brings the album out in excellence. The intro gets you interested, especially the drums, slowly building up, but the realization of this building is uneventful. Now, the music it builds up to is good, but the music it built up to and the actual building up music don't quite seem to fit, and the transition is a bit awkward. But once we're past that, we can sit and revel in its amazingness. There's a bit of a mellow feel here, but it doesn't lack energy, and it keeps you engaged throughout. Again, it is less straight rock than the opening three (and even Warrior, but Warrior is still quite progressive) and more, well, I won't say progressive, but more complex and intelligent is I believe what I'm looking for.

For the first three songs of this album, I give two stars. For the next two, I give three and a half stars. For the last two, I give four and a half to five stars. This album has some great moments, though there are a few too many guitar solos (so if you love guitar solos, you definitely want this album) and a bit much straight rock than appeals to me. So, while I'm in the minority, and a small one at that, I don't think this album is all that it's cracked up to be. No, I take that back. It IS all that it's cracked up to be, just not in my style, just not completely within my range of taste (though, as you can see, parts of it do overlap). It is the same with this album as with Mahavishnu Orchestra's Birds of Fire. Both are great music that simply don't completely fit within my general taste. I greatly enjoy both albums, but not to the extent that I ought to based solely on how *good* the music is. I won't debate the brilliance of the albums, just the extent to which the brilliance manifests itself to me. This album is not simply good, but non-essential. This is one of the best prog related albums around, and I urge you to try it, no matter how I felt about it.

3.5 STARS: ESSENTIAL, BUT NOT QUITE MY PREFERRED STYLE OF MUSIC.

Pnoom! | 3/5 |

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