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Wishbone Ash - There's The Rub CD (album) cover


Wishbone Ash


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3.90 | 210 ratings

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4 stars First of all, a caveat: be warned that my above four-star rating is not meant to suggest that this album is an "excellent addition to any prog music collection" (as that rating would normally imply here). While THERE'S THE RUB is an excellent album, it is by no means progressive rock, but a straight-forward rock and roll album. Many long-time prog devotees enjoy Wishbone Ash, granted, but I can't in good conscience recommend this one to "any" prog fan, as there are doubtless those among us who eschew any and all unadulterated rock in favour of its "progressive" offshoots. That "disclaimer" out of the way, on to the review proper:

In 1974, veteran English rockers Wishbone Ash recorded their fifth studio album, THERE'S THE RUB. (The title is both a quote from Shakespeare, and a reference to the Hipgnosis cover photo of a cricket player rubbing a cricket ball clean on his trousers, in preparation for a pitch.) By '74, original second lead guitarist Ted Turner (brother of bassist/lead vocalist Martin) had left the band. He was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Laurie Wisefield, who ably fills the departed Turner's shoes here, and thus the group's trademark dual lead guitar sound (accompanied by fine vocal harmonies) survived intact.

I first bought this album in the year of its release. It was my first Wishbone Ash album (but not to be my last!), though I was already familiar with the band, thanks to my "cool" older sister, who had a copy of their masterwork ARGUS. I was led to my purchase through a glowing review in Circus (I was a devoted reader of that old rock mag), and when I got the album home, I found that the reviewer had not steered me wrong. This is a tasty slice of classic rock and roll, have no doubt!

Followers of the band (or of 70s guitar rock in general) should find plenty to please them here. The opening track, "Silver Shoes" is a near-seven minute portrait of an aging groupie, told via Martin Turner's plaintive vocals: "Silver lady, lost in a haze - regretting what you are. The memory of your claim to fame has left a bitter scar. It hurts when people know you're not a movie star. It's harder now than yesterday, as the lines begin to show." The song is somewhat slow in tempo, but it grows in power, and certainly rocks. The accomplished twin guitars make their presence felt right away, and Turner's crunching, floor-shaking bass is especially solid - as it is on entire album.

Next up, "Don't Come Back" jacks up the pace. This rocker, which gives the "kiss off" to an unfaithful lover, has some particularly good axe work. Turn it up, and break out the air guitar!

"Persephone" slows things down through a melancholy, yet musically-powerful look at a fading beauty and actress. We get some pretty, evocative mandolin from guitarist Andy Powell, as well as some truly soaring lead - very nice indeed!

Track four, "Hometown," is another out-and-out rocker, and a joyous celebration of how it feels to travel back to one's long-missed place of origin. (I can relate..) This one is also a great candidate for dusting off the old air guitar!

"Lady Jay" is my overall favourite. The lyrics (based on a Dartmoor folk legend) tell a moving, tragic tale of forbidden love across class lines, leading to jealousy, suicide and heartbreak: "She found Death's open arms, and lay in them in grace - I watched as icy fingers clawed her lovely face. far beyond the sand, I will take your hand - the spirit of our love will live forever. Far beyond the clouds, we will laugh aloud - the spirit of our love will live again." Some banjo in the mix (courtesy of Wisefield) helps give this magnificent song added depth and an appropriate folk-like feel, while some Spanish-flavoured lead imparts stirring beauty and emotion. I can honestly say this is one of my favourite Wishbone songs, and easily able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything from their catalogue.

The album closes with "F.U.B.B." (Rumour has it the initials stand for 'F***ed Up Beyond Belief.") (Ha!) If that is so, this nine-and-a-half minute instrumental opus certainly doesn't suit its title. The piece starts out slow, with throbbing, gutsy bass, ringing guitars, and hard-hitting -- yet precise - drums, then gradually builds in power. About two-thirds of the way through, there's a transition to a funky end section with rhythmically-strummed guitar, singing lead, precision high hat, and chugging bass. (In '74, disco was a force in the land, but if that sappy, repetitive dance music had ever sounded this good, I would have been a confirmed fan, instead of a committed member of the sneering, resignedly-seated "disco sucks" brigade.) Great fun, and a fine selection for the highway!

Thus, THERE'S THE RUB is a terrific classic rock album, and a deserving addition to any Wishbone Ash fan's collection. Put it on, crank it up, and ROCK OUT!

Peter | 4/5 |


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