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Wishbone Ash

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2 stars To write a review of average album from group that I like very, very much, the group that has one extraordinary five star album, 1972 "Argus", is not a pleasant job, but is necessary to evaluate it's real value. One important thing about it is that is recorded by most successful, legendary first and best lineup, more than ten years since they recorded their last album together, which is good, while the other is that album is completely instrumental, which is surprising and a little bit strange. And instead of letting guitars "blowin' free", all songs are restricted below five minutes, most of them with inappropriate keyboard sound and schematic drumming. It seemed that lineup that recorded epics such "Phoenix", "Time Was", "King Will Come" and many other beautiful songs tied up themselves a hands, and the result is significantly under their real possibilities.

There are a few good tracks, that will pleased Wishbone Ash loyal fans, come rain or come shine. For example "Clousseau" (with catchy bass riff, fine guitars playing, melodic drumming and tempo changing), and three typical Ash tracks, composed by tireless Andy Powell, who still waves the Ash flag, "The Spirit Flies Free", "A Rose Is a Rose" and, from that time on, concert standard "The Real Guitars Have Wings" (guess whose).

People who already know Ash, don't need advice. But others who want to feel and hear real Ash, have to listen to their first five studio recordings. This one is stuck somewhere between second and third star rate mark, with significance on third, but with overall impression on second.

Report this review (#78958)
Posted Sunday, May 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars When people think of Wishbone Ash, what they have in mind is Argus. This is not good. It has been 37 years since they recorded their first, self-titled album and as someone has said, "they can still deliver"; during that time they experimented a lot - and Nouveau Calls is one of their experiments. The best one in my opinion.

Originally enough, there is no vocals on this one. Furthermore, this one is by their *original* line-up (this is to those who have been more or less disappointed by their previous endeavours with different bassists, me being one of them).

The songs may vary little, but the album itself is a great variation to what we heard before. Interesting guitar riffs and an appropriate sound engineering make this one a jewel. The absence of vocals leaves a lot of room for solos and complex harmony-duelling guitars stuff. Some of the songs that particularly stand out are Clousseau, From Soho to Sunset and Something's Happening in Room 602.

I recommend this album to anyone who wishes to find out that Wishbone Ash is more that their first four albums.

Report this review (#80582)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars As it says in the sleeve notes, the brief for this album runs 100% contrary to the industry norm. Miles Copeland got the original line up together to record an instrumental album where they could play their instruments free of any other consideration. The twin lead guitars are, as ever, much in evidence but are supplemented by judicious use of mandolin, banjo, lap steel and even some keyboards. It's more proggy than anything they did since Argus.

Does it work? To a very large extent, yes. The playing is interesting, the material is consistently listenable but some tracks do lack the true spark of greatness. Clousseau and In the Skin are excellent, bit the real highlight is the last three tracks on side 2 (I have the vinyl!), all from the mighty pen of Andy Powell, where the band soars like they did on Argus; exquisitely composed and played. The lack of vocals is odd, because on the follow up, Here to Hear, they showed that their excellent lyrical and vocal ability was still there in spades and their tour to promote Nouveau Calls was a triumph, complete with vocals on all the early songs. I saw them in Newcastle and the Ash fans treated them like gods on their second coming; the songs from this album stuck out a bit due to their instrumental nature but were well received.

So why did Miles Copeland commission this album? Truthfully, I don't know. He wouldn't make money because it's far from commercial stuff. All I can assume is that he was a rich man who wanted to hear one of his favourite bands back together. For that, we owe him all a favour. Not quite a masterpiece, but a good 4* effort and well worth buying.

Report this review (#80612)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Attention fusion fans! "No Speak" was a short-lived label that may be of great interest to fans of jazz-fusion or instrumental rock in general, and this is one of its catalogue's strongest offerings. Because their sound is not bound by WA's normally narrow vocal range and seeming sameness of songs, these tracks are atypically dynamic and successfully experimental to these well-worn ears.

Arabesque is a mindblower, and it shows the original band members reuniting to really focus on the music. This track alone is worth the price of the CD. Wishbone Ash pioneered its own brand of twin-guitar duelling backed by sweet melodic singing and ethereally chivalric lyrics. From its inception WA has always leaned toward extended songs dappled with sparse vocals. That's what makes Nouveau Calls a logical step, and all the more interesting

It is a complete departure for the Ash and a welcome one at that. Some long-time fans may miss the vocals however. All the same, there is a crisp freshness to Noveau Calls, and if this record is of interest to you, you may want to check out The Night Of The Guitar as well. Andy Powell and Ted Turner stand their own ground successfully against some of rock's great heavyweights (including Leslie West funny enough).

In fact, all of the "No Speak" albums are worth risking a listen so spread the word.

Report this review (#95524)
Posted Monday, October 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nouveau Calls is a great album. Fans were happy to see the Mk I lineup back together, and given early Ash albums, doing an all instrumental album was not a stretch. Some fans complain about the 1980s sound of the music; it's a sort of blend of '80's rock, fusion and Ash. But if you keep an open mind there's lots to like, and the sound quality and production are excellent. Incidentally, the bonus track (T-Bone Shuffle) is by M. Turner, not A. Powell & M. Turner as listed above.
Report this review (#102279)
Posted Saturday, December 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
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.


Report this review (#103890)
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album gives a new insight into the music of Wishbone Ash and proves they are not just a 1970s band and they're looking for some new inspirations and motifs. The guitar sound is crisp and clear, and amazing guitar soloes are built around nice and lively riffs. But the most important feature is that the band has finally made it available for their songwiriting to flourish unrivalled by lyrics; the music speaks for itself (so it must be a sort of a concept album as well). To my mind, this album is as revolutionary as King Crimson's "Discipline" (and I do see some similarities between them). I recommend the album to everyone who likes enjoyable guitar play, but especially to those, who think Wishbone Ash has ended in 1970s. A true Reunion!
Report this review (#106502)
Posted Monday, January 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I guess anyone who is really a music lover has got that band or album that just seems to rise above the rest and touches their music soul. Wishbone Ash and especially Argus were the band and record that did it for me. I expected alot from this band. I got goosebumps from their successes but would also be very disappointed by their failures. There have been plenty of both over the years but I have never been able to quite give up on them. This album is the one that I was most disappointed in. I`m sure that was partially due to my high expectations. Finally, the original line up back together and doing instrumentals to boot! Personally I did not find that strange. They were always capable of making the occasional top notch instrumental where you might find one per album. The long dual guitar jams on live albums also showcased their instrumental skills. I couldn`t wait to hear those soaring rocking twin guitars, Martin`s moving base lines and the musical but driving sounds of Upton`s drums. When they were at their best there was fire and passion in the music. When I was finally able to put it on the turntable I was totally disappointed. It`s not bad music but the things I loved most about WA were missing. No fire no passion very few rocking soaring dual lead guitar jams. Instead we get 80s synths, monotonous melodies and a somewhat sterile overall sound. The musicianship is top notch and the production is good but it just lacking something. Steve Upton might as well stayed home since he was reduced to a living breathing drum machine. There is just no feeling in this music. Ok for TV show themes, in movies or background for studying but nothing to really keep your interest. That being said, I`ve heard quite abit of this played in the live setting where some feeling can sneak in and it sounds so much better.
Report this review (#107484)
Posted Sunday, January 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars This album doesn't call for anything great, I'm afraid.

Where are the great twin guitars from the beginning? Gone, forgotten, and disappeared. What's left is just some sort of easy listening rock music with some reggae influence ("Clousseau"). Is this what one could expected from this band? The answer is NO. This is a minor album, not only in WA discography but as a rock work on its own. No passion, no wonderful melodies, no nothing. Just an addition of below average tracks. From start to finish.

This whole instrumental album is NOT the one you should listen to while entering their repertoire. Actually, you should not even consider listening to it. It is really poor and useless. None of the songs featured are worth a penny or a ?cent.

To summarize my opinion, it is a superb "press next" type of an album: from start to finish this time. A great zero. I can't rate it with less than with one star because PA doesn't allow to rate lower. But frankly, this album is just [&*!#]ty. One star. And I am generous.

Report this review (#457707)
Posted Monday, June 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Original Four are back together and the expectations are red hot, especially after the total failure of the previous two albums.

Those expectations were certainly NOT met by Nouveau Calls (pun for "No Vocals"), as it's up for the almost impossible: to be a great instrumental album; and it fails.

Although there is some interesting material, most of the tracks sound like they were made to have vocals, not to stand on their own as instrumental tracks. They largely lack the structure and uniqueness that would make them memorable.

Real Guitars Have Wings is arguably the best track, with it's main riff being a lot like the keyboard riff from Starvation by Socrates Drank The Conium. This is a very good composition, a track that can be a proud part of a Wishbone Ash "Best Of". For me, the last track worthy of that was Haunting Me from Just Testing, back in 1980.

The Spirit Flies Free is also a quality track, but the rest of the album doesn't offer something notable.

Since the album lasts 43:46 and only 6:59 of it are memorable (the aforementioned two tracks), the album can't be ranked higher than 2 stars. If it had vocals it would be a totally different album that could reach 3 stars under certain circumstances.

Report this review (#1630646)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is one of those much-maligned prog-rock releases that get slammed for being deviant of past classics, as if artists need to continually rehash the same but very good songs that made their fame. All the luminary bands like Jethro Tull (Aqualung/TAAB vs Under Wraps/A), Marillion, Oldfield, Yes, King Crimson etc' have faced this rather easy criticism , which often is quite unfair both to the artist (it's their art after all) and the discerning public (who may desire diversity). In the case of Wishbone Ash, there is little doubt that albums such as 'Argus', 'Live Dates' and 'There's the Rub' are recognized classics. Within such a long career, every artist has released some form of dud, whether forced upon them by sharky record companies (Lou Reed's monstrous' Metal Machine Music' comes to mind) or just plain old 'Sometimes I feel so Uninspired' vibe as penned by Traffic.

This is part of the IRS Records collection of reworked all-instrumental material (hence the 'No Speak' label) from artists as varied as Pete Haycock, Stewart Copeland, Billy Currie, William Orbit, Steve Hunter, Jimmy Z, Ronnie Montrose, Robbie Krieger, Jan Akkerman, Darryl Way and a few compilations. Some are pretty good, others okay but I daresay this is one of the better ones. Sadly, it gets knocked down by those who wished for another bone (excuse the pun) of dual guitar, rock 'n roll mayhem. Again context is crucial, as many progressive bands in the late 80s were left in the proverbial desert of unemployment, as disco, punk, grunge and new age ruled the airwaves. These were very lean years indeed and anything that defied the fads is better than silence, in my opinion. The set list on 'Nouveau Calls' (a wordplay on 'no vocals') comprises 11 tracks all written by Andy Powell, Martin Turner and Steve Upton, and by adding Ted Turner, this is the definite classic Wishbone Ash line-up. As discreet rock music but bold background music, it contains a few brilliant tracks, namely the suave 'Arabesque', the fabulous 'In the Skin', the heavily synthesized opener 'Tangible Evidence' (also emboldened by a delirious and funky bass furrow).

The other tunes are all interesting, the twangy, bass-propelled 'From Soho to Sunset' shows a slick technique of unending detail (lap-steel, mandolin) , some closer to rock roots like 'Something is Happening in Room 602' with its cool surf-guitar licks or the Police-like riffs on 'Johnny Left Home Without It', conjuring images of Andy Summers on the guitar. If one added vocals to songs like 'The Spirit Flies Free', this could have been a hit among their hits, as Powell and Turner show off gorgeous melodies on the fret boards, then shriek like madmen, the mandolin making another fine appearance.

The last two tracks are the Achilles heel of this album. Not a big fan of the rather limp 'A Rose is a Rose', it's a 'skip it' track that is just too saccharine for my taste. The finale is the short 'Real Guitars Have Wings', a mid-tempo piece that offers complex guitar interweaving but offers a very binary feel that fails to explode into nirvana. But the 9 previous tracks are completely listenable.

My conclusion: listen to this album without paying attention to who it is, let bygones be bygones and evaluate according to what you hear and not what you would like then to play. I enjoyed this album when it came out in the prog 'Ice Age' and still do today.

3.5 Novophones

Report this review (#1708328)
Posted Thursday, April 6, 2017 | Review Permalink

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