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Wishbone Ash - Nouveau Calls CD (album) cover

NOUVEAU CALLS

Wishbone Ash

 

Prog Related

2.93 | 68 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
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

tszirmay | 3/5 |

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