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Wishbone Ash - Argus CD (album) cover


Wishbone Ash


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4.24 | 715 ratings

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4 stars I'm not sure was it "Argus" or was it "Wishbone Four" the first Ash's album that I have listened to, in 1976-1977, thanks to good friend of mine who came back from UK, from English Language Summer School, with a couple of great LPs, but never mind, from that time till now, "Argus" has remained one of my favorite albums. Like in the cookbook, add to it Thorens turntable, huge Marantz cassiver (receiver with incorporated cassette tape module), and Acoustic Research loudspeakers, and love at first listen is born. So, at very first listen, it grabbed me and that grip is still firm. Twin-lead guitar sound, very nice melodies and harmonies, three "warriors" tracks that make some kind of concept, songs that have original structure, different from usual radio hits (most songs structure are not usual, without classic verse-verse-refrain-verse-refrain-solo form, and that also contributed to the progressive feel of album).

Every song is memorable, unique and fresh, nothing like something that is heard before or after. Later I have listened to other albums of MK I, and albums of Mk II, had opportunity to see Mk II live on "Just Testing" tour, and Mk IV on "Twin Barrels Burning" tour, but "Argus" stayed most loved and listened to. Other albums of Mk I are also great, so are "There's the Rub" and "No smoke without fire" of Mk II, each of it containing great songs, epics and concert favorites, but "Argus" was successful in making the album with most progressive parts, some of them thematically connected, which other albums lacked of, as a collection of unrelated songs.

First side is generally of life and love themes, while most of second side is of war oriented songs. The best A side song is "Time was" with beautiful acoustic intro, moving into hard rocking body where guitarists showed their pyrotechnic capabilities.

B side starts softly with one guitar playing rhythm, the other playing theme, accompanied with melodic bass line, all three building atmosphere of waiting for something to happened, raising a sound level slowly, and it really does, turning into most memorable guitar riff of all Wishbone Ash songs. And when lyrics comes, with "in the fire, the king will come", you are conquered and you surrender unconditionally. Song also has nice quite gentle intermission, that once again leads into famous guitar riff, moving to effective end. After "King will come", there comes beautiful ballad "Leaf and stream", some kind of contemplative thoughts of dreams and world beyond reality. And then again, return to warriors thematic, with two connected songs, first telling about the urge to fight for freedom, and second about a need to laying down the arms, cause in war no one wins and everybody lose. "Warrior" has interesting structure, starting with calm two verses melody, changing into strong, several times in a row repeated refrain, each time with differently played in-between connection, while "Throw down the sword", the only song with keyboard support, has beautiful twin guitars intro, leading into strong ballad, finishing with great guitars soloing, each guitar simultaneously leading its own solo, merging into one at the end. Excellent!

The album is produced by Derek Lawrence, who did a great job (he also produced their previous two albums, and later "No smoke without fire"), and engineered by Martin Birch (who later worked with Deep Purple, and especially with Iron Maiden where that recognizable twin-lead guitar sound can be heard). The cover art is on the same lane with music, with famous Argus guardian watching over.

The songs are positioned on sides A and B in a way that first is more rockier, while the second is more progressive. The only complaint that I have is that maybe songs on B side should have been slightly different ordered. I think that "King will come" must be placed right before the "Warrior", to make great three songs story of war and peace. "Leaf and stream" somehow calms down the continuity of most progressive part of album, and my opinion is that this song should have been first on side B. Luckily, on CD player is easy to enter wished song order, so everyone can make his own (mine is 1-2-3-5-4-6-7).

I got two versions of LP (one gate-folded, one just sleeve), and 1991 MCA CD reissue with B-side bonus track "No easy road", but that song is somehow out of context here, it just doesn't fit. Maybe the best choice is to find 2002 MCA remaster with whole three tracks rare live 1972 EP "Live in Memphis" as a bonus, with excellent 17 minutes performance of "Phoenix" epic from first album. There is also 2007 2CD Universal remaster, with aforementioned B-side track and unfortunately only partial live EP (without "Jail bait") on first disc, but with various live performances from "Argus" time on second disc.

In recent times, the second fraction of group, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash made excellent studio re-recording of complete "Argus" named "Argus through the looking glass" (2008) placing song "Blowin' free" as the last on disc (eventually it was supposed to be so in 1972, but LP format was a limited factor), followed by complete live version "Argus 'then again' live" (2008) by Andy Powell's fraction of band, and again by complete live performance by Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash on "The Life Begins tour" 2CD (2011). So we have four versions of "Argus" so far, two studio, two live, as a sign how much that album means to its creators (and to 'Ashers').

Regarding the first rockier album side, a kind of inappropriate place of "Leaf and stream" song on excellent more progressive B side, a fact that this is primarily a progressive rock archive, and that I am very fond of Wishbone Ash's music, bright shining four stars is something that I stand for.

cedo | 4/5 |


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