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Wishbone Ash - Argus CD (album) cover

ARGUS

Wishbone Ash

 

Prog Related

4.24 | 711 ratings

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Kempokid
4 stars While the bulk of my experience with early 70s prog comes more from the more symphonic and jazzy sides of things, I still hold an appreciation for the style that Wishbone Ash has, feeling more like hard rock with proggy overtones, fitting more cleanly into the vein of classic rock while still clearly being something a bit more complex and often grandiose. Of the albums I've heard from this band, Argus is the one I'd consider their true masterpiece, being the album with the most well-realised sound, carrying some folkiness and medieval atmosphere that feels very core to their identity here, as opposed to just another element tacked on for the sake of it like I feel some prog bands can fall into the trap of. While this alone already makes this quite an entertaining album in its own right, it's the fact that this is couple with some exceptional songwriting and some of the best guitar work I've heard, these amazing elements coming together to complement the already promising sound that the album had going for it.

Time Was is your fairly typical prog epic in a lot of ways, but it's a pretty great one regardless, with the way the first few folky minutes then break into more energetic rock that reminds me of Rush, especially in the interplay between the guitar and bass, especially during solos. The song doesn't really hit any grand peaks like a couple of later tracks, but continuously shifts around extremely distinct sections, all of them paced quite well in order to give a very clear and satisfying sense of progression as everything keeps speeding up. Funnily enough, the song after this, Sometime World ends up following a lot of things that the opener accomplishes, but executes it so much better despite being about 3 minutes shorter. Once again, the song starts off being primarily acoustic, but this time around it's so much more emotional, the vocal melody and delivery being incredibly heartfelt as the hints of electric guitar just amplify the emotion. It's once this part ends that the song is elevated even higher however, with an incredible bassline backed up by one of the most epic sounding choruses I've heard, without even a hint of exaggeration, and it just doesn't feel like it stops, just keeps going with it until it erupts into an extremely triumphant, powerful guitar solo that floors me every time. All of this makes it one of the absolute pinnacles of 70s prog rock for me. It's unfortunate that this masterpiece is followed up by what's easily the weakest track on the album, and just a painfully mediocre one in general, sounding more like some generic hard rock than anything else, not really going anywhere interesting or having anything I'd personally consider enjoyable to listen to.

It's fortunate that things get back on track relatively quickly with The King has Come, which while having less of an overall impression on me than some other songs here, also has some of my favourite instrumental work on the album, especially in the intro, which builds up perfectly into a very memorable riff. The rest of it is a bit tamer than most of the album despite being one of the ones to most prominently make use of the electric guitar, overall another good song. After the reasonably decent, pretty Leaf and Stream, highlighting the folk aspects of the album exquisitely and creating a great atmosphere, the album closes off with the amazing one - two punch of Warrior and Throw Down The Sword, which once again return to the purely epic nature of Sometime World. Warrior in particular impresses me, especially with the vocal harmonies during the "I have to be a warrior" section, really just sounds amazingly powerful once again, especially once the guitar starts to interweave with the gaps in the vocals. Throw Down Your Sword brings things to a close perfectly, still having the sense of grandiosity, but with a sense of quiet triumph to it all. If Warrior was a song about an army going into battle, Throw Down the Sword would be the result after victory was achieved, and it closes everything off perfectly.

I find that the mix of prog and hard rock is that potentially can end up sounding rather generic or just uninteresting if not handled properly, leaning firmly into the aesthetic of one side too hard, which is something that I believe Wishbone Ash did right here, being able to avoid such pitfalls and using these 2 sounds to make something truly interesting and distinct. This is definitely an album that I'd 100% recommend to fans of artists such as Uriah Heep or Rush, but more broadly just to fans of hard and progressive rock in general, taking the best aspects from both of these genres and making something that I could easily see fans of either of them liking quite a lot. I'd rate this a bit higher even, but I personally do believe that Blowin' Free detracts from the album enough to give it a slightly lower score in the end.

Best tracks: Sometime World, Warrior, Throw Down the Sword

Weakest tracks: Blowin' Free

Kempokid | 4/5 |

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