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New England album review - Sounds, October 1976 by Barbara Charone

Blowin' Free Again


Even in their basement studio during the formative stages of recording New England, this album sounded good.  Rough mixes of the album sounded good in the mobile truck.  Finished tapes sounded good in the MCA conference room.  But the genuine piece of vinyl sounded even better on the home turntable.  Wishbone have found the echo they lost on their last two albums.  Say hello to the electric guitar twins.


From the start of New England it is obvious that this is a changed and improved band.  Unison guitar leads wend their way towards aggresive tension and electric dynamics.  There is nothing ordinary about New England.  Wishbone Ash expose a musical self-portrait that easily places them back on top of the rock ‘n’ roll hierarchy.


Forget about Argus, the tracks on New England are even more impressive, built around sturdier guitar foundations that never become repetitive or ineffectual.  Quite simply, New England is a bitch of a rock ‘n’ roll album.


The first few seconds confirm this fact.  ‘Mother of Pearl’ kicks off with an up-against-the-wall lethal dose of twin-lead aggro.  There’s no extraneous decoration here.  Instead the band and producers Ronnie and Howie Albert have left in empty spaces which increase the inbuilt tensions Martin Turner’s vocal rocks steadily.


This the the guitar album you’ve been patiently waiting for.  You don’t need an 8x10 glossy grimace of some posed rock star to hear these pyrotechnics.  ‘Runaway’ is built around a guitar riff strong enough to knock you over as the twin lead guitars sound as potent as days of yore but with seventies funk appeal.


Much of the album mysteriously reminds me of Clapton with Powell and Wisefield contributing immaculate but inspired slices of six string electric fire.  The main riff of each uptempo rocker is totally addictive.  It’s impossible not to fall victim to the subtle mainline of ‘Lorelei’ which Upton drives along with steamroller precision.


Throughout the album a genuine urgency permeates each track.  Funky r&b influences have never been more prominent as foot stomping rhythms gently replace more soothing harmonics.  Wishbone Ash flaunt their heavy rhythm section, surrounding this wall of bendable sound with one sophisticated assault after another.


Proof of this revived Wishbone Ash is the album’s finest moment, an instrumental called ‘Outward Bound’ which is one of the best tracks the band have ever recorded.  Incredibly aggressive, a disco feel permeates the perfectly structured tune with rhythms strong enough to make you dance.  Honest.


There are more typical Wishbone Ash excursions, dreamy ballads like ‘(In All Of My Dreams) You Rescue Me’ but even those are surrounded by fluid guitar support.  Stop looking for new guitar heroes more concerned with visuals than note for note virtuosity.  The days of endless disappointments by previous guitar idols are finally over.


Wishbone Ash have found the echo.  And the reverberations are impossible to ignore.  Go directly to your local record store and invest in a copy of New England.


And just listen to that echo.

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