In the early 1970s, Devon’s Wishbone Ash were one of the freshest and most exciting and original bands on the UK rock scene. When I witnessed them as a wide-eyed teenager I was convinced they were the greatest band on earth and I would never see better – and as it happens, there haven’t been many. One of if not the first to perfect the twin lead guitar sound copied a billion times since, their live performances were hailed as much for their honesty and musical integrity as for their excitement. Argus, the band’s third album released in 1972, was the most successful of their long career, containing perennial faves like the classic Blowin Free. This double CD set contains the remastered original album plus a live disc compiled mostly from BBC shows introduced by the ever cringe-worthy Whispering Bob Harris. Do they sound dated? Yes, they do! Does anyone care? Not me – this is great stuff!
Andy Parker, Burton Mail, Staffs 23 Nov 2007
It seems incredible that, 35 years on from the first release of Wishbone Ash’s masterpiece, there will be rock music lovers around now who hear the word Argus and think you are talking about catalogue shopping. Wishbone Ash were once so close to supergroup orbit, it felt as though their work would reverberate for ever. Argus was the top album of 1972 according to Sounds music weekly. Today, however, it would only top the forgotten-gem category.
From a musical standpoint, then, any re-release of the original is good news, particularly this re-mastered digital version which offers later generations some rock education in a modern format while giving those more chronologically challenged a chance to revisit, de-hissed, part of the soundtrack to their youth.
Argus was Wishbone Ash’s third album and they have never bettered it in terms of impact, musicianship, lyricism and concept. Boasting mythically tinged folk powered by twin lead guitars, a tone of legend and valour is set by the watchful guardian of the title gazing out from the front cover. Track names such as Warrior, The King Will Come and Throw Down the Sword fuel the mood, while the illusion is given musical form by repeat use of contemplative openings which build inexorably toward the majestic electric duels between Ted Turner and Andy Powell.
The apotheosis of this comes on the haunting finale Throw Down The Sword, a luxuriant slice of classic-roc heaven which, on pain of death, should always be heard as the album’s final word. Unfortunately, the re-mastered original bleeds into so many bonus tracks, that won’t be easy.
There are 11 in total, which include an overwhelming three versions of Sword, three of another Argus track Blowin Free and two of The King Will Come. The quality too can be destabilising. A vintage selection recorded for radio, centering on the 1972 set from Radio One’s In Concert, has a very rough and ready feel. The Pilgrim and Phoenix are taken from Live From Memphis, a US promotional oddity. To further challenge the meaning of bonus, everything here has been released before; even the re-mastered Argus first came out five years ago. These bits are clearly for the Wishbone anorak.
At least Argus still retains its power. Which cannot be said for the band, whose following is now cult not mass. There are two versions of Wishbone Ash, one fronted by Powell, the other by founder member Martin Turner, who is considering recording a new version of Argus next year. Thirty-five years on and it still defines the band.
Martin Thorpe, Classic Rock, Dec 2007
Although Wishbone Ash’s final album – their third, released in 1972 – was remastered five years ago, this ‘deluxe’ re-release should be welcomed by Ash aficionados for its inclusion of a second CD of the band’s launch of Argus on BBC Radio 1’s In Concert programme, linked by a young, pre-whispering Bob Harris, and it should be embraced by any classic rocker too young to remember the album but respectful of the fact that it was voted 1972’s finest by readers of both Sounds and Melody Maker. Ash’s melody making was based on folksy tuneful harmonies allied to glorious, blues/rock instrumentation via those trademark twin guitars of Ted Turner and Andy Powell. Although sounding a trifle dated 35 years on, it’s still head and shoulders above new releases in ’07.
Ashley Franklin, Rock Society, Dec 2007
It’s always a strange feeling reviewing an album that has been around for nearly 35 years and been subjected to every criticism – and in this case mainly acclaim – possible.
Wishbone Ash’s Argus is so often described as their definitive album and it has been remastered from the original tapes and re-released with a bonus concert disc.
Argus was originally recorded in 1972 and propelled the band to major league status alongside the likes of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath. It was also voted Best Rock Album of the Year by the readers of Sounds magazine.
Argus was originally seven tracks, but this remastered disc also contains three bonus tracks of rare BBC radio recordings and live recordings from 1972.
There is also a bonus disc which features the band’s memorable 1972 BBC Radio One In Concert appearance which launched Argus and remains one of the best concerts recorded for radio by Wishbone Ash.
Track upon track builds as a showcase of what can be created when not only talented but incredibly creative and musically tight musicians get together.
As the average seven-minute song length suggests the music is quite progressive. There are some immense instrumental areas to the songs and the remastered version only enhances this sound. Wishbone Ash’s music is a great candidate for this clear and fresh production.
Tracks such as Sometime World begin as beautiful ballads before gradually building into a chunky full-on guitar crescendo while Ted Turner and Andy Powell’s twin guitars offer an exciting dimension to songs like The King Will Come and Warrior.
This is an album that really has stood the test of time and swaggers with a self assured confidence into today’s generation’s music collection.
Sharon Richardson, Great Yarmouth Advertiser, 22 Nov 2007
The best reissues of 2007.
No. 7 - Wishbone Ash - Argus
Not only the most celebrated album from this Brit band, but among the most influential in establishing the twin-guitar approach. It’s an essential record, if only to prove how underrated Wishbone Ash remain.
Classic Rock, Jan 2008
Wishbone Ash’s third album is generally cited as their definitive recording. Released to widespread acclaim in 1972, it included several of the tracks which have been most readily associated with the band ever since.
The LP that happens to incorporate such compositions as “Blowin Free” “The King Will Come” “Throw Down The Sword” and “Time Was” is inevitably going to remain an absolute favourite among Wishbone Ash devotees.
Its diverse repertoire encapsulates the characteristic elements of the group’s sound, which afforded it a lofty standing in 70s-vintage progressive-classic rock.
Assured and attractive vocal endeavours combine with an instrumental approach most notable for its twin-guitar interplay; the songs themselves carry ambitious and mature lyrics which can embrace mystical themes and biblical references – the words set to eclectic but always melodic music that encompasses driving boogie work-outs and pastoral, more folkie sensibilities.
This double CD special edition runs for nearly two and a half hours; the original album is its starting point, with the first disc carrying a re-mastered “Argus” plus the b-side of a single and two live tracks from an EP and the second disc comprising contemporary sessions recorded for Radio 1.
The broadcast performances are dynamic and enthralling excursions through nearly all the songs on “Argus” together with two epic renditions of “Phoenix” and one of “The Pilgrim” – both of these earlier pieces similarly emerging as perennial Ash thoroughbreds.
The Beat, Dec 2007
Ash don’t seem to have dated as well as other bands: they did the twin lead guitar thing long before Thin Lizzy but while Lizzy are perennial favourites Ash are largely forgotten.
The Allman Brothers are revered but say “Ted Turner and Andy Powell” and people would probably say “Television guy? Radio One DJ?”
Originally released in April 1972, “Argus” is said to be the crowning moment of the recording career of Wishbone Ash. Fans and critics see it as the definitive Ash album yet I bet it hardly ever figures in those “best 100 albums of all time” polls you get when magazines and newspapers need to fill space.
If you’ve never heard of Ash, they’re a bit like Jethro Tull or Yes: prog rock combined with jazz, blues and folk, with quite delicate vocals. In fact the whole sound is delicate and precise, even when both guitars are going full bore.
It opens with “Time Was” , initially a gentle acoustic track which then gently explodes into some kind of Americam alt country rock song; think the Allman Brothers. There’s a nice rocky ending with a big guitar solo. This is prog rock so it’s 9.44 long.
“Blowin Free” is a classic, from the opening guitar to the jazzed up 12 bar blues to the hippy lyrics: “I thought I had a girl / And all because I seen her”. This guitar section towards the end could have been performed by Thin Lizzy in their early days.
“The King Will Come” is next, another classic: again, think Allman Brothers. If the riff was beefed up and speeded up, Iron Maiden (more twin guitars) could have done it. And I don’t want to bang on, but the distorted guitar solo sounds suspiciously influential in Thin Lizzy’s “The Rocker”.
The band members are all really good players so musically it’s of a high standard and the tunes are good; it just lacks something, probably a vocalist and with a distinctive voice – particularly noticeable on some songs, like “Sometime World”.
It’s also maybe just too good: it’s technically superb and great for a bit of loud navel gazing but doesn’t make you go “Whooooaa!”
This new edition features the original album mix, newly remastered from the original tapes plus rare BBC Radio sessions, live recordings from 1972 and a bonus disc featuring the band’s 1972 BBC Radio One “In Concert” appearance which launched “Argus”.
An ideal Christmas present if you (or your dad) are into prog rock, and if you like the Thin Lizzy twin axes or the rolling country tinged American rock from the early 70s, give it a whirl. It came out on Monday.
Congleton Chronicle, Cheshire 29 Nov 2007