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Wishbone Ash - Argus CD (album) cover

ARGUS

Wishbone Ash

 

Prog Related

4.22 | 601 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars One of my earliest LP memories occurred in 1974 when my brother brought home a WISHBONE ASH album with an odd cover, called "There's the Rub". With the exception of an olde Englishe styled folk song, it didn't do much for me. Over the years I occasionally would discover another WA album in a delete bin and, when in a more extravagant mood, might actually pick it up for a song, literally. For a long time I thought they were an American group with a passing interest in their Anglo heritage, because most of each album was given over to midwestern cum southern rock of little distinction beyond dueling guitars, which is only "special" if you think in terms of WA as a progressive band.

My relationship with the band might have ended thus, although I admit to wondering now and then if all their songs of the "Lady Jay" or "Valediction" ilk might be collected on some nerdy "best of" just for folkies like me. Finally, with "Argus" being praised to the skies here, in stark contrast to all other WA productions, and available at a low sticker price, I decided to invest and give the group yet another chance. My conclusion: overall it's better and somewhat more progressive but with a persistent tendency to faceless 1970s phrasings, redeemed from some decidedly stronger tunes.

"Time Was" contains two rather lifeless segments, one mellow acoustic and the other raucous, but the effect of both is simply to mercilessly extend the drudgery. "Blowin Free" is even worse, sort of like STEELY DAN colliding with the DOOBIES and the ALLMANS, and sounding even worse. "Sometime World" starts off like more of the same, but the bass and vocal work after the halfway point showcase a vital aspect to the group missing in even their more melodic tracks. Among the latter, "The Leaf and the Stream" is a fine acoustic number, while "Warrior" utilizes one guitar for the most magical soloing and the other for rhythm. It changes pace here and there until the powerful chorus rumbles in. Although it is oft repeated, each incantation is separated by more lead histrionics. "Throw Down the Sword" end the album in fine fashion, and integrates the faux traditional and hard rocking styles well.

In the end, it is not so much the presence of two guitars that salvages this effort, but the absence of keyboards that, in the many high points, are not missed at all. So rarely can this be done outside a metal context that it is worth wishing for, and is happily attained often enough on Argus to warrant guarded praise.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |

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