Neat 1985 / The Right Honourable 2018
A bone of contention in British band’s catalogue that may not drip with blood but retains period appeal.
Universally panned as the veterans’ worst oeuvre, this offering may deserve to feel alien to many a fan – only it would be unfair to call “Raw To The Bone” a bad album. Were it a different collective who delivered the record, praise for valiance could be in order, but for the band that had proudly stood on the crossroads between progressive music, hard rock and folk early and later on, with a few smaller streams carrying their leaf, the ten songs released in 1985 seemed too devilish a deviation.
The reason was simple and understandable to an extent: in an attempt to catch up with time, the quartet parted with their timelessness and almost lost their identity. Snippets of the group’s patented style scattered across the tracks, the instances of twin-guitar action are few and far between here, which doesn’t mean there’s no classy moments on this platter.The ensemble passed on the heavy developments applied to "Twin Barrels Burning" and took the easy road, locating their melodicism in less expected places, to concoct an entertaining work nevertheless. Grasping a disco groove, “Cell Of Fame” is possessed with strange allure that helped this piece stand its ground on stage alongside the group’s old gems, as concert recordings on the second disc suggest, riffs sweetened to the max, and Merv Spence’s vocals shooting for the stars.
Of course, directed by THE POLICE producer Nigel Gray whose sleek sound didn’t suit WISHBONE ASH so well and went against the grain of the record’s title, the album breathes quality, yet the message behind “Perfect Timing” is rather ironic, and if “Long Live The Night” comes full of ethereal lyricism, the ’80s-shaped take on LITTLE FEET’s “Rocket In My Pocket” is ill-advised and little short of deplorable. Padded with keyboard splashes, “Love In Blue” similarly fails to resolve its soulful funk, and “It’s Only Love” looks quite pale although supple, licks-wise, Laurie Wisefield and Andy Powell trading tasty chops, while somewhat sharper “Dreams (Searching For An Answer)” is too static to impress. Still, “People In Motion” bristles with hard-rock intent – only to dissolve the potential assault in pop airiness, where the tight throb of “Don’t You Mess” and the superficial, falsetto-bound buzz of “Don’t Cry” belong as well.
The rawness was back for the album’s follow-up sessions that brought forth four tracks but, thankfully, didn’t result in a record which could become the group’s undoing: if the tremulous “Valley Of Tears” hits the nerve even now, the rest of it, “Apocalypso” first and foremost, is pure period pieces, all previously unreleased and added as bonuses to this reissue. Also in tune with its era, yet laid down by the quartet’s classic line-up – called back to arms for another span – the delicate “She’s Still Alive” is up there with the ensemble’s best ballads proving they didn’t have to betray the past in order to take hold of the future. That’s a milestone which had to be passed by to see the brighter horizon ahead.