Cherry Red 2014
Subtitled “A Celebration Of Wishbone Ash Music” – or its less explored reaches – by the band’s estranged bassist and guests.
Given the acrimony between guitarist Andy Powell, who’s been leading WISHBONE ASH through thick and thin, and bassist Martin Turner, one would assume the latter might not be in the celebratory mood, yet with only one album of original music under his belt there’s no other option than to play old pieces. And why not, if Martin co-penned those? Still, for this live-in-studio performance rolled in August 2012 for the faithful, the veteran opted not to churn out classics, although the arresting likes of “No Easy Road” are looked into with much gusto here, but rustle up an array of rarities. The resulting recording, then, indeed provide, perhaps, not so easy yet riveting alternative route through WA’s past.
That’s why there’s the slide-caressed delicate “Lady Jay” instead of “Lady Whiskey” to tap into the folk strain of the band’s DNA, while its stray progressive gene floats to the surface in “The Pilgrim” with tight vocal harmonies shining through the slightly raw delivery. Turner goes as far as unearthing the multi-layered grace of “Fire Sign” which was omitted from 1978’s “No Smoke Without Fire” and resurrected by Martin for his aforementioned album, “Walking The Reeperbahn,” whence comes “Broken Down House” that’s slick in a modern manner, if true to tradition, just like the “In The Skin” instrumental. But the concert begins with the latest WA cut on offer, “Standing In The Rain,” where the bass takes an axis position to add funky crunch to the twin-guitar twang and twirl courtesy of Danny Willson and Ray Hatfield on the likes of “Doctor” or “Rest In Peace.”
Yet the final salvo of “Living Proof” and “Jailbait” sees two more axemen join in the fun, Martin’s old friends Ted Turner and Laurie Wisefield, working together for the first time, the former arriving in time for the tremendous, reggae-fied rendition of “Valediction” and staying onstage until the end. Sadly, drummer Steve Upton hadn’t lifted sticks for a long time and, therefore, remained in the audience that evening leaving the beat, very much pronounced in the rocking of “Why Don’t We” and “The King Will Come” with its starting ska scratch, to Dave Wagstaffe. So the reunion might have been partial here, but the celebration swings to the fullest. A one-off event.