Dirty Dog Discs 2006 & 2007 / Cherry Red 2016
Ex-WISHBONE ASH bassist reassesses the band’s back catalogue to cast a softer shine on it.
Back in action in 2005, after years spent in creative limbo, Martin Turner came up with his own version of an ensemble he once was part of and took to the stage with time-tested classics and pieces never played in concert before, the results being these two discs – released separately but combined now to recreate an actual setlist. What couldn’t be recreated, though, was a collective spirit, as the veteran and his coterie didn’t have a new record to unveil, and the dry “Walking The Reeperbahn” from Turner’s solo album hardly fit the overall tight-but-loose context. Yet there’s no denying the strength of the performances and songs, both very familiar – such as the finale of “Jailbait” which was fed to the audience for call and response – and unjustly forgotten.
In order to remedy the situation with the latter, the group open the show with a breezy “Doctor” that, while instantly pushing a four-string to the fore, immediately shows Martin’s strain in the ASH DNA: soft rock where riffs are wrapped in glimmering gauze. In a similar way, the listener is reminded of how catchy “Say Goodbye” and “Front Page News” were back in the day, but the quartet can’t refrain from rocking, of course, albeit “Warrior” is much less belligerent here than ever before. Still, if “Blowin’ Free” and “Blind Eye” bare the old-school interplay of Ray Hatfield and Keith Buck’s guitars, some of vocal harmonies get sacrificed to the instrumental side of things, especially on “Lifelines” and other heavier tracks.
Wordless numbers like “F.U.B.B.” or “Outward Bound” may unfold a fusion aspect of the quartet’s approach, and the previously hidden depth of punchy pop cuts “Cosmic Jazz” and “Baby The Angels Are Here” is revealed for all to relish in a live environment. As an epitome of it, the bluesy jam “Flesh And Steel” finds original member Ted Turner join in the slider-enhanced fun and stay on to deliver the less-celebrated gem “Why Don’t We” – graciously punctured by Martin’s bass. Why he needed to conjure up the ASH name to steer his own ship is a question, then, because while Turner’s at it, there’s another side to the classic tale.