Wishbone Ash; one of the best preserved relics from the past, still firmly led by Andy Powell; one of the members who stood at the helm in the very beginning. I still cherish their very first albums, which are part of my vinyl collection. Over the years the band's line-up has changed, their music has changed and I guess my musical flavours have as well. Wishbone Ash's music seems to have drifted away from their base towards a more mainstream and classic rock style with ever more noticeable influences from the blues. The typical twin guitars that made them famous have remained, but in a way their compositions have lost something when the original line-up fell apart, so don't expect to find songs like Phoenix or Lady Whiskey. These days are long gone...
Over the years I occasionally bought albums of Wishbone Ash, which were always a safe buy; good compositions, nice music and well played. Now, Blue Horizon has been released and the band's line-up hasn't changed since their previous album Elegant Stealth, released in 2011, So vocalist and guitarist Andy Powell is joined by Finnish guitar player Muddy Manninen again, who replaced his fellow countryman and former Gringos Locos companion Ben Grandfelt after their Bona Fide (2002) album. Bass player Bob Skeat and drummer Joe Crabtree form the steady rhythm section.
Playing this album, I found hunches of the ancient past when the opener Take It back came out of the speakers. The multiple vocals and the recognizable twin guitar lines threw me back about forty years, strongly reminding me of the albums made by their famous line-up. When the album continues with Deep Blue and Strange How Things Come Back Around, the classic rock feel, drenched in high quality blues, pretty much takes over. Not bad songs at all, and I do understand this is what the majority of Wishbone Ash compositions sounds like nowadays, but they can only be seen as “good“ songs. A little different is Being One , where old times are mixed with later sounds, and the solos seem to be inspired by jazz/ blues guitarist Robben Ford at some points. The compositions that follow are taking a step back; Way Down South and Tally Ho! are quite relaxed and the solos are a joy to the ears of this long-time guitar freak, although the lyrics ”Tally Ho! And so it goes” are a bit dated in my ears. Nevertheless, just listen to the guitar parts; they really stand out. Mary Jane can be seen as a true blues composition and is reminiscent of Robben Ford's style again. The remaining compositions are alright; classic rock in optima forma. Only the last song, All There Is To Say, brings back soft focussed memories of times passed, filled with soft vocals and impressive guitars.
Like I wrote earlier, I occasionally bought their albums, because they were a safe purchase; good music, nice to listen to and always filled with stunning guitar parts. I guess Wishbone Ash made another safe album, that can be played while having a nice cup of tea. At upcoming live concerts, fans of classic rock that are tired of head-banging or just too old to do so, can gently wave their heads from side to side to this average, comfortable music.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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