I think I like Wishbone Ash. By that, I mean I’ve heard a few tracks and being generally a progressive rock fan, I have liked, sometimes really liked, what I have heard so far. I happened to acquire pretty much all their vinyl LPs in a big box of mostly prog stuff purchased online years ago, but haven’t really listened to any of them with any degree of discernment. Apart from Argus of course. Everybody has listened to Argus.
Released in 1977, Front Page News definitely rates as early Wishbone, but even so this is what they call the Mk 2 lineup and there seems to be a consensus they were passed their best by then. I hadn’t realised they had been so prolific latterly either, with regular releases well into the 2010s.
Anyway, not one to shy away from the ‘random item’ button in my Discogs collection, Front Page News is up next…
We start with the title track, and first impressions are very clean, very precise lead and bass guitars accompanying a middle-of-the-road, easy-listening vocal, complete with harmonies Fleetwood Mac would be proud of. Hardly Prog Rock. Not unpleasant by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe my expectations need to be readjusted. It could be I was unlucky in m,y choice slightly too, as other reviewers have said it is a huge contrast to their more rock-based albums such as New England. But we’re not listening to New England.
The album continues with Midnight Dancer, and it’s more of the same. I think if you weren’t paying attention you might think it’s just a continuation of the first song. The phrase ‘well constructed’ is used a lot when talking about tracks from this LP, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
So far Front Page News reminds me of when Pink Floyd went a bit rubbish. It’s just a bit wishy-washy, like a poor man’s Dire Straits. Goodbye Baby Hello Friend continues in exactly the same way.
OK, enough negativity. Surface To Air actually ups the tempo slightly and the guitar has more depth and is a tad more in your face. The main melody though, again, is weak. 714 I actually like. Or at least I like the beginning until the slide guitars kick in.
I have, by now, completely forgotten this is Wishbone Ash and have started thinking of it more as a background track in Top Shop, or accompanying a documentary about The Savannah.
Come In From The Rain took me right back to a memory I had almost buried. One birthday my older brother bought me a Bonnie Raitt CD, Luck of The Draw. I hated it. But I respected my brother’s tastes, so thought the problem must be with me. I played it over and over and honestly, to my shame, started to like it after a while. Come In From The Rain has almost the same song construction and delivery as a Bonnie Raitt track. You heard it here first.
Right or Wrong tries a little harder but is struggling to be heard amongst the other tracks weighing it down. The vocals on this track sound bizarrely like Ian Anderson from Tull, which is probably why I like this track a little more than the others.
Heart Beat is dreadful. Sorry, I know I said that was enough negativity, but even the slurry vocals trying to conjure up John Martyn fail to add anything to this track.
And it’s beaten me. I’ve just listened to the first minute or so of the next track, The Day I Found Your Love and couldn’t carry on. Finishing off with Diamond Jack and this does, at least, feel like it doesn’t quite belong on the album. It’s faster paced but finishes too soon to really grab you. Too little too late.
So this album isn’t for me. It may be a grower, as lots of people say it is, but if Bonnie Raitt has taught me anything it’s that ‘growers’ are the equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome for music. They can blind you. Convince you you are listening to something that just isn’t there. Trust first impressions and instinct, and this album is probably one for the ‘give to charity’ pile.
Shame, because as I said at the start, I thought I liked Wishbone Ash, and maybe I still do, just not this version of them and not this album.