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Wishbone Ash - 50 Years & Still Rocking

Wishbone Ash is one of those epic '70s bands that burned brightly for a few years, releasing top 10 albums, playing stadiums worldwide and then seemingly vanished. If you weren't listening to prog rock in '72 or maybe '74 you might never have heard of them. They never had a charting single in the US, no "Behind the Music" VH1 special, nothing. That makes it all the more surprising that 50 years later they are still recording and touring in the US and Europe.

Although Argus, their most famous and best-selling album, is not a rock opera, it comes pretty close. It's a concept album with a solid unifying theme (something to do with England and uh, fighting for king and country). It's an amazing album that ranges from prog rock to folk-rock harmonies, classic English blues and straight ahead rock and roll. It still sounds fresh and inspired almost 50 years later. To my mind Argus is one of the most important rock albums ever made. Argus is up there with the pantheons of British rock: The Shadows, Abbey Road, Exile on Main Street, Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin I, Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars and Never Mind the Bollocks. I don't think you can really understand the evolution and scope of rock and roll until you've heard this album. It's the Rosetta Stone that ties together everything from CSNY to Iron Maiden. 

Wishbone Ash pretty much invented the twin lead guitar sound which went on to influence bands like Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Steely Dan and even the Eagles. As mentioned, the band still records and tours, led by original lead guitar player Andy Powell. While they never surpassed the impact of Argus, they've had a productive career with 20 studio albums, a dozen live albums and many compilations. If you want to get a taste of the band, I recommend Argus, the compilation Time Was, and the live album Live Dates. There are some solid later albums including New England, Bona Fide, Elegant Stealth, No Smoke Without Fire. Blue Horizon, their most recent album, comes closest to capturing the magic of Argus. And next year should see the release of a new album Coat of Arms and another worldwide tour.

I've seen them live on several occasions at Callahan's, a now defunct club in Michigan, and they did not disappoint. These were among the best live shows I've seen. Check out some live clips on YouTube with vintage '70s pointy guitars, hairstyles and wardrobe. 


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