Simply Inspired -- Full of Charm and Energy
Roger Berlind | NY, USA | 07/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the second you hit the play button, you know you're in for a real treat with this album. The first song, "Time Was" starts out with some gorgeous acoustic guitar, which is soon joined by bass and then two singers singing "I've got to rearrange my life, I've got to rearrange my world" in lovely harmony. After a few minutes, drums herald a second, more energetic melody accompanied by electric guitars. This first song demonstrates excellent song writing and construction, mixing the many elements that made Wishbone Ash such a great rock band: very tasteful and inventive twin guitars, lovely vocal harmonies, good bass and drums, and the alternation of acoustic and electric sections. The entire album is simply inspired, full of charm and energy.
"Time Was" is followed by a fairly sad song, "Sometime World" about a lonely man who feels that the world has passed him by. But the first line, "I met a man who felt the same way" lets you know that the narrator who meets the man shares his sadness. Despite the sad opening, it transitions into a faster section which is much more upbeat. There are no lyrics to account for the change of mood, but maybe the two guys have cheered each other up by realizing they're not the only ones feeling down. (Or maybe it was just time for some kickass guitar solos.) It's another great song. This is followed by "Blowin' Free" about an ex-girlfriend with hair that blew free like a cornfield. This features all 3 singers and might make you think of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
"The King Will Come" is a song about the second coming of Christ on Judgment Day. It builds from near silence into a funky melody which then shifts to one of the best riffs on the album. Ted Turner then gives us a terrific guitar solo full of the blues. This is followed by a lovely piece of poetry, "Leaf and Stream".
The original album then finished up with a matched pair of songs about war and peace. The first, "Warrior", is about a man going off to war. It features a very uplifting chorus, "I'd have to be a warrior - A slave I couldn't be - A soldier and a conqueror, Fighting to be free." The second, "Throw Down the Sword", talks about the same man after the war is over. Note that the first line of "Warrior" ("I'm leaving to search for something new") is nicely balanced by the final line of "Throw Down the Sword" ("Only searching for an answer"). I think the point here is that war didn't give the narrator the answers he was looking for.
While the dual guitars of Andy Powell and Ted Turner are what the group is famous for, Martin Turner's bass playing is excellent and is well captured by engineer Martin Birch who engineered and/or produced albums by Deep Purple, Rainbow, Wishbone Ash, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden. It's nice to hear a bassist so clearly, especially one who plays with so much melody. Every song but one features harmonized singing from two or even three members of the group. Steve Upton provides tasteful drumming; he keeps his rhythmic textures light, allowing the other instruments and voices to shine.
I got the deluxe edition which includes a second disc with live recordings captured by the BBC after the album had been recorded. This is actually quite expensive ($35 compared to $11 for the single CD), but I'm glad I got it since I really like the music a lot and enjoy being able to hear the live versions. But many people might consider the deluxe edition too expensive. What you get are live versions of 5 of the new songs (with "Blowin' Free" and "Throw Down the Sword" repeated) along with another live version of "Phoenix".
The extra songs on the first disc are live versions of "The Pilgrim" and "Phoenix" from the group's "Live in Memphis" EP together with "No Easy Road" which was the B-side of a single. Note that the single CD version has a live version of "Jail Bait" (which was the third song from the "Live in Memphis" EP) instead of "No Easy Road". I don't know the song "Jail Bait" yet (which was on their second album, "Pilgrimage"), so I can't say which song is more desirable. While I like "No Easy Road", it is stylistically quite different from the rest of the music due to its boogie feeling and use of piano and seems out of place on this album. It's inclusion is the only flaw in an otherwise perfect album."