45 Years Ago: Wishbone Ash Make Their Debut
Although they were rarely among the top-selling bands, Wishbone Ash were incredibly important on the development of hard rock. They released their self-titled debut album on Dec. 4, 1970.
Formed in 1969 by drummer Steve Upton and bassist Martin Turner, Wishbone Ash chose a different template than the three-piece defined by Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. While in the process of auditioning lead guitarists, they couldn't decide who to go with, so they ended up keeping both Andy Powell and Ted Turner and created a twin-lead attack. Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden would all claim Wishbone Ash as an early influence.
Originally managed by Miles Copland (brother of Stewart and future manager of the Police among others), they signed a deal with Decca/MCA and set about recording their debut. Very much a product of the era, Wishbone Ash shows a young and energetic band trying to find their own identity and, in this case, the two lead guitars certainly help that along.
The LP blasts off with "Blind Eye" which weighs in with some blues-based riffing not unlike early Jethro Tull (sans flute) or Love Sculpture. There are traces of progressive rock that creep in throughout the album -- not so much in style, but rather in the bravado of their attack. "Lady Whiskey" is another fine urgent bluesy rocker, while "Errors of My Way" is bathed in folk overtones.
"Queen of Torture" might be the most aggressive cut here, boiling over with fierce guitar work, while "Handy" clocks in at nearly 12 minutes, showing the band stretching out into an almost jam-band like terrain. The record ends with "Phoenix," another long jam (10-plus minutes) that features some of the album's finest guitar work. The band soon focused more on songwriting and less on jamming, but would never lose that edge. "At the end of the day, everything rests on the songs," Powell told Ultimate Classic Rock in 2013. "If you’ve got a good song structure, good lyrics, a good basis there, then the guitar players can stretch out. But it’s got to start with a good song. It always has been that way. It always will be."
Wishbone Ash would go on to truly find their own voice over their next two albums, Pilgrimage and especially 1972's Argus, which is routinely regarded as their shining moment. But Wishbone Ash remains a fine start to a career that is still going strong to this day with guitarist Andy Powell as the sole original member.
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