WISHBONE ASH – S/T: A Multi-Genre Rock Dynasty Begins

This album represents the birth of a classic rock dynasty, one constructed from a pioneering, influential use of dual-guitar arrangements in rock and a sound that offers its own exploratory yet accessible brew of hard rock, blues, folk, prog and perhaps a dash of psych.

The first side offers the most easily accessible material: it’s dominated by four-on-the-floor rockers like “Blind Eye” and “Lady Whiskey” that temper their heaviness with arrangements that weave in little progressive bridges that show off the fluid, melodic quality of their focus on harmonized guitar leads. The rock is offset on this side by “Errors Of My Ways,” an electrified folk piece with a group vocal and unique bridges that shift into waltz-like rhythms caressed by more of that elegant dual-guitar work.

The second side goes full “underground FM” on the listener with two epics. The first is “Handy” and weaves together a number of elements together into a fun little eclectic journey: quick bass and drum solos, a pastoral jam, an uptempo heavy-rock passage and a fun jazz closer with vocals. The album finale is “Phoenix,” a permanent fixture in the group’s live set that uses the death-and-resurrection theme of the titular creature as the basis for a tension-and-release epic that starts off in a mellow-psych mode and gently swells with electrified guitars to a fast-boogie finale that hits like a panzer attack.

The resulting album is a cohesive statement of who the band was at the outset of their long and winding journey through rock history: capable of a variety of moods and compositional lengths while placing a value on musicianship and tightness of group chemistry.  It’s also a beautiful reminder of a time when anything was possible in the commercial rock marketplace and bands were willing to cruise through the contours of all that beautiful freedom.

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