Review by Brian McGowan
If you like Wishbone Ash, you’ll love this.
Recorded in 1995 at the Rock Heroes Festival in, yes, Geneva. High Definition Digital Mobile Recording was being tried out by France Supervision at the gig, and the result is a dynamic, crystal clear recording and mix. Still to this day, one of the best I’ve heard, and it’s already 8 years old.
The band line up at the time was Andy Powell guitar/vocals; Tony Kishman bass/vocals; Mike (21 Guns/Asia) Sturgis drums and Roger Filgate guitar.
Powell recruited the band for the gig, and cliché or not, the quartet sound like they’ve been together since the start, a precision oiled machine, purring sweetly, reminding us of the undiminished eloquence and rock beauty of the music laid down over 16 albums.
The band’s pioneering twin guitar sound flourishes in the hands of original, Powell and new boy, Filgate, dazzling us with ringing harmonics, lyrical expression and contrapuntal solos.
Despite a hefty back catalogue, selected tracks from the seminal ’Argus’ still get ample airtime. Four are featured here including fan favourites ‘The King Will Come‘, ‘Throw Down The Sword’ and ’Sometime World’, but surprisingly, it’s the filigreed blues of ‘Blowin Free’ that impresses most in the live setting. The graceful gear-changes, from unconventionally poppy prog to chugging swamp rock are held together by an hypnotic mesh of elegant axe work, illuminated by the brief, fiery sparks of Filgate’s lead guitar. Head noddingly brilliant.
A five song, fan favourite medley (Lady Whiskey, Jailbait, Blind Eye, Phoenix, The Pilgrim) is bookended by ‘Keeper Of the Light’, from the more recent ‘Here To Hear’ (1989) and the much earlier lurching blues groove of ‘Runaway’, creating a satisfying centre point to the album.
There have been a few comments criticising the album’s sound as “cold and clinical”. But for me the digital recording and mix unwrap the live music’s full potential, adding warmth and tone, emphasising the delicate touches that many live recordings lose in transference from soundboard to disc.
Twelve tracks, seventy minutes of world class prog/rock/blues – a breathtaking document of a transcendent band, still as relevant today, forty years on, as they were in the decade of their birth.
8 out of 10
1. The King Will Come
2. Must Be Mad
3. Throw Down The Sword
4. In The Skin
5. Hard Times
6. Blowin Free
7. Keeper Of The Light
8. Blind Eye, Lady Whiskey, Jailbait, Phoenix, The Pilgrim medley.
10. Sometime World
11. Vas Dis
12. The King Will Come (bonus film footage)