Wishbone Ash: The Phoenix Rising Tour featuring Argus Live!
Even while the musicians of Wishbone Ash were working on their breakout album, Argus, they knew it was something special. Co-founder and former bass player Martin Turner knew that it would change everything. “I knew it would be an important album because I’d spent a huge amount of time and energy on it,” he said. “It was a bit like having a baby. I burst into tears the first time I listened to it.”
The April 1972 release of Argus turned the British group into international stars. The seminal work introduced a pioneering twin-guitar approach that was adopted by countless other groups. Argus went to No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and was voted “Best Rock Album of the Year” by the readers of Sounds magazine.
Wishbone Ash was formed in 1969 and quickly gained a following for its extensive use of harmony twin lead guitars. Inspired equally by British folk traditions, American jazz and R & B, the group is celebrating 50 years of continuous touring, interrupted only by the pandemic. It is, indeed, the quintessential road band. The one constant over five decades has been Andy Powell, voted into the Ten Most Important Guitarists in Rock History by Traffic magazine and into the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone.
Powell, too, knew that Argus was something special. The album is interwoven with medieval and spiritual imagery and features such classics as “The King Will Come,” “Throw Down the Sword,” and “Blowin’ Free.” It is where Powell and fellow guitarist Ted Turner perfected their melodic twin--lead style, which would influence groups like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden.
In his memoir, Eyes Wide Open, Powell spoke about what Argus meant to them all. “In retrospect, nothing else we did would be quite so significant. It turned out to be an album of powerfully, if loosely connect themes: time passing, aspiration, conflict, good and evil.”
The well-known album cover is an extension of the themes. The design, by the iconic English design group Hipgnosis, features a sentry surveying a misty landscape. It encapsulates the title of the album, taken from Greek mythology’s one-eyed watcher. “There was this wonderful cinematic imagery of ‘The Warrior’ on the cover, the artwork bringing a visual dimension to the music within,” Powell said.
Others have had a lot to say about Argus, as well. Bill Golembeski on Soundblab.com called it “Quite simply, musical magic. From its introspective start to the dramatic finish, Argus is simply sublime (and very British) progressive guitar rock music. The final epic, ‘Throw Down the Sword,’ slows to a dramatic and majestic finale that could, perhaps, be the soundtrack to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ ending in which Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo a bunch of Elves and, (according to family tradition,) Samwise Gamgee, sailed from The Grey Havens because you know, they all touched the Ring. Yeah, this music is that good and it possesses the most beautiful of a gloriously guitar-played sunset that ever touched the final grooves of a classic rock ‘n’ roll album. The record is a Phoenix that rises again and again…to, like all great albums, rise once more…”
And the significance, the mysticism behind the band’s name? The story goes that when the band was formed, band members suggested names on two sheets of paper. Martin Turner picked one word from each list and Wishbone Ash was born.
Sometimes it’s just rock ‘n’ roll.