Wishbone Ash used to be one of my favourite bands in my early days of discovering music and this band may be one of the reasons I turned to guitar orientated music. From blues and jazz to melodic, hard and progressive rock, all these styles were inhaled by this musical freak. Later my interest shifted to more metal orientated stuff and technical fusion and grooving instrumental albums. But I always have been true to the music that defined me. So Wishbone Ash used to impress me, especially the way Andy Powell and Ted Turner used to combine their skills and created a kind of new phenomena (for me) in those days; twin guitars. Also the fine vocals of Martin Turner and defined drums of Steve Upton made quite an impression. After the release of the double live album; Live Dates in 1973 things changed when Ted Turner left the band and was replaced by Laurie Wisefield and the next release; There's The Rub was still a very decent album. After that, the band started struggling to pursue new paths, wanting to conquer the US of A. Enter Number The Brave (1981), an album which I did buy because I was very curious how and if new vocalist John Wetton would make things change for the better. Although Martin Turners impact was sorely missed, the album showed a subtle progressive touch, but before this new territory could be fully explored Wetton left to form Asia after just one release. Now we find Wishbone Ash in a difficult position; the music had turned into radio friendly AOR kind of music and a new bass player/ vocalist was needed. Both Twin Barrels Burning as well as Raw To The Bone represent Wishbone Ash in their most difficult period ever.
The re-release of 1982's Twin Barrels Burning is presented as a double CD, which features the original album, including some bonus tracks on the first CD. The second CD sees The American Remixes of the same album. Just like the re-release of Raw To The Bone, the liner notes are written by Classic Rock Magazine's Dave Ling and are interesting to read. Back to Twin Barrels Burning; new vocalist and bass player Trevor Bolder was brought in from Uriah Heep and David Bowie and actually did a very great job. But in a way the timing was not quite right. In the UK metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were immensely popular and in the USA bands like Foreigner, Kiss and REO Speedwagon were leading the mainstream rock music. Twin Barrels Burning was not able to bring huge success on the American market as the songs were fine, but perhaps not slick enough to please the market. The American Mixes could have done the trick, these mixes are perfectly suited to the American market in that particular area. As a fan of mainstream, radio friendly music from the early eighties, you will be pleased by this nice bonus album. The three bonus tracks on the first CD are a nice treat for the real Wishbone Ash aficionado.
After the release of Twin Barrels Burning, bass player and vocalist Trevor Bolder was quite anxious to return to Uriah Heep, so for Raw To The Bone a new bass player/vocalist was added to the line-up. This time Merv Spencer was chosen to bring back the days of fame. The result was an album that was even more focussed on the US market that the previous one. Merv has a light and catchy voice, there's no doubt there. But in 1985 they had to compete to releases from Marillion, Europe and Bon Jovi. And again Wishbone Ash's music couldn't catch up with these releases. Musically Raw To The Bone isn't that raw, the drums sound computerized and the songs are no more than average. This 2018 re-release sees a bonus track on the first CD as well as The 1986 Sessions, which make this album interesting for the true fans. CD2 is a live recording of Wishbone Ash's visit to the BBC and extra recordings which were captured live at Hammersmith. The first are quite ok to listen to, but during the Hammersmith part, it becomes very clear that this line-up is not capable of reproducing the old and signature tracks of the band. Musically the songs are fine, but the vocals are just far below average, making this bonus contribution one that is not worthy for the masters of classic rock.
After the release of Raw To The Bone, the original line-up reunited and shortly relived their fame. Than Andy Powell definitely took the helm and directed the band; new line-up however, into a fine classic rock meets blues rock direction.
So, because of The American Mixes, Twin Barrels Burning is the one I prefer, this bonus is worth a listen to, when you are a fan and like the AOR style of US bands from that area. The Bonus parts of Raw To The Bone don't add much to the album, only a bit of shame, during the poor executed versions of absolute classic tracks.
Twin Barrels Burning ***+
Raw To The Bone **+
Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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