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MARTIN TURNER'S WISHBONE ASH AND GUESTS
House, Nr. Leighton Buzzard, Bucks 31 August 2012
times do we hear bands paying lip service to how great their fans are
while in practice seeing them as a cash cow to be milked?
Well, in a
wonderful gesture which was the complete opposite, Martin Turner's
Wishbone Ash invited 100 or so of their most committed fans and old
friends to the grounds of a country house and recording studios for a
garden party on a Friday afternoon, featuring a free private show.
This was a
memorable and unique occasion for three reasons. One was the unusual
setting, as a makeshift stage was constructed backing onto the house and
we watched the gig in a farmyard complete with stables, surrounded by
acres of open land around us.
this was a special set for Wishbone anoraks with no pressure to play the
tried and tested, 'Argus' dominated set that MTWA usually play,
especially when on touring as a package with other classic rock acts.
were treated to rarely played numbers, even 'Firesign' which never made
it onto an album and 'Broken Down House' from Martin's solo project, and
best of all a premiere of a new song, 'Mystify Me', which on first
listen was in a classic Wishbone mould and hopefully will encourage the
band to write new material to ensure they don't become a mere nostalgia
act. Sadly, that was also one of the many moments when the sound
inconveniently came and went from the left hand speaker stack nearest to
'Standing in the Rain', 'Rest in Peace' with its funky jousting guitars
and 'Haunting Me' all got a rare airing, while the first set ended with
guitarist Danny Willson on lead vocals on a rattling 'No Easy Road' -
also the title of Martin's autobiography, copies of which were
disappearing like hot cakes from the merchandising stall.
Thirdly, as I arrived the air was crackling with talk that various other
alumni of Wishbone's classic years were in the house, both literally and
metaphorically, and expectation levels were rising by the start of the
second set, as the band started with a cracking 'Doctor', combining
Who-style dynamics with a frantic guitar duel overlaid by Martin's
distinctive bass lines, and 'Lady Jay', a reminder of the band's
aptitude in their earlier days for folkier, more pastoral material.
which, during 'Valediction', where both Danny and Ray Hatfield were
sharing harmony vocals and playing some delicate leads, on stage crept
Ted Turner, one half of the 'harmony twins' from the original
line up to play the final solo.
relaxed and a picture of health, the adopted statesider was then
crouched over his guitar playing his trademark wah-wah solo on 'The King
Will Come', then after the instrumental 'Prelude', a lap steel was set
up for his instrumental tour de force 'In The Skin', before he sang the
green-themed 'Why Don't We'.
regular MTWA played the epic 'Way of the World' came another special
moment with the appearance of a seemingly ageless Laurie Wisefield,
the man who replaced Ted and spent over a decade on Wishbone's stage
he brought on the long lost Steve Upton, Wishbone's original
drummer for over 20 years. No longer regularly playing and running a
French chateau, he resisted the temptation to take to the kit but the
warmth of reception for a man out of sight for so long spoke volumes as
to the affection in which he is held.
It was hard
to top that, but Laurie did his best with some superb melodic soloing on
'Living Proof', the song he had made his own back in the day, and some
audience participation, before Ted was brought back on for a climax of
'Jailbait', with no less than four lead guitarists jamming together, yet
still managing to create space for each other's lines. Even the great
southern boogie bands only managed three at a time.
As a long time fan of the music of Wishbone Ash (if not quite as long as
many present whose experience dates back to the early seventies!) this
was a memorable and unique event I will never forget. It was a privilege
to be small part of it.
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