Ad Maiora – Repetita Iuvant (2016)

AdMaiora_RepetitaIuvant4 out of 5 Stars!

From Italy, Ad Maiora appeared on the scene back in 2014 with the release of a fairly impressive self-titled album. So in 2016, when the band released its sophomore effort, Repetita Iuvant, I looked forward to hearing what the musicians had created the second time around.

Like the debut, Repetita Iuvant features a collection of tracks mostly in the Symphonic Progressive Rock genre, with even a few Jazz-Rock and Avant-Prog touches added for auditory tinsel. And once again, the level of musicianship shown during the typically intricate song arrangements rates high in my book, with guitarist Flavio Carovali delivering tasty riffs and occasionally rampaging solos, bassist Moreno Piva performing ultra-melodic runs and rhythmic counterpunches, and drummer Ezio Giardina adding splendid fills amidst his rock-solid tempos and smooth time-shift transitions. Moreover, I especially savor the wide variety of keyboards and synth tones Sergio Caleca employed throughout the album, including Clavinet and the generous use of the mighty Mellotron…the latter being always a welcome addition for Prog-Rock fans like myself to appreciate.

Although several compositions (“Torba,” “Repetita Iuvant,” and “Never Mind”) are dynamic instrumentals with varied styles, when lead vocalist Paolo Callioni makes his appearance on songs such as “Life,” “Invisible,” “Molokheya,” and “Etereo”—some of which he croons in his native language—his tone and style occasionally remind me of Saga’s Michael Sadler, only with a wider range and a slight accent (when he sings in English, of course)

Also of special note for Procol Harum fans, one of the album’s highlights (for me, at least) is the “bonus” track “Whaling Stories,” which Ad Maiora originally recorded for a Procol Harum tribute album—Shine on Magic Hotel—issued by Mellow Records in 2014. Thankfully, the musicians elected to include their rendition of the tune here also, since it’s simply terrific!

Anyway, to me, Ad Maiora is one of the more promising Italian Prog-Rock groups to have emerged in the recent past. Now I’m hoping the band sticks around for a good long while to concoct even more appetizing material for lovers of the genre like me who can never get enough.

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Egg – The Civil Surface (1974)

Egg_CivilSurface3.5 out of 5 Stars!

When The Civil Surface appeared in 1974, it ended up being the third and (sadly) final album by the short-lived Egg, a sort of “retrospective supergroup” of the Prog-Rock/Canterbury Scene that featured keyboardist Dave Stewart, bassist Mont Campbell, and percussionist Clive Brooks—basically, the group Arzachel only without guitarist Steve Hillage on board.

After releasing its first two albums in 1970/1971 and having record company dilemmas along the way, Egg inevitably disbanded, with the members moving on to join other bands, such as Hatfield and the North and Groundhogs. But the trio briefly reformed several years later, however, to create this swansong release, which incidentally enough, also included some contributions from Hillage as a “guest star.”

From my understanding, many (if not all) of the mostly instrumental tracks included in this “reunion collection” were actually leftovers from the trio’s early years, compositions the group had performed during its concerts but—because of the record company woes—never got around to recording while Egg was in regular operation. But no matter the artist or the genre in which they operate, typically when it comes down to tracks considered “leftovers,” a few of them probably shouldn’t ever see the light of day, whereas others occasionally shine. The same is the case with this particular collection.

The longest compositions, the more sportive and intricate “Germ Patrol,” “Wring Out the Ground (Loosely Now),” and “Enneagram,” are pure gold in my opinion, generally matching the same lofty heights of inventiveness as the material that appeared on Egg’s first two albums. Yet on the other hand, most of the shorter tracks don’t come even close to equaling the same imaginative charm as the band’s earlier output. “Wind Quartet I” and “Wind Quartet II” are basically drawn-out exercises in Chamber Music featuring (no shock) woodwinds, and, in truth, bore me to tears. Then there’s the organ-heavy “Prelude,” another bland affair, but saved from being a total disaster in the middle section where guest female vocalists create pretty harmonies, which add a modicum of sparkle. Only “Nearch” offered up a bit of experimental verve to hold my interest, but unfortunately, still seemed way too underwhelming, especially for a band with an otherwise ingenious character.

Therefore, although not as intriguing as the prior albums thanks to a handful of tracks, The Civil Surface was nevertheless a welcome addition to the band’s legacy. And the longer tunes mentioned above include plenty of the same unexpected avant-garde whimsy, jazzy Proginess, and overall mesmerizing creativity that made Egg so delectable in the first place.

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Syzygy – Realms of Eternity (2009)

Syzygy_RealmsEternity4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Like the heavily Gentle Giant-influenced album The Allegory of Light, Syzygy’s impressive debut from 2003, Realms of Eternity, the Ohio band’s sophomore release—or its third, depending if one counts a single platter the group issued under the name Witsend back in the ’90s—still has those same influences sprinkled throughout when it comes to several tracks, but here the musicians have also considerably expanded their style into numerous other realms. And for this outing, the band also brought in accomplished vocal powerhouse Mark Boals, who surprisingly doesn’t sound like the “normal” Mark Boals I’d come to admire from ultra-slamming albums he did with Ring Of Fire, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc., but instead has trimmed away much of the former gruffness from his vocal cords, and his smoother tone and occasionally dramatic delivery seem absolutely perfect for this intriguing material.

On both shorter and lengthier tracks such as “Dreams,” “The Sea,” “Darkfield,” “Variations, Parts 1 & 2,” “Vanitas,” and the mammoth and glorious “Dialectic,” the band delves deeper into Yes and Genesis territory, featuring countless passages, shifting moods, and elaborate scoring, while also giving generous nods toward outfits such as Spock’s Beard, Moon Safari, The Flower Kings, Jethro Tull, Transatlantic, etc., all of which makes for another grand affair of classic Symphonic Prog-Rock with a touch of Avant-Prog.

Although the vocal segments are generally melodious, with a few songs openly flirting with Pomp Rock and AOR-styled choruses, the band simultaneously injects layered and labyrinthine harmony arrangements that once again bring the Gentle Giant influences to the fore. Meanwhile, the band delivers the vigorous and astounding material with top-quality musicianship. Indeed, the nimble fingers of guitarist Carl Baldassarre and keyboardist Sam Guinta continually impress, while bassist Al Rolik and drummer Paul Mihacevich consistently direct the band through twists and turns galore, showcasing everyone’s sheer diversity and talent.

As a quick aside, I must declare that it’s a crying shame the grayscale cover art is so damned bland and sedate, since the music on offer is the complete opposite—colorful, exciting, and vibrant—and the artwork doesn’t even come close in reflecting what’s in store for the listener.

Anyway, since this terrific release, the group put out a live “digipak” album in 2012, then Cosmos and Chaos in 2014, a “20th Anniversary Compendium” of the album previously issued under the Witsend name from 1993, but no other fresh material. I’m just hoping the band is still active and in the process of creating additional Prog-Rock magic for a future release.

Now, can someone please tell me once and for all how to actually pronounce the name of this exceptional band? 🙂

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Gillan – Future Shock (1981)

Gillan_FutureShock4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Gillan (the band) always played a weird-ass concoction of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal/Prog-Rock and even “How The Hell Do You Classify That?” Rock that somehow got simply clumped into the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” movement of the early ’80s (thanks to the era of the band’s productivity and splendor).

But just savoring each track on any of the band’s many albums showed that it had a TON of diversity, thanks to the extraordinary musicians involved (on this album, keyboardist Colin Towns, guitarist Bernie Tormé, drummer Mick Underwood, bassist John McCoy, and vocalist Ian Gillan) and their individual histories of playing on such diverse albums in numerous bands with such diverse styles.

As you can no-doubt tell, “diversity” is the key issue (and word) here, and 1981’s Future Shock is no exception. This collection of tracks features an eclectic blend of genres, where it’s almost unfathomable to pinpoint any primary category for the overall platter, except “pure Gillan wildness.”

Certainly many tunes, such as “Night Ride Out of Phoenix,” “Don’t Want the Truth,” “Sacre Bleu,” “Bite the Bullet,” “(The Ballad of) The Lucitania Express,” the title track, and the band’s rousing rendition of Guida/Royster’s “New Orleans,” could be considered simply Hard Rock bordering on Heavy Metal, yet each of the songs also includes such wacky guitar leads or avant-garde keyboard solos, or unpredictable arrangements and rhythmic breaks or tempos, that some people might argue the songs are Progressive Rock in nature also.

The same genre-oddness befalls “No Laughing in Heaven”—although the song’s foundation is Blues-based Hard Rock, Gillan’s vocals, an amusing and stunning combination of talking and shrieking during the verses, is like a precursor to Rap—”Heavy Rap Metal,” of course. Then we come to the absolute jewels of the album, the borderline Prog-Rock ditties “If I Sing Softly” and “For Your Dreams,” with both containing haunting scores and instrumentation that set them apart from the other eight tunes.

By the way, all of the aforementioned tracks appear on the original vinyl version of the album, but I also purchased the CD “re-mastered” version a decade later, which features ten additional bonus tracks—including my favorite, “Mutually Assured Destruction”—where even more craziness ensues with “genre-merging” from song to song, although not quite as stark or numerous.

Anyway, on Future Shock, the exact genre into which each track actually falls is entirely dependent on the personal preferences of the listener. As for me, as mentioned above, I call the band’s overall style “pure Gillan wildness,” and I still love every single moment of this album, as well as each platter produced by this unique, entertaining, and phenomenal band during its way-too-short existence. Nevertheless, Ian Gillan will forever remain my favorite vocalist of all time, and Colin Towns will always retain a spot on my Top Ten Rock Keyboardists list—both individuals proved enormously influential when it came to my own musical growth, and their performances on Future Shock show exactly why.

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Time Requiem – The Inner Circle of Reality (2004)

TimeRequiem_Reality4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Led by keyboardist extraordinaire Richard Andersson (Space Odyssey/Adagio/Majestic), Sweden’s Time Requiem never got the recognition it so richly deserved, in my opinion. Between 2002 and 2006, the band delivered a trio of dynamic and dramatic near-perfect studio albums, with The Inner Circle of Reality (the second release) also featuring the brutally powerful Apollo Papathanasio (Majestic/Firewind/Evil Masquerade) on vocals, unheralded guitarist Magnus Nordh, and the always-stellar rhythm section (from The Flower Kings/Karmakanic) of bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Zoltan Csorsz, both playing outside their “normal realm of Prog” in hard-hitting fashion.

As with each of the band’s releases, The Inner Circle of Reality presents complex yet highly melodic Prog-Metal/Prog-Rock of the Neoclassical variety. Compositions such as “Hidden Memories,” “Reflections,” “Dreams of Tomorrow,” “Definition of Insanity,” and the nearly twelve-minute title track contain outstanding, often breathtaking musicianship throughout, especially when it comes to Nordh’s sizzling guitar leads and Andersson’s delicious keyboard fills and wickedly speedy solos. Any fans of artists such as Symphony X, Harmony, Yngwie Malmsteen, Artension, Stratovarius, and Royal Hunt will certainly savor the jaw-dropping proficiency on display here and, probably like me, wish the album contained more than just seven tracks (not counting the eighth tune, “Bach Prelude Variation,” the horribly brief album closer that would’ve likely had Johann Sebastian Bach himself smiling proudly and begging to hear more).

Although Time Requiem, after suffering major lineup changes—most noticeably with the gifted Goran Edman replacing Papathanasio on vocals—released its somewhat more commercial third album (Optical Illusion) in 2006 and seemed on the brink of gaining wider recognition, the band suddenly vanished without a trace. Even worse, founder/mastermind Richard Andersson, apart from popping up as a “guest keyboardist” on several albums through the subsequent years, has kept a sinfully low profile, while all the while I’d prayed he’d once again put together another band to showcase his enormous songwriting and performing talents.

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Dave Kerzner – Static (2017)

DaveKerzner_Static4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The name of Florida-based keyboardist and vocalist Dave Kerzner first came to my attention back in 2015 when investigating a band called Sound of Contact, a Prog-Rock act that also included drummer Simon Collins (son of Phil Collins, of Genesis fame). The group’s sole album in 2013, Dimensionaut, proved fairly impressive, especially when it came to Kerzner’s grand and symphonic keyboard arrangements. So in 2016, when I saw Kerzner’s name in association with yet another new band, this one called Mantra Vega (also including vocalist Heather Findlay from Mostly Autumn), I snatched it up without question. And once again, the keyboard-rich material on that debut, The Illusion’s Reckoning, made a terrific first impression. So Kerzner was “two for two” in my book, and I started delving into the man’s background, seeing what else I might have missed.

Well, one of the tidbits I unearthed was that the keyboardist had also delivered a solo album in 2014, New World, which became another “no-brainer” for me when it came to the decision of purchasing it. And, no great shock, the album ended up being another first-class winner. This time, however, Kerzner provided the lead vocals (along with keyboards, some guitars, bass, and drums, and the proverbial kitchen sink, I’m sure) as well as composed and produced lush and breathtaking soundscapes, his performances enhanced with the aid of various Prog-Rock cohorts, such as drummers Nick D’Virgilio and Simon Phillips, guitarists Steve Hackett and Francis Dunnery, and even the magnificent Keith Emerson himself (RIP), to name but a few. Okay, I decided, so the guy not only knows some top-notch people in “the biz,” but has talent—considerable and enviable talent at that!

So, with his name indelibly emblazoned in my mind, I certainly did not miss the announcement of Kerzner’s latest album, Static, which he dropped on the Prog-Rock community in late 2017. And guess what? Yes, it’s another gem, this time with Kerzner repeating his songwriting, performing, and production duties as skillfully, enjoyably, and as powerfully as he did on his first solo effort. And like before, a wealth of “guests” (most notably Hackett and D’Virgilio again) pop up on several tracks, but despite the presence of these musicians injecting their own talents on various tunes, it also becomes crystal clear that, like the previous album, Static is easily Kerzner’s beautifully and lovingly nurtured baby. Indeed, with both New World and Static in his arsenal, creating a one-two punch of musical muscle, Kerzer can now claim his own distinctive sound/style, much in the same way as other solo musicians (Neil Morse instantly springs to mind) has his own identifiable brand stamped on each new collection of tracks he releases under his own moniker.

Sure, amidst the varied tunes, both brief and lengthy compositions, I can sometimes hear, as examples, a bit of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic influences, but Kerzner never attempts to clone any other artist. He doesn’t need to, actually, since his creativity seems to know no bounds.

Aside from the brief “Prelude,” the album opens with a mighty and sardonic bang in the form of the upbeat, glorious, and occasionally eclectic “Hypocrites,” a track that includes everything from numerous and diverse passages, tempo shifts, ballsy guitar rhythms and leads, keyboards galore (including Mellotron and synth solos), and creepy digital ambience tossed in for good measure. The vocals, done in luscious multi-part harmony for the most part, do seem to have a “David Gilmour/Pink Floyd” flavor when it comes to Kerzner’s range, timbre, and execution, but heck, the man can’t help it if his voice possesses a few homogeneous traits of another singer, right? He does, however, do much to avoid direct comparisons, delivering the lyrics with layered harmonies and electronic enhancements. And in the end, this track is a real corker, and one of my favorites—”we’re all hypocrites”—indeed!

The title track, on the other hand, is—music-wise—pretty much in direct opposition to the previous tune, with a dreamy, keyboard-grounded background over a lazy rhythm, luxuriant in its spacier atmosphere and laid-back vocal delivery. In other words, more along the lines of groups such as Pink Floyd or Airbag. Whereas on the quirkier and bopping “Reckless,” the poppish vocal melody, varied and highly creative instrumentation, and overall eccentric character of the song arrangement suddenly brings to mind the wonderfully produced material released by the late Kevin Gilbert on his The Shaming of the True release. And no shock that Kerzner might have adopted some of the same “sound/style” qualities as Gilbert, considering the two had worked together in and around the group Giraffe and the latter’s solo material.

From this point forward, the album moves at a brisk clip, with several shorter, more direct tunes such as “Chain Reaction” and “Millennium Man” (which remind me of the catchier, straightforward side of artists such as World Trade or Trevor Rabin, only with multifarious studio enhancements and Prog-Rock embellishments), “Trust,” “State of Innocence,” and “Right Back to the Start” (delightfully mellow ballads that I can easily envision Art Rock artists such as Roxy Music or 10cc would have killed to release decades ago if given the studio capabilities of the modern age), and “Quiet Storm” and “Statistic” (electronically enriched tracks that add avant-garde strangeness to the overall collection).

And then, the album closes with “The Carnival of Modern Life,” the nearly seventeen-minute magnum-opus, which deserves (no, it demands) its own paragraph. Talk about varied and strange, this wickedly creative track has it all when it comes to Prog-Rock magic…heck, just look at the eerie cover art (thanks to equally brilliant artist Ed Unitsky) and that should give you an idea as to the song’s off-the-wall qualities when it comes to numerous melodies, rhythms, and sound effects. Yet, the organs and synths, the guitar and bass runs, and the vocals performed in the same multi-layered resplendence as the aforementioned “Hypocrites” all work to perfection. In fact, the track’s mischievously assorted instrumentation and sundry mood shifts reflect the often-insane reality of modern society’s ever-alternating viewpoints and occasional mass-hysteria moments. How long it took Kerzner to piece together and mix this mammoth masterpiece is beyond me, but my guess would be months, since the level of detail with the shifting song arrangements, the various sound effects and voice-overs that add atmospheric tinsel, would seem a mighty daunting task. But damn it, the whole track works, therefore, bravo to the mastermind behind this daring and audacious composition.

So in total, Kerzner has once again delivered an album of exceptional quality, and now, after reveling in his work for several years, I can clearly and undoubtedly declare that the man has a laser-focused brain and boundless imagination for creating engaging music in the Prog-Rock variety. And I’m so damned covetous!

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Alaska – Alaska (1998)

Alaska_13 out of 5 Stars!

Not to be confused with the numerous other groups bearing the same name, this particular band (actually, a duo from Pennsylvania comprised of vocalist/guitarist/drummer Al Lewis and keyboardist John O’Hara) released a single album in the late-’90s. To me, Alaska’s music seemed a lighter, keyboard-dominated version of Yes or Cairo, mainly due to the highly symphonic arrangements and, especially, vocalist Al Lewis (also appearing on Starcastle’s final album from 2007), who has a range and delivery style similar to Jon Anderson (Yes) and Terry Luttrell (Starcastle’s original singer).

On this eleven-track collection, most of the compositions, including “WellsBridge,” “Forests of Heaven,” “Anyman’s Tomorrow,” “IceSpirits,” and “Tiananmen Square,” have an array of dreamy melodies and wonderfully rich and layered keyboards and vocal harmonies. And, truth be told, although I find nothing overly exciting in the way of varied orchestrations or rhythms, no tense dramatics or chord pattern surprises, the overall nature of the album makes for a decent, non-intrusive experience nonetheless.

Therefore, this one and only Alaska album contains nearly seventy minutes of gentle, melodious material, which is great for when I’m in a mellower mood, and for when I’m craving a massive amount of synth-driven Progressive Rock to fill the silence.

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Saga – Silent Knight (1980)

Saga_SilentKnight4.5 out of 5 Stars!

When it comes to Saga’s third album, the first album I purchased by this Canadian band back in 1980—on a whim, actually, due to the eye-catching cover art—the instant I heard the synth intro to the opening track “Don’t Be Late,” I fell in love. Indeed, I clearly recall listening to the album several times in a row, then dashing to the record store the very next day to purchase the band’s prior two albums to discover all that I had missed thus far.

Including the dramatic opening tune, the superbly produced Silent Knight is brimming with synth magic, thanks to dual keyboardists Jim Gilmour and Michael Sadler, with the music expertly accented by an unsung guitar hero in the form of Ian Crichton, whose distinctive sound and dexterous style proved the icing on the proverbial cake. Add to that the ever-melodic bass riffs of Jim Crichton and the solid tempos of drummer Steve Negus, then toss in Sadler’s instantly identifiable vocals, and what you get is a collection of lush and glossy Prog-Rock with generous AOR overtones.

Along with “Don’t Be Late,” many of the additional songs included in this collection, such as “Too Much to Lose,” “What’s It Gonna Be,” “Help Me Out,” “Compromise,” and the stunning closer “Careful Where You Step,” display the band firing on full Prog-Rock cylinders. The labyrinthine song arrangements and creative instrumentation proved to be quite brilliant in their subtlety and polished execution, while Sadler’s vocal melodies etched their way into the listener’s skull, forging a permanent home in the memory banks like any of the best AOR songs of the period. Although Silent Knight wouldn’t become the band’s breakthrough album—that would come the following year with Worlds Apart, when Saga suddenly became MTV’s video darlings thanks to the single “On the Loose”—this third album cemented a solid foundation for the band’s deserved success.

Unbelievably, despite several lineup changes and a temporary break-up or two, Saga pretty much stayed around in some form or another for four full decades (officially calling it quits in 2017, its fortieth year) and I’ve stuck with the group for the entire ride (more than twenty studio albums), regardless of several “iffy” releases along the way where the group experimented with less-Progressive styles and sounds. Thankfully, however, those missteps proved few and far between. Nevertheless, Silent Knight will forever remain my favorite Saga album, since not only was it my introduction to the group, but the opening synth-riff to “Don’t Be Late” still has the power to put a smile on my face, even after all these many years.

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Traumhaus – Traumhaus (2001)

Traumhaus_14.5 out of 5 Stars!

Traumhaus is one of my favorite new “recently discovered” outfits. In my estimation, the band comes across almost as a German-language version of Symphonic Prog/Neo-Prog groups such as IQ, Galahad, Magellan, Pendragon, Also Eden, Leap Day, and Transatlantic, with (sadly) only three releases to its credit.

The band’s self-titled debut album, like its subsequent two collections, features terrific keyboard-rich material with a few heavier elements tossed in, thanks mostly to forceful guitar sprinkled throughout and the occasionally powerful rhythms amidst the pompish synths. Additionally, although most tracks on this debut fall between the five and nine minute mark, relatively short by Prog-Rock standards, another composition, “Ausgeliefert,” is a nearly eighteen-minute grand and glorious epic, acting as the album’s unrivaled centerpiece. But regardless of the various song lengths, many of the tunes, including “Zu Spat,” “Wandler,” “Am Abgrund,” plus the two instrumentals “Peter und Der Wolf” and “Navanita,” contain complex orchestration, sweeping keyboard backgrounds and nimble synth solos, tempo variations, numerous moods, and melodies galore.

One note of warning: the vocals, sung in the band’s native language as mentioned above, do sound a tad harsh, almost intrusive at times, and may not appeal to some listeners. Thankfully, on many tracks, the vocals are not the main focus, taking a backseat to the often-stunning instrumentation.

Nevertheless, Traumhaus is one band I’m praying will release another album in the near future since the most recent one (Das Geheimnis) came out back in 2013 (and included a twenty-seven minute epic, certainly the band’s most audacious accomplishment). Perhaps the delay between each album’s release is due to the band’s various lineup changes through the years, aside from keyboardist/vocalist Alexander Weyland, who I assume is the founding member/leader. But whatever the reason for the lengthy gaps in the band’s output, a new album is warranted, especially since the music is so entertaining, creative, and often spectacular, which means that for all fans of the Prog-Rock genre, Traumhaus is worthy of discovery.

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Wishbone Ash – Argus (1972)

WishboneAsh_Argus4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Through the many years since Wishbone Ash first appeared on the music scene, my friends have continually and playfully (or sometimes, intensely and angrily, depending on their level of alcohol consumption) bantered over which of the studio albums in the group’s catalogue is its finest work of art. Back in the olden days (around the time of the band’s magnificent Live Dates album, one of the greatest live recordings of all time, in my opinion) my answer was always Argus, the group’s third release. And now, more than four decades later, even with more than twenty additional Wishbone Ash studio platters over which to debate, my response still remains the same, and unless miracles happen to alter my perspective, it likely always will.

Now, I’m in no way claiming that any Wishbone Ash album other than Argus is somehow undeserving of the “best studio album” spot, since I find the overall quality of several of the band’s other releases quite high. Indeed, I feel that the 1970 debut album, along with Pilgrimage, There’s the Rub, New England, and Just Testing, all contain generally top-level material, and I also find the majority of the group’s other early albums (prior to 1980) fairly entertaining. It’s just that, when hearing Argus even nowadays, intense memories of people and places and events instantly spring to mind. This album greatly contributed to the soundtrack of my early teen years, and the cherished recollections the music conjures will forever play an integral part regarding my feelings toward this particular platter (as well as for Live Dates).

But even putting aside my impassioned opinions and looking at this album objectively, Argus has a ton going for it. Not only is the songwriting quality consistent throughout the album, with the performances by each musician outstanding, but the band at this point in time (drummer Steve Upton, bassist Martin Turner, and guitarists Andy Powell and Ted Turner—the classic lineup) elected to incorporate an intriguing blend of everything from Blues, Country, Folk, and Prog-Rock into its often-catchy Hard Rock style. The band’s trademarked twin-guitar sound borders on rock ‘n’ roll perfection, while the song arrangements are often deceptively intricate and energetically charged. And best of all, the album contains a commendable balance of both heavy and light moments, with most of the seven tracks—”Throw Down the Sword,” “Blowin’ Free,” “Warrior,” “Time Was,” and “The King Will Come”—becoming long-standing concert favorites. And even the two additional tunes included—”Sometime World” and “Leaf and Stream”—have an undeniable charm that makes Argus, for me, not only a perfectly sequenced collection of tunes, but also a rich bounty of those exquisite memories I mentioned above.

But is the album an unblemished masterpiece? No, not quite, as I feel some of the vocals—never Wishbone Ash’s strongest asset, if the truth be told—could have been “tweaked and patched” to match the utter perfection of the guitars and rhythm section. Additionally, although Derek Lawrence’s production is highly commendable given the technology of the era, I would have liked the songs to have a tad more ambience, a “big hall” sound, which is why the tracks on Argus that also appear on Live Dates possessed an even greater allure for me in a concert setting.

Nevertheless, despite these slight flaws, Argus is a Hard Rock classic, and for the reasons stated above, will forever remain my favorite studio album from this extraordinary band.

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