Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Albums2010 #10: Argus

Final album of the 70s British Prog Rock extravaganza is Wishbone Ash's Argus. Of the albums Mom inflicted on me, this one is her favorite-- she says:
College was when I started coming of age musically, so to speak. At home I had listened to the Beatles, of course, how could I be English and not grow up with the famous four! But I had also discovered, quite by chance, Beniamino Gigli and opera. At college I discovered Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, before they became all popsy under Peter Collins, Otis Redding, Rush, Tull, Hendrix, King Crimson, yu can see where my taste was heading...not Zeppelin though,that was a later stage, post college courtesy of the music group at church I played guitar with,as was my first rock concert! Argus evokes all the best memories of college, really late nights or early mornings, sitting up till dawn doing whatever...sometimes even work! I love the flow of the album, it was the first concept album and even though there isn't an actual story running through it all the songs are linked musically. Perhaps the lyrics do all fit together but not in an obvious way. There is also an element of nostalgia, they don't make albums like that anymore. These days its just single tracks or hits cobbled together and designed for the instant media market. No one has time to listen to songs that take time to tell their story or make their point. It is very mellow, soothing, arriving home after a long hard, journey.

I say: this was a damn good album, from an interesting band. Emerging from Torquay in Devon in the late 60s/early 70s, Wishbone Ash are considered one of the innovators and first bands to employ the 'twin lead guitar' format and broadly speaking, Argus is considered their best album, as well as a classic album in the rock pantheon overall. An accessible blend of folk and rock, with mood changes and music shifts throughout, Argus seems to have common threads running throughout the album that have lead many to proclaim to be one of the first 'concept' albums in rock history. However, the band (per the liner notes anyway) tells a different story:
"I don't think initially there was any conscious concept. We'd all found ourselves in the same frame of mind around the time of Argus, and the songs were obviously about similar subjects, and it just kept sparking us off."

Now that I found to be very interesting. (And it might also make me pay more attention to liner notes of the albums I listen too.) Just looking at the track titles and the cover (faceless warrior with spear) I genuinely thought it was the story of the warrior dude on the cover coming home to his kingdom and defeating the tyrant to become King or some weirdly medieval thing like that. But no, it just seems that way... which is strange, but totally cool at the same time.

As an album, the whole thing just works incredibly well. Opening with 'Time Was' and building up to 'Warrior' and 'Throw Down The Sword' there's a quiet, laid-back power to this album that achieves almost a perfect balance that would fit a lot of people's moods almost perfectly. There are times when you don't want music that's too soft and too fluffy and there are times when you don't want music that's too loud or obnoxious and Argus fits perfectly between those two extremes. It can be fast and peppy ('Time Was') it can rock pretty hard ('The Warrior') and be somewhat introspect and balladic in nature (if balladic is actually a word, that is)- with tracks like 'Throw Down The Sword.' And certainly, the twin lead guitar format makes for some incredible rockin' guitar work, especially on 'Throw Down The Sword.'

At the end of the day, however, I have to award Argus the first real award of the Albums2010 project: I'm putting it on my iTunes. All 10 tracks, because it's just that good- the first seven tracks of Argus, plus the three bonus tracks at the end of the remastered version I snagged from Mom.

Overall: A new discovery and one I'm not sorry to make and I'm quite happy to add it to my musical pantheon for future listening possibilities.

1 comment:

  1. Glad I can still be of some use and influence. The bonus tracks ruin the CD in my view. Good thoughts about it though.