Wishbone Ash

MCA, 1971


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When we last left Ted Turner and the other lads in Wishbone Ash, they had just released their self-titled debut, which was a mixture of blues and prog-rock that has been begging to be rediscovered.

Pilgrimage, their sophomore effort, found the quartet expanding their musical knowledge into the worlds of jazz and folk-like softer efforts. While it doesn’t quite work as well as their debut effort, there still is plenty on this album to celebrate.

The opening salvo on the disc, a cover of Jack McDuff’s “Vas Dis,” finds Wishbone Ash tackling the world of jazz, which might not have been an anticipated first move for those most familiar with their debut effort. But the band—guitarist/vocalist Turner, guitarist/vocalist Andy Powell, bassist/vocalist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton—handle the genre amazingly well, and it proves to be an entertaining track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But if you expected Pilgrimage to be a jazz-rock effort, Wishbone Ash continued to throw curveball after curveball at the listener. From the gentle folkiness leading to a solid jam on “The Pilgrim,” to the all-out rock of “Jail Bait” and the acoustic tinges of “Alone,” it sometimes feels like Wishbone Ash was trying to do too much at one time. It’s not that these are bad songs; it’s that the constant stylistic changes make the album feel a bit disjointed.

The second half of Pilgrimage doesn’t do much to change that pattern. “Valediction” has some memories of “Error Of My Ways” in the harmonized vocals, while including a live track, “Where Were You Tomorrow”… well, one has to ask why they did this. Again, it’s not a bad track, and it does show that Wishbone Ash lost little power in the live setting. But it does seem a little early to be dipping into live performances; Live Dates was still two years away in their discography.

I’m not saying that Wishbone Ash shouldn’t have tried to tackle other musical genres; they obviously prove on Pilgrimage that they’re fully capable of handling whatever musical style was thrown their way. But Pilgrimage, while still a good listen, just feels like it’s a victim of its own ambition. If the band had settled into one or two genres for this one, it would have felt like a more focused effort.

Is it still worth a listen? Absolutely. But if you’re expecting to hear the continuation of what they accomplished on Wishbone Ash, you might be a bit disappointed.

Rating: B-

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