Wishbone Ash’s newest release is, ironically, what eventually became their debut release. Recorded to woo record label interest in 1969, the recordings were not needed as a label had been secured. The band went on to re-record most of the songs that were on that recording and left the master in a vault at Apple. Fast forward to the present time, Apple cleared the vaults and found the forgotten master. They held an auction and, as luck would have it, Dr John, recognized the recordings for what they were, acquired them and turned them over to the band. The songs on that master were what Wishbone Ash fans would easily recognize as those on their first album with the exception of “Phoenix.”
First Light showcases Wishbone Ash first fruits in a remarkably cleaned up audio presentation. The songs are instantly recognizable and highly familiar as they have the classic early Wishbone Ash sound that fans have fallen in love with. What separates First Light from being a casual interest is that, as well-known as the songs are, they possess subtle (and, at times, not so subtle) differences in the makeup of the tunes. In addition, there are three other songs, two of which are absolutely fresh and never before heard; the other song is “Alone,” which made it onto Pilgrimage as an instrumental but is here in its original and vocalized form.
The album contains 8 songs and begins with “Lady Whiskey.” It is followed by a previously unheard song, the perfect “Roads of Day to Day.” The song is sung by Andy Powell and is a gem on this album. It has a captivating guitar segment that reminds a bit of the guitars of “Throw Down the Sword.” The other previously unreleased song, “Joshua” is a short instrumental, not as complete as “Roads of Day to Day,” which is a fully developed song.
The variation of “Alone,” as a song with words, sung by Martin Turner, is the most pleasant surprise of this album. It is reminiscent of “Leaf and Stream” in its entirety and will definitely stay with you. You will also find that both versions of “Alone” have their separate charms. The version of “Handy” found on First Light is structurally different than its original counterpart that made the cut on their debut. Most of the musical ideas found in the original song remain intact however; it is a song that you’ll compare to its counterpart most often. Steve Upton’s drumming skills plays heavily in the First Light version, much more so than his structured drumming found in the original debut cut. You’ll also find that the debut album version has a smoother flow to it. But make no mistake; this First Light version is quite listenable.
First Light is a grand and fortunate find for Wishbone Ash fans, especially the purists. Not only will you be insanely pleased with this release, you’ll also love the alternate versions of most of the songs found on their debut release, again, with the exception of “Phoenix.” The adds of the two unreleased songs and the vocal version of “Alone” boost the necessity of owning this set.
If you’re a true Wishbone Ash fan, you already own this miraculous find. It is so imperative that, certainly, no Wishbone Ash collection can be without it.