CD Reviews

Martin Turner - 'New Live Dates - The Complete Set' / 'Life Begins'

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 15, 2018    
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It's best of both worlds, with '...Dates' and 'Life Begins' complementing each other perfectly.

While Andy Powell continues to operate under the Wishbone Ash name, for many it has been the live work of bassist, singer and song-writer Martin Turner that has truly kept the classic Ash sound alive. With a hugely enthusiastic response rightly afforded to his 2014 live release, 'The Garden Party – A Celebration Of Wishbone Ash Music' and excellent 2015 studio album, 'Written In The Stars', Cherry Red Records have taken the opportunity to re-release Turner's three prior live efforts. 'New Live Dates – The Complete Set' brings together the two previous '...Dates' albums released in 2005 and 2006, while 'Life Begins' is a straight re-issue of the 2010 2CD/DVD release.

Five discs across two packages of (almost exclusively, but not quite) WA live material may at first glance feel a little indulgent and yet, with very little duplication and a distinctly different feel between '...Dates' and '...Begins', actually the opposite is true. The former sees a few less obvious choices given a fresh airing alongside the wonderful 'Walking The Reeperbahn' (the excellent title track to Turner's 1996 solo album of the same name), while the latter mainly, but not always, heads for the more obvious Ash choices; disc two is a complete run through of the band's seminal 'Argus' album, before the wonderful encores of 'Living Proof' and 'Jailbait' close out a captivating set.

The other marked differences are in the band line-ups, the guitars handled by Ray Hatfield and Keith Buck on the '...Dates' sets, while Rob Hewins provides the drums. By the 2010 tour, only Hatfield (and Turner on bass and vocals of course) remained, with guitarist Danny Wilson and drummer Dave Wagstaffe the equal of their predecessors. Impressively, both line-ups also prove a match for a collection of songs that not only require seamless trademark twin guitar interplay but equally vital three-part harmony singing.

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Both releases also have their own unique selling points; the closing four cuts, 'Flesh And Steel', 'Standing In The Rain', 'Why Don't We', and 'Jailbait' on '...Dates' feature Turner's fellow original Ash-member Ted Turner on vocals and guitar, the pair performing together for the first time in a decade and a half, the results being not just wonderful nostalgia, but stunning music performed to the highest standard. '...Begins', on the other hand, has the bonus of the full twenty songs it features also being on DVD and, while we're talking low budget, in a tiny venue (Y Theatre, Leicester), the chance to see the skill, dexterity and precision required to pull off what at first glance seem like reasonably laid back Classic Rock tracks, is an absolute delight. Most of the extras are throwaway – short interviews carried out as background noise constantly interrupts and the pre-show presentation of a cheque for charity. That being said, the tour rehearsals where the vocal harmonies and guitar solos are honed is pretty interesting. With the show itself being so strong, it doesn't really matter in all honesty.

So it's best of both worlds, with '...Dates' and 'Life Begins' complementing each other perfectly. Rather than recommending one over the other, I have to say that if your wallet will stretch to it, having both and simply soaking in the various sounds of one of the best but sadly now underrated Classic Rock acts we've ever known, is the best option. The DVD may swing your decision, but with Turner's appearance and some more unusual cuts on the 'New Live Dates – The Complete Set' discs, you know you really want both.
Steven Reid

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