Wheel in the Sky - Beyond the Pale

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-09-07
Wheel in the Sky - Beyond the Pale
Wheel in the Sky - Beyond the Pale

This is a great guitar album that conjures the spirit of 1975-76 rock. In particular, it echoes the sound of Wishbone Ash and The Who. This is what rock music sounded like on the brink of The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

And just so you know, I was (sort of) tough guy/security at a Wishbone concert. And that’s pretty cool for an old retired English teacher. More about that later.

Now, true confession time: There are a lot of bands that register absolute zero on my interest meter. I don’t think I have ever willingly listened to a Pearl Jam record, even the one with Neil Young. For quite some time, I thought Eddie Vedder was a famous tennis player. April Wine? Not a chance. Asia? What a waste of talent. Europe? You must be joking. Night Ranger, Foreigner, and (heaven help me) Toto? No comment whatsoever. Kansas? I could live happily ever after without hearing “Dust in the Wind” again. Now, in all fairness, my other friend, Mike the Fireman, loves all those bands. So, you never know.

But Journey?

Seriously, if I were asked in some big money quiz game show to cite the next line after “Wheel in the Sky” in the chorus of Journey’s song of the same name, even if I knew it (which I unfortunately do), I’d keep my mouth shut just to retain some sort of rock ‘n’ roll street cred. After all, as stated before, I was once (sort of) Wishbone Ash’s muscle. But again, more about that later.

So yeah, this is a band named after that Journey song. I was about to push the reject button when I noticed on their website a favorite playlist. They named Blue Cheer. This isn’t that heavy, but then they posted the cover of Wishbone’s classic album Argus. I took a chance, played the album, and like one of those guys on an aircraft carrier who signal planes, I have to wave in all sceptics who enjoy a good guitar rock ‘n’ roll record.

“Rivers of Dust” avoids the clichés of area rock, and is a lot of fun to hear. It’s exciting, with Pete Townshend guitar chords, a definitive chorus, and Wishbone Ash’s Andy Powell’s Flying V Gibson guitar sound all over the place.

“Beyond the Pale” is even better. This only rocks with depth. Again, that guitar simply sings its solo. Now, it’s just an idea, but I’d love to hear that singing solo extend into the cosmos a bit more. 

Things slow a bit for the mystical “Far Side of Your Mind” that recalls the Laurie Wisefield “Ships in the Sky” Mark II Wishbone; until, of course, the drums kick the next tune, “Undead Love,” into overdrive and then all “Sometime World” euphoria breaks loose into melodic guitar drama.

Did I mention that the vocals recall the passion of Roger Daltry?

And “Invisible Eye” wanders further into intense dual guitar heaven and proves the band can write a pretty great chorus. There’s an acoustic break, a few keyboards, and an epic solo, and then it all returns to the chorus. This is fairly complex rock ‘n’ roll.

“Burn Babylon Burn” begins with that acoustic sound, but then it becomes dramatic with an urgent vocal, a heavy rhythm guitar, and the lead player fires off a few notes in order to presage the onslaught of a wonderful solo. And the same is true for “The Only Dead Girl in the City.” Quick chords support the vocal, while the guitar simply waits, with an acoustic moment, to explode into a frenzy of a solo.

This is intense stuff that recalls the more melodically heavy moments of Blue Oyster Cult.

“Afterglow” is, of course, quite soft and introspective. It drifts around like an uninvited guest to the second side of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.

Its quietude is the calm before the storm of the final epic tune, “The Weight of the Night.” This one is eight minutes plus of changing tempos, beginning with a brisk rock bit, which explodes into the band’s beautiful guitar sound, and it’s followed by a mantra mix of hard Who-like chords and a spidery lead guitar that spins away into the distance. It’s a nice dramatic ending, with a quiet piano adding to the slow dance of a pulse.

And, ultimately, I have to return to the album’s echo of Wishbone Ash, one of my favorite bands. The album is filled with melodic and dramatic guitar solos that provide a roller coaster ride.

And speaking of that Wishbone thing: I was never really a security tough guy; I just played one at a concert. Honest! I was simply standing in front of the backstage curtain, while waiting for Martin Turner (who was playing the club with his version of The Ash), to return with a copy of his book, No Easy Road, when a young lady approached and requested entrance, thinking that I was, apparently, the guardian of all things rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, I waved her in (just like I’m waving skeptical never Journey listeners into the grooves of this record). And, let’s just say I waved her in with even less swagger than any predicable mustered bravado (or lack thereof) in my one big, but rather warm and fuzzy, Cerberean rock music moment.

So, this album is about all of that: real swagger, guitar solos, melodic rock music. And, yeah, this is a retro glance backward to a time when rock ‘n’ roll pulled in its sails and solos a bit, but managed a decent punch against commercial radio and condensed everything into a still viable and still melodic atom, a rock ‘n’ roll atom that was about to explode, in this final pit stop, into the punk revolution’s blank generation.

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