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Wishbone Ash – Blowin' Free – 4/2/1976 – Winterland (Official)

Wishbone Ash – Blowin’ Free
Recorded Live: 4/2/1976 – Winterland – San Francisco, CA
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Andy Powell – guitar, vocals
Martin Turner – bass, vocals
Steve Upton – drums
Laurie Wisefield – guitar, vocals
Graham Maitland – keyboards

Discovered in the archives of the late promoter Bill Graham, this excellent live recording of Wishbone Ash was made in April 1976 as the band was promoting Locked In, an album they had made with producer Tom Dowd, best known for his work with Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, and the Allman Brothers.

After arranging much of the dual guitar work between Clapton and Duane Allman on the Derek & The Dominoes LP and with Dickey Betts and Duane Allman on the early Allman Brothers records, Dowd was a logical choice for the dueling guitars of Wishbone Ash. Although the band never saw the success that any of the Clapton bands or the Allmans did, they built a solid following of guitar-hero worshiping fans. This was their second time at Winterland, where they had previously played in 1973.

Wishbone Ash began as a blues-based guitar band and eventually became a progressive rock force. They formed in the late-1960s, with guitarist Andy Powell, bassist Martin Turner, second guitarist Ted Turner, and drummer Steve Upton. They were quickly scooped up by rock manager Miles Copeland, years before he would spearhead the careers of Sting, his brother Stuart Copeland, and Andy Summers. Copeland got them an opening slot with Deep Purple, and one day when guitarist Andy Powell was jamming with Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore at a sound check, they were offered a record deal with Decca Records in the U.K.

The group released four studio albums in four years, growing in popularity with each record. They were faves of the British press, and in many ways offered as a sort of U.K counterpart to what the Allman Brothers Band were doing with dual guitars in the United States. After the release of Wishbone Four in 1974, Ted Turner left the band and was replaced by Laurie Wisefield, who remained with Wishbone Ash through the late- 1980s. Bassist and founder Martin Turner would also leave for a time and was replaced by former King Crimson and future Asia bassist John Wetton.

This show featured the Powell/Martin Turner/Wisefield/Upton lineup, and is unique for also featuring a keyboard player in the mix. The set was performed in a year where they released two different studio albums on two different labels (MCA and Atlantic); although the band thought a move to Atlantic would help them dominate the charts in the U.S., after one disappointing album the band returned to their deal with MCA.

Hard core fans of the band will love this performance. Wishbone Ash has essentially remained a cult favorite, never really achieving widespread commercial success. The original lineup did reunite for one LP and tour in 1992, and today Powell lives in Connecticut and Turner remains in the U.K. There have been two different versions of Wishbone Ash touring since the mid-1990s, with both musicians fighting over the right to the name.

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