Sometimes albums come along that are being reissued that you have no idea who they are. I confess when I was asked about reviewing White Wing I sort of uttered “Who?”.
This self-titled album was released in 1976 and had one song that became a minor hit in “Hansa (Aquila)” which led to comparisons with The Moody Blues although not much of the album did that. The South Dakota band were a bit heavier in places and more often have a sound not to dissimilar with Uriah Heep or early Deep Purple with occasional moments of Yes. From listening to the album it didn’t sound like they had fully decided on what they wanted to be, but at the same time, the variety is reasonably enjoyable.
Some of the band went on to create another outfit called Asia which of course was overridden by another band in the UK who became more famous due to having members of Yes, King Crimson and ELP. As Asia, they recorded two albums and both were more hard rocking so it seems that was where they really wanted to go.
Singer Mike English can go from Jon Anderson to David Byron depending on the mood or style of the song very effectively. Mike Coates who became a professor of classical music and has recorded classical albums plays some delightful guitar on particularly “Wait Till Tomorrow” and “Tuzashottma”, whilst going all folky and Jethro Tull on “The White Ship” and funky on “A Little Levity (A Satirical Salute)” which is very similar at points to the Wild Cherry song “Play That Funky Music”. (For reference the Wild Cherry track came out the same year but no idea which came first.)
There are some rather enjoyable keyboard fills and flourishes from Tim Renshaw who on occasion unleashes his inner Jon Lord especially on “Executive Privelege” (their spelling) which is a more 60s style psychedelic track at times making it sound a bit dated (not bad but just of its time). On “The White Ship” he delivers a Billy Powell (Lynyrd Skynyrd) type solo. This particular track has so many elements between that Tull folk thing, and an Allman Brothers guitar solo and the Skynyrd piano section. It actually hangs together very well and for me is possibly the best track on the album.
The first and last tracks (the last being the afore-mentioned single) have lots of mellotron and are quite gentle with atmospheric vocals and a little haunting. One can see why from those why they were tagged as an American Moody Blues!
For me, this album is worth hearing as there are some really nice moments on it and the musicianship is of high quality. Perhaps not essential (and perhaps not easy to get even on the re-issue) but it is a flavor of what was going on musically at the time.
I enjoyed most of it and it is a shame they didn’t really make more of a name. One to check out if you have wide tastes and willing to explore.