Bill Ward

Ward One: Along the Way

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This is an extraordinary album from the drummer of Black Sabbath, released on the California label Chameleon. The music is expertly defined, produced, and engineered by Peter R. Kelsey, while "lyrics and musical arrangement" by Bill Ward is the hint that this is Ward's baby all the way. It opens with Kiss/Black Sabbath/Alice Cooper substitute drummer Eric Singer on the skins and Ward on vocals. That tune, "Shooting Gallery," has a riff that you can't place and an overwhelming presence; it gives way to another Ward vocal on "Short Stories," which blends nicely into "Bombers (Can Open Bomb Bays)," with Ozzy Osbourne on lead vocals. The track is tremendous. "Pink Clouds an Island" brings Ward back to the lead vocals, and it is as strange as it sounds. It is a bridge to another gem with another guest star: The distinctive voice of Cream's Jack Bruce adds a haunting element to the sparse guitar excursion that is "Light Up the Candles (Let There Be Peace Tonight)." There is not a bad track on this disc -- it is heavy, it is well-produced, and creative ideas flow all over the place. Ward returns to center stage for a metallic stomp called "Snakes and Ladders," complete with Keith Lynch and Rue Phillips damaging guitars. Where progressive rock and metal fans alike found Phil Collins leaving the drums for the microphone sacrilege, Ward proves that he, not Ian Gillan, and not a thousand other faceless vocalists, had the charm to front Black Sabbath during the days without Ozzy. "Snakes and Ladders" is relentless, a stomp with guitar textures that would make Tony Iommi proud. Ozzy returns for his second and final track, "Jack's Land": "It's a simple enough task, boys, to find a living miracle." This is classic Ozzy, maybe a bit more refined. Ward strikes many poses, but the gentleman on page two of the booklet seems like the clever chap who concocted this incredible brew. The fact is, Ward One: Along The Way is stronger than many discs put out by all the people involved with it. Chameleon has to be commended, on one hand, for allowing it to see the light of day, and chastised for letting Ward's superb solo disc get lost in the shuffle. "Jack's Land" and Ozzy's vocal fade out and metallic riffs move in as Ward takes the drums, keyboards, and vocals back. Phil Collins again comes to mind -- as a producer, his drum sound on the hit "Easy Lover" for Philip Bailey was something that saved Collins from eternal damnation, but Ward gets equally significant drum sounds and a perfectly eerie vocal on "Living Naked"; "Music for a Raw Nerve Ending" adds early Who sounds to the quasi-Iron Maiden sludge. Bruce returns for a strange "Tall Stories," and Ward closes it out with "Sweep" and the title track, "Along the Way." Absolutely excellent stuff.

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