Saturday, June 13, 2009

The James Gang - Yer Album (1969)

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With the emergence of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience during the late '60s, the path was cleared for other hard-rockin' "trios." Arguably, the finest to emerge from the subsequent American crop was the James Gang. Despite penning a few of classic rock radio's most enduring songs, the James Gang ultimately failed to deliver on their initial promise, as constant lineup juggling ultimately derailed the group.

The Gang's roots stretch back to 1966 in Cleveland, OH, where drummer Jim Fox formed the group with a few fellow Kent State University students, guitarist Glenn Schwartz and bassist Tom Kriss. But when Schwartz left to join Pacific Gas & Electric, Fox and Kriss... Read More...
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1. Introduction (Bert de Coteaux/Jim Fox/Bill Szymczyk) – 0:40 
2. Take a Look Around (Joe Walsh) – 6:18 
3. Funk #48 (Jim Fox/Tom Kriss/Joe Walsh) – 2:46 
4. Bluebird (Stephen Stills) – 6:02 
5. Lost Woman (Jeff Beck/Chris Dreja/Jim McCarty/Keith Relf/Paul Samwell-Smith) – 9:06 
6. Stone Rap (Jim Fox/Tom Kriss/Bill Szymczyk/Joe Walsh) – 1:00 
7. Collage (Patrick Cullie/Joe Walsh) – 4:02 
8. I Don't Have the Time (Jim Fox/Joe Walsh) – 2:49 
9. Wrapcity in English (Joe Walsh) – 0:57 
10. Fred(Joe Walsh) – 4:09 
11.Stop (Jerry Ragovoy/Mort Shuman) – 12:04
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The James Gang's debut LP, Yer' Album, was very much a first record and very much a record of its time. The heavy rock scene of the period was given to extensive jamming, and four tracks ran more than six minutes each. The group had written some material, but they were still something of a cover band, and the disc included their extended workouts on Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" and the Yardbirds' "Lost Woman," the latter a nine-minute version complete with lengthy guitar, bass, and drum solos. But in addition to the blues rock there were also touches of pop and progressive rock, mostly from Walsh who displayed a nascent sense of melody, not to mention some of the taste for being a cutup that he would display in his solo career. Walsh's "Take a Look Around" must have made an impression on Pete Townshend during the period before the album's release when the James Gang was opening for the Who since Townshend borrowed it for the music he was writing for the abortive Lifehouse follow-up to Tommy. If "Wrapcity (i.e., Rhapsody) in English," a minute-long piano and strings interlude, seems incongruous in retrospect, recall that this was an eclectic era. But the otherwise promising "Fred," which followed, broke down into a pedestrian jazz routine, suggesting that the band was trying to cram too many influences onto one record and sometimes into one song. Nevertheless, they were talented improvisers, as the open-ended album closer, Jerry Ragavoy and Mort Shuman's "Stop," made clear. After ten minutes, Szymczyk faded the track out, but Walsh was still going strong. Yer' Album contained much to suggest that the James Gang, in particular its guitarist, had a great future, even if it was more an album of performances than compositions. 
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