[Review] The James Gang: Yer’ Album (1969)

Just yer usual blues-rock power trio, this time with rural sensibilities and a little sensimilla in the mix.

Kronomyth 1.0: The James Marshall Gang.

The James Gang were a psychedelic blues power trio modeled more on Hendrix than Cream, but lacking the high-stakes skills of either outfit. Their debut album, produced by a young Bill Szymczyk, is typical of the psychedelic rock albums from the period: studio in-jokes, spoken asides, incorporeal interludes, inscrutable lyrics and some blistering blues-rock guitar to ground it all. Although the Gang was founded by Jim Fox, Joe Walsh is their focal point: he sings, plays guitar and organ, writes most of the original material and is at least a level above the ability of Fox or bassist Tom Kriss in terms of chops.

Honestly, most of the bands in this genre/time-space (Steve Miller, Rhinoceros, Steppenwolf, Vanilla Fudge, etc.) were too busy burning incense to the blues-rock gods of their elevated imaginations to make consistently good music and too high to notice the difference between experimentation and mental masturbation. Not surprisingly, The James Gang are most effective here when they stop trying to construct their own stairway to hippie heaven and let Walsh jam off of other people’s platforms. Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird,” Yardbirds’ “Lost Woman” and 12 minutes of a seemingly unstoppable Walsh joined by Jerry Ragavoy on his “Stop” are highlights of Yer’ Album.

The originals are occasionally quite good (“Collage,” “Funk #48,” “I Don’t Have The Time”), but after forty years they’ve settled into the substrata of psychedelic rock, where their fungal pungency is more suitable for growing mushrooms than building temples of legend. That said, the inspired soloing on “Stop” clearly warranted an encore. Rather than a lost rock classic (as some would have you believe), this is simply the dirt and dust of lost ages, notable mostly as an early and ambitious flight from a pair (Walsh, Szymczyk) who would rise to greater heights with Eagles. [Super secret squirrel note: “hidden” spoken messages appear at the end of side one (“Turn me over”) and side two (“Play me again”) if you let the needle go to the end.]

Original LP Version

A1. Tuning Part One (Jim Fox/Bert De Coteaux/Bill Szymczyk) (0:39)
A2. Take A Look Around (Joe Walsh) (6:20)
A3. Funk #48 (Joe Walsh/Jim Fox/Tom Kriss) (2:47)
A4. Bluebird (Stephen Stills) (6:01)
A5. Lost Woman (Chris Dreja/Jeff Beck/Keith Relf/James McCarthy/Paul Samwell-Smith) (9:06)
B1. Stone Rap (Joe Walsh/Jim Fox/Tom Kriss/Bill Szymczyk) (0:59)
B2. Collage (Joe Walsh/Patrick Cullie) (4:03)
B3. I Don’t Have The Time (Joe Walsh/Jim Fox) (2:50)
B4. Wrapcity In English (Jow Walsh) (0:57)
B5. Fred (Joe Walsh) (4:11)
B6. Stop (Jerry Ragavoy/Mort Schuman) (12:00)

Arrangements by The James Gang and Bill Szymczyk.

The Players

Jim Fox (drums, guitar, vocals, piano introduction), Tom Kriss (bass, good vibes and cheek flute), Joe Walsh (guitars, keyboards, vocals, underwater piano) with Bert “Super Charts” De Coteaux (string arrangements), Jerry “Rags” Ragavoy (piano on B6), Bill Szymczyk (organ, maracas). Produced and engineered by Bill Szymczyk.

The Pictures

Cover design by Byron Goto and Henry Epstein. Photo collage by Byron Goto. Inside left cover art by Ladimer Jeric. Inside right cover art by Gary Finn. Photos by Bill Szymczyk.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on March 29, 1969 in the US (Bluesway, BLS-6034) and Japan (Probe, IPP-80747) with gatefold cover; reached #83 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1971 in the US (ABC, ABCS 688) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (EMI Stateside, SSL-10295).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Beat Goes On, BGOLP-60).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in the US (One Way, ONE-22052).
  5. Re-released on super high material ccompact disc in 2009 in Japan (Universal, UICY-94058).

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