[Review] Roger Daltrey: Ride A Rock Horse (1975)

Better material and Russ Ballard (ex-Argent) give this the inside track advantage over his first album.

Kronomyth 2.0: The centaur of attention.

Roger Daltrey was having a moment. Star of the silver screen in not one but two films: Tommy and Lisztomania. Star in the continuing story of The Who, chapter eleven (The Who By Numbers). And star of his own stage with his second solo album, Ride A Rock Horse. See me, indeed.

On Daltrey’s second, he swaps out the songwriting team of Leo Sayer and David Courtney for Russ Ballard (Argent), Paul Korda and others. Ballard serves as Daltrey’s primary musical collaborator/director, playing guitar and keyboards and producing the album, with session players Dave Wintour, Henry Spinetti and Stuart Francis (Forever More, Glencoe) in supporting roles. The band gives the material some much-needed oomph, placing it somewhere between Elton John (c. Rock of the Westies) and Ronnie Lane on the imaginary rock-o-meter.

“This album is more the way I sing. When I did the first album, everyone said, ‘Oh, Daltrey’s gone soft.’ But that was just one side of me that got overshadowed in The Who. This one has more balls on it.” – Roger Daltrey, as quoted in Rolling Stone.

The heaviest material on the album comes from Ballard, who favors a soulful R&B sound. Come and Get Your Love even sounds like an old R&B standard. Proud features a gritty performance from Daltrey, while Near to Surrender has a trace of gospel in it. Toss in the oldie Walking the Dog (a song that Aerosmith basically made their bitch on their debut album), and you’ve got half an album of, if not maximum, then at least medium R&B.

The three songs from Paul Korda land closer to Elton John’s tuneful pop/rock, especially the catchy Heart-s Right and World Over. Feeling features a neat bridge that reminds me of something Pete Townshend might write. The remaining tracks come from professional songwriters. Philip Goodhand-Tait’s Oceans Away gives Daltrey a big ballad to sing. The Who singer breaks out his Cockney accent to poke some holes in his own star on Milk Train, which would have been a nice vehicle for Ronnie Lane. The album closes with a song perfectly tailored to Daltrey’s role but poorly tailored to a rock album, I Was Born to Sing Your Song.

Ride A Rock Horse isn’t a great record. I’m not even sure it’s a good one. Daltrey’s disillusionment with The Who in the mid-Seventies found him distancing himself from that band’s heavy sound, focusing on his film career and more or less singing whatever music was put in front of him. Like Frank Sinatra, the man could sing the words on the back of an aspirin bottle and sound good. All in all, not a bad ride, and at least Daltrey didn’t make an ass of himself (Moonie, I’m looking at you).

Original elpee version

A1. Come and Get Your Love (Russ Ballard) (3:43)
A2. Heart-s Right (Paul Korda) (2:59)
A3. Oceans Away (Philip Goodhand-Tait) (3:17)
A4. Proud (Russ Ballard) (4:50)
A5. World Over (Paul Korda) (3:09)
B1. Near to Surrender (Russ Ballard) (2:36)
B2. Feeling (Paul Korda) (4:38)
B3. Walking the Dog (Rufus Thomas) (4:35)
B4. Milk Train (Dominic Bugatti/Frank Musker) (3:16)
B5. I Was Born to Sing Your Song (Don Marchand/Chris Neal) (4:32)

Original 8-track version
A1. Come and Get Your Love
A2. Near to Surrender
A3. World Over
B1. Proud
B2. I Was Born to Sing Your Song
C1. Feeling
C2. Walking the Dog
D1. Heart -s Right
D2. Oceans Away
D3. Milk Train

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. You Put Something Better Inside Me (Gerry Rafferty/Joe Egan) (3:48)
12. Dear John (David Courtney) (3:47)
13. Oceans Away (alternate version) (Philip Goodhand-Tait) (3:11)

The Players

Roger Daltrey (vocals), Russ Ballard (piano, organ, guitar, brass arrangement), Stuart Francis (drums on A1/A5/B1/B2), Tony Meehan (strings, brass, woodwinds, conga, percussion), Henry Spinetti (drums on A2/A4/B3/B4/B5), Sweedies (backing vocals on A2/A4/A5/B3/B4), Dave Wintour (bass) with John Barnham (brass arrangement on A1/B1), Alan Brown (trumpet on A4), Clem Clemson (guitar solo on B2), Philip Goodhand-Tait (piano on A3), Phil Kenzie (sax on B3), Kokomo (backing vocals on A1/B1), Paul Korda (piano on A5/B2/B4), Nick Newell (alto solo on A2), Russ, Paul, Gisela & Butch (backing vocals on B4), Alan Wicket (shakers on B3). Produced by Russ Ballard; engineered by John Jansen.

The Pictures

Cover concept, art direction and photography by Graham Hughes. Dye transfer by Langham-Wind. Retouching by Mike Mann Assoc.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on July 4, 1975 in the UK (Polydor, 2442 135/3170-236), the US (MCA, MCA/MCAT-2147) and Germany (Polydor, 2383 346) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #14 on the UK charts and #28 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc on January 28, 1998 in Germany (Repertoire, REP 4642 WY) with 3 bonus tracks.
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc on October 3, 2005 in the UK (Castle, CMRCD1138) with 2 bonus tracks (omits track #11).
  3. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2006 in the US (Hip-O, B0006652-02) with 2 bonus tracks (omits track #11).

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