Wednesday, 18 January 2017

"Rides Again" by JAMES GANG [featuring JOE WALSH] (2009 Japan-Only Geffen/Universal SHM CD Repro Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...



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"…Ashes, The Rain And I…"

Dull as dishwater cover artwork or not - I've loved this frigging album for over 40 years now - and this gorgeous Japanese reissue has only brought that passion to a boil yet again. I wouldn't mind if it was anything new (it isn't). It's simply the remaster done by TED JENSEN in the States in 2000 slapped onto a new format and buffed up with repro artwork and an audiophile price tag - but I can't help myself. This dinky looking SHM-CD sits on my bulging shelf at home (I'm glad something's bulging in this house) along with the other Joe Walsh solo albums that followed his departure from THE JAMES GANG (also on SHM-CD). And I love them all to bits. I've always thought The James Gang were a bit special and I wouldn't be alone in this. Here are the bomber Medleys, Asshton Park Women and the Funk that numbers 49...

Released 22 April 2009 in Japan-Only on a SHM-CD in 5” Mini LP Repro Artwork -"Rides Again" by JAMES GANG on Geffen/Universal UICY-94059 (Barcode 4988005555083) breaks down as follows (35:13 minutes):

1. Funk No. 49
2. Asshtonpark
3. Woman
4. The Bomber (a) Closet Queen (b) Bolero (c) Cast Your Fate To The Wind
5. Tend My Garden [Side 2]
6. Garden Gate
7. There I Go Again
8. Thanks
9. Ashes, The Rain And I
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Rides Again" - released July 1970 in the USA on ABC Records S-711 and October 1970 in the UK on Probe Records SPBA 6253. Both countries sported a gatefold sleeve - this 5" repro artwork facsimiles the first pressing of the American vinyl LP with the colour painting of the band on the inner gatefold (and the "Bolero" credit in "The Bomber"). There's a 20-page booklet that has lyrics, some text in Japanese and little else. This is pretty much par for the course for these Japanese releases.

JAMES GANG was:
JOE WALSH - Guitars, Keyboards and Lead Vocals
DALE "BUGSLEY" PETERS - Bass and 6-String Guitar on "Ashes, Rain And I"
JIM FOX - Drums and Percussion
All tracks on the album are written by Joe Walsh except "Funk No. 49" which is a co-write between Walsh, Fox and Peters, "Closet Queen" within "The Bomber" is also a band co-write - while the final track "Ashes, The Rain And I" is a Joe Walsh/Dale Peters composition.

The SHM-CD format (Super High Materials) does not require a specific machine to play them on - they're simply a better form of disc created by JVC in 2008 to improve on the original CD format (unchanged since it was first put out 30 years ago). The general idea is that the sound on the SHM-CD is more defined and to my ears they do seem to extract more nuances from the transfer.

Original produced by BILL SZYMCZYK - the album's sound was supposed to be loud and in your face (as per the liner notes) - and it is on monsters like the stunning "Funk No. 49" and "The Bomber". But I've always found it to be so sweetly delicate too on softer tracks like "There I Go Again" (Pedal Steel played by RUSTY YOUNG of POCO) and the gorgeous "Tend My Garden". Speaking of "The Bomber" - fans will know that after initial pressings of the album the 3-part song was reduced down to 2-parts on subsequent pressings - losing the centre "Bolero" piece. So "The Bomber" went from 7:05 minutes to roughly 5:40 minutes. As this disc apes the American 2000 remaster - what you get is pressing No. 1 with the full 7:05 minute version. It's a shame someone didn't take the time to add on the 2-part edit as a bonus track - but if you want that version it's on the 1998 Repertoire 2CD set "The Best Of" on Repertoire REP 4671-WR (Barcode 4009910467121). Back to the three-part version we have - Walsh cleverly mixes in Ravel's classical "Bolero" and Vincent Guaraldi's jazz piece "Cast Your Fate To The Wind" into his own rock song so you get a seven-minute guitar pyrotechnics fest that ends Side One of the LP.

Side 2 is perfect to me - the near six-minute "Tend My Garden" segues into the two-minute bluesy acoustic ditty that is "Garden Gate" - gorgeous playing and it sounds wonderful on this CD. "Thanks" is lovely too but the album's undeniable second masterpiece is the finisher "Ashes, The Rain And I" - an acoustic song laden with fabulous string arrangements by JACK NITZSCHE. It sends me every time I hear and I've ended many's a 70's FEST CD compilation with it.

OK - you could argue that it's simpler to buy the 2000 CD for less than a fiver and be done with it - and if you want the cheaper option (still with great sound) - then that's the way to go. But as a fan - if I think I can get a few more nanoseconds of sonic greatness out of this sucker - then I'm gonna be the financial sucker and buy that dinky Japanese repro with its new-fangled format thingy. I have both versions - but I must confess that I play the SHM every time because of that extra detail and warmth.

The James Gang would enlist ace guitarists Dominic Troiano and Tommy Bolin for their next lot of LPs and start another chapter. But this - "Yer Album" and "Thirds" (all with Walsh) have always tickled my funny bone. Fantastic stuff and worth the few extra quid...

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