Album rock radio in America in 1970 resounded to the rock of the James Gang, and on 25 July that year, they proved that their initial success the year before with Yer’ Album was no fluke. They debuted on the Billboard chart with their second LP, James Gang Rides Again.
The rock ‘n’ roll cowboys from Cleveland had come together as far back as 1966, but it wasn’t until the last year of the decade that that debut album made its appearance. It reached No. 83 in a 24-week chart run, but it was Rides Again that really promoted the band to the top division of rock talent in the US. It hit No. 20, becoming the first of three consecutive gold albums and spending an epic 66 weeks on the bestsellers.
The album was produced, like its predecessor, by Bill Szymczyk and made at the Record Plant in late 1969. Rides Again was seen by the press as a more consistent piece of work, even if it invited comparisons with various other rock notables of the day, from Jeff Beck via Led Zeppelin to Stephen Stills and Neil Young.
Jack Nitzsche contributed a classical-style orchestral arrangement to the ballad that closed the record, ‘Ashes, The Rain and I.’ The track made an unlikely connection with club-goers in 1999, when it was sampled by British DJ-artist Fatboy Slim on his UK No. 2 hit ‘Right Here, Right Now.’
The James Gang had won praise from Pete Townshend when they played with The Who in Pittsburgh. Soon after the release of Rides Again, their first UK performances were, aptly, supporting the British band on tour through most of October, 1970.
“We would never have come over here if it hadn’t been for him,” Joe Walsh told Penny Valentine in Sounds. “England has a kind of aura about it, y’know. Americans expect everyone to be a Jimmy Page. And he helped us a hell of a lot in the States.
“Okay, we were getting along, but he got us attention and since then The Who has really taken us under their wing. I don’t honestly understand what they see in us. I still can’t believe we’re where we are and what’s happened to us.”
The Best of Joe Walsh and the James Gang, 1969-1974 can be bought here.