The James Gang
Released: April 1971
Chart Peak: #27
Weeks Charted: 30
Certified Gold: 7/12/72
By no exertion of the imagination are James Gang the greatest rock and roll band ever to walk the face of the earth or anything (although some maintain that they are the greatest rock and roll band ever to have walked the face of Cleveland, Ohio), but they are capable of some nice little treats every now and again.
As a lead guitarist Joe Walsh ain't gonna cure any cripples, for even though he possesses sufficient restraint and expertise with his wall of amplifingers and arsenal of electronic doo-dads to make your average heavy-trio guitarist pass out from envy, he scarcely ever fails to stick a few bars of hackneyed doodlings in before and after his moments of genuine inspiration, invention, ingenuity, insouciance, and/or industry.
"Midnight Man," though, is Joe Walsh at his best when all is said and done. Never mind that in several ways it's an unblushing, ahem, ripoff of "Nowhere Man" -- can anyone deny that the Hawaiian guitar and background singing are real, real nice? Furthermore, what I personally love most about it is how, after Joe's sung two verses about how he's the midnight man, blah blah, a young lady with a fabulous silky and completely expressionless 1962 voice comes in to sing the third verse to the midnight man, or, in this case, Joe. It's so fucking cute your mind will fall out.
Right after "Walk Away" there's a pleasant supper-club background jazz work-out featuring Jim Fox on vibes (no pun intended) called "Yadig," which for no discernable reason makes the reviewer yearn to say, "James Gang In A Mellow Mood At The Club Relaxez."
I should mention drummer Jim Fox's "Live My Life Again" because it's the only interesting words on the album (and, debatably, the worst guitar solo). Perhaps Pete Townshend, who's reportedly an admirer of both, could introduce King Crimson's lyricist to James Gang. It'd be worth a try.
The rest of the album is just kinda real negligible, albeit listenable, except for bassman Dale Peters' "White Man/Black Man," a real no-two-ways-about-it embarrassment in the form of an overproduced plea for Greater Understanding between the races so that we can all Live Together. In that Mr. Peters' other contribution to Thirds, "Dreaming In The Country," is the obligatory shitkicking throwaway, it might be judicious of Walsh, Fox, a concerned roadie, the group's manager, Bill Szyczyk, or the president of ABC Records to throttle him the next time the look in his eyes says, "I gotta new 'riginal!"
- John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 7/22/71.
The James Gang has another good one here, another set scoring artistically and slated to score commercially. This hot trio has solid material, such as "Walk Away," country-flavored material such as "Dreamin' In The Country," and other top material, including "Midnight Man." "White Man/ Black Man" is another winner.
- Billboard, 1971.
Thirds wasn't quite as satisfying as James Gang Rides Again, lacking the consistently strong songwriting of the previous album. Nevertheless, the interplay between the musicians is impressive throughout the record and whenever Walsh turns in a killer song, like "Walk Away" or "Midnight Man," the band drives it home for all it's worth. * * * *
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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