I enjoyed a quick 30k tempo blast along the Parkway this morning and this evening, providing Mother Nature can hold her shit together long enough (Spoiler: It didn’t), I’m going to do a short and easy drill run and, as per usual, there’s always this afternoon’s 20 minute core routine (Day 95) along with some heady vinyl. And this afternoon’s heady vinyl listen du jour is the ‘Thirds‘ album by the James Gang.
This the only other James Gang album I have in my collection.
This was the album (released in 1971) that was supposed to propel the band into the Top Ten, headliner status, but that didn’t actually happen. The band was on its last legs by this point, rent by dissension as Joe Walsh became the focus of attention, and the appropriately titled ‘Thirds‘ reflected the conflict.
Among the nine original songs, four were contributed by Walsh (who is credited on the album cover with “guitar, vocals, and train wreck”), two each by bass player Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox, and one was a group composition. But it was Walsh’s songs that stood out. His ‘Walk Away‘, was the first single, and it climbed into the Top 40 in at least one national chart, the group’s only 45 to do that well (actually charted in the US at #51). ‘Midnight Man‘ (#80), the follow-up single, was another Walsh tune, and it also made the charts. The Fox and Peters compositions were a step down in quality, particularly Peters’…except for ‘Things I Could Be‘ and ‘Live My Life Again‘ that is, cuz those tunes are the shit!
But the problem wasn’t just the material, it was also musical approach. ‘James Gang Rides Again‘ had emphasized the band’s hard rock sound, which was its strong suit. But they had never given up the idea of themselves as an eclectic unit, and this album was their most diverse effort yet, with pedal steel guitar, horn and string charts, and backup vocals by the Sweet Inspirations turning up on one track or another. At a time when Walsh was being hailed as a guitar hero to rank with the best rock had to offer, he was not only submerging himself in a group with inferiors, but also not playing much of the kind of lead guitar his supporters were raving about. As a result, though ‘Thirds‘ quickly earned a respectable chart position and eventually went gold, it was not the commercial breakthrough that might have been expected.
Shortly afterwards, Walsh was nowhere to be seen and eventually would strike out on his own.