James Gang Rides Over Fillmore (Godfatherecords G.R. 887)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA – November 21, 1970
(71:32) Opening Jam, Funk #49, Stop, You’re Gonna Need Me, The Bomber, Thanks, Ashes The Rain & I, Bluebird, Lost Woman
James Gang Rides Over Fillmore features the James Gang at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in support of their second LP, James Gang Rides Again. Some say this is a soundboard but this actually comes from a very good to excellent audience recording that can easily be mistaken for a board tape in places. All instruments are well represented with the guitar and bass up front. Joe Walsh’s vocal cuts through nicely but sounds a little thin in the recording. This tape was released before on the CDR label, Breakdown, as The Groove Funk. Godfather is a big improvement in sound quality. It is brighter, clearer, and overall has a much better range of frequencies present.
After a three and a half minute warm up jam, Joe kicks into the “Funk #49” riff. Probably one of the coolest riffs ever written, it has more than stood the test of time, sounding just as fresh today as it did then. Walsh fills up the drum break with some extra guitar “chuggin” to great effect as it builds to the guitar break.
After a brief greeting, Walsh sets up his echo unit for the next track. The delay soaked rhythms lead into “Asshtonpark”, from the James Gang Rides Again LP, which in turn acts as the lead in to an abbreviated version of “Stop”, from their debut, Yer Album. Walsh gets into some real shredding with Dale Peters and Jim Fox holding down a nice solid foundation. This segues into Albert King’s “You’re Gonna Need Me”, a nice slow blues for Joe to stretch out during. My first experience with this track would be the version found on their Live In Concert album, and this is certainly a killer version as well.
“The Bomber” is one of the most aggressive tracks in the band’s repertoire and remains in Walsh’s solo setlists to this day. He gets into some nice “trippy” slide work in the middle before they enter the “Bolero” section. You can’t help but realize how tight the rhythm section is here as well. On the flip side, they sit down for a funky little acoustic song next in “Thanks”. The recording picks up the acoustic guitars very clearly. After some tuning “Ashes The Rain & I” continues with two acoustic guitars and some light percussion. Its haunting melody demands the quiet attention of the Fillmore until the last notes have been played before showing their appreciation.
“Bluebird” starts with another electric guitar jam before we hear the familiar Buffalo Springfield melody. Walsh had a knack for reinventing tunes and this Stephen Stills track demonstrates just how well he could interpret other people’s material. Reaching over ten minutes he gets in some fine experimentation. “Lost Woman” is another example, this time covering a Yardbirds track. They jam for over twenty minutes going through various phases highlighting their individual instruments much like Cream and the Allman Brothers would do with their extended jams.
The James Gang was an amazing band. They had a really cool unique funk-rock sound and knew how to just “jam”. Walsh demonstrates amazing control over his instrument yet had a very raw approach during his early days. I would love to see more silvers from this classic lineup in the future.
James Gang Rides Over Fillmore is an outstanding document from the band’s short career. To have this recording on a silver disc is essential. Thanks to Godfather for realizing this release and to Paul De Luxe for the excellent liner notes. It comes packaged in their tri-fold sleeve with several photos of the guys and overall has a very cool retro look to it.
Sound quality is decent, with (very) occasional drops of sound, certainly better than many bottom end official releases from the period (like the ones from King Crimson’s Collector Club). The real treat is the music of the band, never properly represented in their raging live glory. If you look for a top-tier improvised hard-rock from the genre’s heyday, just grab this release and enjoy the precious memory from the times when (mainstream) rock was all about adventure and rules breaking.
I love the setlist performed here; sigh…it was advertised as a SB and falls short with rather por sound quality. Due to the shortage of James Gang material it is nonetheless a worthwhile addition to any collection with a great performance. I wish the sound was as good as the reunion release a few years ago that was stellar sound quality! Regardless a highly impressive performance by Joe,Jim & Dale.