Hard to believe but there was a time when Rock and Roll wasn’t full grown. It was inchoate, forming, immature. Full of potential. An intricate architectural development, with no master builder. Just a bunch of wild children building in their own space, while the world looked on, and cheered on, with rapt attention, and in a constant state of befuddlement, bewilderment and awe.
I’ve always wondered, if you were an aspiring artist, did you have a plan? Was the music organic? Did you care or just play. Did they think at all? My friend Whit tells me I think too much.
I listened to the James Gang’s debut, Yer’ Album, again for the 1000th time. It’s truly without antecedent. There are parts that sound like the late ’60s, but the album overall and the guitar work by Joe Walsh in particular is de novo.
Listen to the cover of Bluebird, one of my favorite Buffalo Springfield songs. It’s a symphony of sound. Rich in layered texture and flowing. Crazy good guitar work. Melodic and chiming, with arpeggios interspersed. but also seriously hard core. Driving rhythm and power. Cross between psychedelic, funk, jazz, rock.
How about the Joe Jam on Woman at the 2:05 mark. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but only by people who played it after he invented it.
I don’t think an album like it would survive for a minute today. To weird and without purpose. Even worse, the only place you’d hear music like this played live is in my garage. Not trippy enough for jamband land. Not jazzy enough for jazz clubs. Not headbanging for the mosh pit. Not rock and roll enough for the bar scene.
Like the ancient ruins in Greece, Yer’ Album is part of the foundation of today’s music architecture. But, also it’s like the ruins, in that something you look at and listen to with nostalgia. In the end, we’ve all moved on, valuing looking forward — and thinking forward — way more looking or thinking about the past.
“Do you think she loves me? Do you think at all?”