the james gang

Zachariah – or how the greatest jazz drummer of the modal era steals the first “electric western”

Zach_OST“Zachariah, The First Electric Western” bellows the deep baritone at the top of the trailer. 

This declaration is quickly followed by some meaty power chords and an aggressive edit full of saloons, flappers, shootouts, strobey type animations and heavily treated footage of The James Gang conducting what Josh Homme might even consider to be the Desert Sessions 1.0.

The film’s artwork depicts a photo of the titular character wearing Janis Joplins shades and space-age ear goggles tucked under his 10 gallon hat. A regular doob smoking steampunk.

Unfortunately the trailer and the poster art are about as psychedlic as the movie gets. The heavily saturated film effects, the headphones, the sunglasses, and the joint, literally do not exist in the movie.  In their place is a pretty tepid (and very campy) coming of age film with a western backdrop.

This excursion is not a total waste, however. What the movie lacks in the plot, performances, production value, and just about everything else, it makes up for in youtube wormholes.

zach_ramseyray_flyerThe screenplay was written by the forward thinking comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre, and was allegedly based on Hesse’s Siddhartha.

The soundtrack and film also featured a Banjo/Fiddle cousin duo known as White Lightnin’ who have a pretty interesting story in their own right.

The best surprise of this film is the inclusion of legendary jazz drummer Elvin Jones as Job Cain, the fastest gun in the west.

The great documentary Beware of Mr. Baker  draws a pretty organic connection between the jazz greats and psychedlic rockers.  Ginger Baker and Elvin Jones had a shoot out of their own sometime in the 1970s. Zachariah, however, is Elvin’s rodeo.

In the clip below, witness Elvin’s Job Cain win a duel and then proceed to commandeer Jim Fox’s drum set for a killer solo. Aerial shot to boot.

The soundtrack is a well sequenced mix of old guy rock (James Gang, New York Rock Ensemble,) Country & Western (Doug Kershaw, White Lightnin’,) and traditional film score.

The James Gang – Laguna Salada

White Lightnin’ – Shy Ann


The Three Degrees – Collage (The James Gang)

the-three-degrees-maybe-b-w-collage-45_10167782The Three Degrees are a Philadelphia based vocal group that was formed in the 1960s, they’ve taken the Menudo route of maintaining career longevity via a rotating lineup of over a half dozen members throughout their lifespan.

This song seemed so instantly coded into my psyche, that I was initially convinced that it must have been sampled in some RZA beat or DJ Shadow track, but I don’t think that’s the case.In reality, the years of listening to David Axelrod has trained me well for this song.  The vibes on the downstroke, the wah-picked guitar intro, and the dramatic entrance of the killer break beat. Oh and the vocals.

The track is a James Gang cover co-written by Joe Walsh. The original is pretty sweet too.

Collage – The Three Degrees

Collage – The James Gang