The Rides: Pierced Arrow

Supergroup concept revs again in Stephen Stills’s “blues band of my dreams”.

The Rides band photograph

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Although Cream were the first example of well-known musicians fleeing established bands to play together, the term ‘supergroup’ was minted in May 1968 when Al Kooper, fresh from Blood, Sweat & Tears, booked two days in the studio with Electric Flag guitarist Mike Bloomfield and organist Barry Goldberg, who he had played with in Dylan’s band at 1965’s Newport festival.

When Bloomfield failed to show on the second day, Kooper hastily brought in Stephen Stills, whose Buffalo Springfield were disintegrating along with the Flag. The success of the resulting Super Session ignited a biblical plague of usually short-lived supergroups but, 45 years later, Stills found himself playing with Goldberg again at a benefit, along with multi-platinum blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

Sparks flew and the trio, naming themselves from a mutual love of classic cars, recorded 2013’s Can’t Get Enough. Determined to continue, The Rides hit the road, bolstered by bassist Kevin McCormick and Shepherd’s long-time drummer Chris Layton, and then forged this engaging consolidation.

With each member long since having made their marks, egos are left outside as the band have a tangible blast transcending the bland predictability that can blight such projects. Lead vocals are divided between Stills’ raw-throated reflections and Shepherd’s bluesy ruminations. With both also sharing lead guitar duties, they rev up with the Stonesy Kick Out Of It and Creedence-booting Riva Diva, before the deeper, more personalised outings start with Virtual World (vocals double-tracked CSNY-style). The band excels on this kind of heartfelt slowie, which also include Shepherd’s acoustic By My Side and Stills’ gorgeous There Was A Place.

Goldberg’s sublime keyboard embellishments elevate throughout, notably I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, which he wrote in 1973 with Gerry Goffin and became a huge hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips before Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland recorded the lowdown version that blueprinted The Rides’ spectral take. Also motoring gleefully through LA rockers such as Mr Policeman and Game On, the album only descends to indulgent whoopee on My Babe, but their job has been done and telepathic internal alchemy more than adequately explored.

The album title is derived from the Pierce-Arrow company, which made luxury cars early last century. Devotees of blues-rock and the trio’s past glories will relish taking a spin in their new model.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!