The album revisits the hard-rock style previously explored on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and Zuma. The first two tracks are songs Young and Crazy Horse originally wrote and performed live in the 1970s with "Country Home" notably being performed on their 1976 tour. "Farmer John" is a cover of a 1960s song, written and performed by R&B duo Don and Dewey and also performed by British Invasion group The Searchers as well as garage band The Premiers. Young revealed that the song "Days that Used to Be" is inspired by Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages". The album features many extended guitar jams, with two songs stretching out to more than ten minutes.
In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Kurt Loder hailed Ragged Glory as "a monument to the spirit of the garage - to the pursuit of passion over precision" and calling it "a great one". In the Los Angeles Times, John D'Agostino deemed the record "garage rock" and "impressive primitivism coming from a 45-year-old rock icon", while Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called it "an atavistic garage stomp" that "makes good on several potent fantasies--eternal renewal, the garage as underground, the guitar as shibboleth and idea." It was voted album of the year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll, and in 2010 it was selected by Rolling Stone as the 77th best album of the 1990s.
The CD single culled from the album, "Mansion on the Hill", included the otherwise unreleased song "Don't Spook the Horse" (7:36). "F*!#in' Up" (pronounced "Fuckin' Up") is frequently covered by Pearl Jam live (see Category:Pearl Jam Official Bootlegs for recordings), and was performed by Bush in their headlining set at Woodstock 1999. Toronto-based band Constantines recorded a version of "F*!#in' Up" in Winnipeg, which surfaced as the b-side to their "Our Age" 7" in November 2008. Scottish heavy metal band The Almighty recorded the song and included it as a B-side (with an uncensored title) to their "Out of Season" single in 1992. An outtake from the sessions for the album, "Interstate," was released on the vinyl version of the 1996 album Broken Arrow and on the CD single for the track "Big Time."