Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Old Joe

Joe Walsh.  Analog Man.
Concord Music Group, 2012.   Joe Walsh:

I can’t believe that Joe Walsh hasn’t put out a solo album in 20 years.  I must admit, I haven’t been following his career that closely, but I fondly remember his early James Gang music (begun in Kent, Ohio), his 70s solo hits, and his work with the Eagles.  Apparently the last item has consumed much of his time in the last two decades, along with family and personal issues.  No matter.  He’s back, and he sounds very nearly the same, perhaps a bit more mellow, his twangy voice stretching for notes, and his guitar still playing the same familiar chords that made him unique.  

The first two tracks are dynamite.  The title track talks about him feeling lost in the new digital world.  It’s a bit ironic though, because Joe’s album is digital, his web site seems quite up-to-date stylistically, and he seems quite comfortable in his playing despite his somewhat archaic brand of funky rock (and I don’t mean that in a bad way).  Part of that comfort may be derived from his use of Jeff Lynne as producer, who has no problem with digital equipment.  The second track, “Wrecking Ball,” seems to refer to his former antics and less than clean-and-sober lifestyle.  Both tunes are strong, with delicious guitar work.  He slows down for a couple of tracks, including the much-publicized “Lucky that Way,” which has Ringo Starr on drums (not so you’d notice).  Then he gets all ballady, with “Family,” another chance to bring in guests, this time David Crosby and Graham Nash, for harmony vocals.  The result sounds a lot like an Eagles track, kind of sweet and friendly.

After that, he’s back to more uptempo tunes, like “One Day at a Time,” another reference to his previous party lifestyle, now replaced by AA.  “Funk 50” is a reprise of the old James Gang tune, “Funk 49,” and is probably the most hard-rocking song on the album. Walsh cleans up on another hard-rocker, “India,” where he plays all the instruments, leaving the programming to Bruce Sugar.  The effect here is a combination of his traditional sound with one that is more digital, as if in response to the opening track.  He’s just showing off, proving that he can do digital too, if he wants to, and it sounds just fine.

All in all, this is a very strong and enjoyable album.  Before writing this review I went to Spotify and played old James Gang tracks all morning long, just to refresh my memory.  Walsh still has it all in his music, modified just a bit to reflect all he’s been through since the early 1970s, and a different producer.  It sounded great back then, and it sounds great now.

Personnel:  Joe Walsh (guitar, lead vocals, bass, synthesizer), Jeff Lynne (drums, keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals), Steve Jay (percussion), Bruce Sugar (programming); with guest appearances by Ringo Starr (drums), David Crosby (vocals), Graham Nash (vocals), and assisting musicians.
Tracks:  Analog Man, Wrecking Ball, Lucky that Way, Spanish Dancer, Family, One Day at a Time, Hi-Roller Baby, Funk 50, India

The Grand Wazoo

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