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Joe Walsh - Analog Man

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Joe Walsh seems to be happy these days.  One must be careful not to identify the speaker of a song with the songwriter (that, of course, is a mistake that wouldn’t have been made before The Beatles and Dylan made it more or less a requirement for artists to write their own songs; in earlier times,

 there were songwriters and there were singers – period), but it sounds to me as though, on his new album, Analog Man, Joe Walsh is looking over his own life and assessing it with a great deal of pleasure.  

Even on the title song – and I’ll bet you can guess its tenor even if you haven’t yet heard it! – Walsh is celebrating, not lamenting, the fact that technology has left him behind.  He’s happy to be who he is – and why wouldn’t he be?

Life’s Been Good

“Got a good woman and she makes me happy/Most of the time I make her happy, too,” he sings on “Lucky That Way,” one of the best songs on the album.  Happy, happy, happy – but it’s a different kind of happiness than the kind celebrated on one of his best-known songs, “Life’s Been Good.”  That paean to the hedonistic rock-and-roll life, delightful as it was and still is, carries some heavy baggage when you read about some of the issues Walsh was dealing with back when he wrote it – and would be dealing with for some time after that.  He’s been sober since 1994 but apparently really did live the sort of life described in “Life’s Been Good” for at least a couple of decades – decades during which he was also laying down some of the most righteous guitar tracks of the rock era (including, of course, some of that stuff on a little ole record you might have heard called Hotel California).  It’s just good to see that the happiness he commemorates now is of a more solid and lasting kind than hitherto.

But How Good is This Album?

Look, I’m a long-time fan – But Seriously Folks was one of the first couple dozen albums I bought, and I still have that well-worn vinyl – but I think I’m being fairly objective when I say that this is a really good record.  Gathering around him a bevy of superb musicians, from long-time collaborators Kenny Passarelli  and Joe Vitale to very special guests like Jeff Lynne (who coproduced), Ringo Starr,  Crosby & Nash, and even – here’s a real surprise – Rancid’s Tim Armstrong (who plays on a delightful song he himself wrote, “High Roller Baby”), Walsh bashes out an ear-pleasing collection heavy on happiness and brimming over with that sublime guitar playing.  Sublime indeed: Walsh may rank 54 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 best guitarists of all time (and I know it’s because people like me keep mentioning stupid lists like that that those stupid lists keep coming), but, more importantly, he’s one of the couple dozen guitarists who is instantly, immediately, obviously recognizable from just a few notes.  He’s also the rare guitar hero (for so he is) who shows off largely by not showing off.  He’s a supremely tasteful guitarist, so that, listening to a Walsh solo or even just his rhythm work or fills, you’ll seldom say “Wow! What an amazing player!” – you’re more likely, deep down in your cerebellum, to be absolutely satisfied that what he plays is right – just plain right.  Now that’s a great guitar player.

The songs?  Cracking good tunes, almost without exception, and the exceptions aren’t bad, just not as good.  “Spanish Dancer,” for example, sounds almost like a genre exercise – and a weird one, with the occasional castanets somehow just not fitting in with those Electric-Light-Orchestra-sounding drums (wouldn’t it have been cool if Bev Bevan had been recruited to play them?).  “Funk 50” is exactly what you think it must be: a mercifully short, barely reworked “Funk #49,” that very early hit about which Walsh wrote in the liner notes to his greatest-hits collection Look What I Did! “If I’d have known I’d have to play this the rest of my life, I’d have written something else.”  And then there’s “India,” which starts out with a cool arpeggiated guitar workout but then turns into a slightly disco-ish instrumental that features oodles of tasty guitar but which is, just maybe, unnecessary.

Look What I Did!

Because Walsh is at his best in songs.  His voice may not be to all tastes, but, well, hell, it’s delightful.  He’s blessed with an odd voice that perfectly expresses his personality, or so it seems to me.  He might exaggerate his vocal mannerisms a bit now and again (I’m actually thinking of a specific moment: dig out your copy of Look What I Did! and listen to his disclaimer about rain at the beginning of the live version of “Ordinary Average Guy,” on which he guests with Glenn Frey, and you’ll hear the kind of mannerisms I’m talking about), but it’s hard not to love that home-grown enunciation on new songs like “Lucky That Way,” “High Roller Baby,” or “Band Played On.”  Joe Walsh is the complete package: a fine songwriter; an endearing singer; and a truly great guitarist.  Check this album out, and revisit his earlier work, too, in all his incarnations.


Please rate this album and check out our other Joe Walsh review (coming in the next few days) and Joe’s website: