Gosh, it's 2015 and I just realized that this "new" album by Joe Walsh which I finally picked up recently came out in 2012!
Really? 2012? Maaaan... time's a-flyin'!
I thought it just came out yesterday. It does underscore the fast pace at which new releases come out these days, so many each day, it is impossible to keep up with them. So, yeah, 2012 or 2015, does it really matter? Chances are, if you are like me, you also planned to pick up the album and then never got around to it.
I was honestly hoping to find a vinyl copy of the album but only saw that once at Amoeba and then have not seen it since.
So here I am listening to a CD I picked up on a recent trip to LA. And ya know what? It sounds nice to hear Joe's voice again in any format.
The irony of the title of Joe Walsh's latest release -- Analog Man -- isn't lost on me as I'm listening to it on a 16-bit / 44.1 kHz Compact Disc and even contemplating how it might sound in the somewhat higher-resolution form of 24-bit, 48 kHz (as available on HDTracks).
All that said, I'm going to put aside any audiophile-type preconceptions and just try to enjoy this album for what it is: the first new music from guitar legend Joe Walsh in, like, forever.
Twenty years, to be exact...
Joe hasn't really changed his feathers much. Perhaps the most interesting twist on this album is that it is mostly produced by Jeff Lynne -- yes, he of ELO and Traveling Wilburys fame. Wisely, Lynne hasn't gone overboard on putting his sonic imprint on this album, so it still sounds like a Joe Walsh record for the most part.
Sure, those Lynne-programmed drums (as opposed to Linn Drums, another thing entirely) are on many of the tracks -- rock steady and so in-the-pocket I wonder if they used samples by Jim Keltner to make them.
Joe's brother-in-law -- one Ringo Starr, a drummer whom you may have heard about from a band in the '60s -- actually "plays" drums on a couple of tracks and you can hear the difference between his performances and the sequenced stuff.
Still, all the tracks seem to flow fine together as a whole.
All in all Analog Man sounds great with some really lovely touches such as the sweet pedal steel guitar work on "Lucky That Way" and Joe's trademark double-tracked harmonized lead guitar lines on "Spanish Dancer." I really love how the latter song shifts grooves from a sort of ethereal slink into a harder funk; it makes you wonder what the James Gang (Joe's original band from the early '70s) might sound like if they were recording today.
To that, there is even a nod to that band on "Funk 50" (a fun reference to two James Gang tunes, "Funk 48" and "Funk 49," from their first and second albums, respectively).
Sobriety and life peace is a recurring theme for many artists celebrating the wonder and joy of surviving, as they find themselves alive, clean of drugs and drink for the first time. Thus don't be surprised to find Joe's heart-felt ode to his "Family" tucked in amidst the rock here.
"One Day At A Time" is an upbeat and optimistic tune with a positive message of survival. This song sounds quite a bit like the Traveling Wilburys, in fact -- I guess it was the one point on the album where Jeff Lynne couldn't help himself but to produce it this way. It's not a bad thing, mind you! In fact, it is exciting to speculate on the potential for a new incarnation of that super group with Joe filling in for Roy Orbison and George Harrison (both of whom have passed). Think about it -- that could work really well: Dylan, Petty, Lynne, Keltner and Walsh.
I'd buy that record!
Perhaps the only extraneous tune on the album is album's instrumental closer "India," which dabbles in electronica / EDM type beats; it's OK, but doesn't quite fit the feel of the record. That seems to happen a lot on albums I've heard from older artists experimenting with modern computer-driven technologies -- you get the obligatory dance track tacked on there at the end of the album. It's not a bad thing, but not really good for the cohesion of the album as a complete statement.
Of course, one could argue that these days... well... who actually listens to whole albums anymore? And therein lies the rub, kids.
Anyhow, Analog Man is a fun and good-sounding album even on the lowly CD. And I venture to speculate that it probably sounds just ducky on the 24/48 HDTracks download or the 180-gram vinyl edition.
If you like Joe Walsh, you should pick it up. It's not a life-changer kind of record but then it is not supposed to be. It's more of a life-affirmer, really.
And that alone is something worth celebrating.
Welcome back, Joe. We missed ya!