Twenty Years. That’s how long it’s been since the last time Joe Walsh offered up a collection of original tunes for his fans. Two decades since his last set of tunes set itself as a backdrop to the first go-round of the Iraq disarmament crisis, George H. W. Bush vomiting in public, and John Gotti receiving his racketeering life sentence…and competing with the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden for chart position (and not faring so well in that fight). Between then and now, Joe has starred on a hit sitcom (The Drew Carey Show), rebanded with The Eagles, and gotten sober.
You’d think that all of that would give Joe a lot to write about, to lyrically fill in the space during the years he’s been conspicuously absent from the airwaves (at least as a solo artist). Nope. Joe’s just fine with not commenting on all of that stuff, leaving anything that is specifically topically over a couple of years old to history…or Eagles albums. Analog Man skips all of it, acting as if Joe never left, addresses what’s going on today, but, musically-speaking, does so with a wonderful classic seventies Joe background.
That’s right, Joe has not forgotten how to rock, and that’s the thing that’s most prevalent in the foreground here. The classic rock and roll feel that made Joe famous permeates the album. Sure, like most of his solo efforts, there are a couple of ballads (“Family”), even some Spanish guitar thrown into the mix (“Spanish Dancer”), but most of the album is blues-infused rock.
Joe hasn’t forgotten how to get pissed off (“Band Played On”) or do some serious soul-bearing analysis (“One Day At A Time”). More importantly, Joe hasn’t lost that snide sense of humor for which he’s famous and that fueled some of his biggest hits like “Life’s Been Good” and “Ordinary Average Guy.” Check a lyrical sample from the title track:
Welcome to cyberspace, I’m lost in the fog
everything’s digital I’m still analog
when something goes wrong
I don’t have a clue
some 10-year-old smart ass has to show me what to do
Fantastic. One thing that Walsh has consistently done well over the course of his career is provide insight in deceptively simple wording, providing that everyman wisdom with amazing aplomb. Another great example of this is his entirely self-referential “Funk 50” (obviously a nod, both in title and riffing to “Funk 49”), where he self-mocks:
Yeah I’m gonna get my motor movin’
I’m gonna dress in black
Walk down that red carpet
Show everybody I’m back
Show everybody I’m back
Joe’s had a long-running love/hate relationship with fame, but has always chosen to address it with humor rather than bitterness…and that’s what has made him arguably the most likeable Eagle of all: he’s a ham, not a whiner.
The album wraps up with one of Walsh’s finest instrumentals to date, entitled “India.” Herein, he firmly illustrates that he hasn’t lost his chops or forgotten how to shred when it’s called for. It’s full of interesting riffs, a creative arrangement, and tons of layered instruments. The result is a compelling blend of what sounds like a seventies-era instrumental with both modern and Middle Eastern sounds, and it’s worth repeated listens.
I should mention that Jeff Lynne of ELO fame acts as producer on this album. His approach works well and isn’t too heavy-handed as he’s been accused of (sometimes by me) on other recordings. Lynne captures that just-barely-post-Barnstorm Joe Walsh vibe. Analog Man is Joe Walsh’s best album since The Confessor, perhaps since But Seriously Folks. He’s in fine form, sober, focused, and clearly enjoying every minute of being back. There are a couple of tunes that I wish had been just a smidge more up-tempo, and the collection is a bit short at only thirty-seven minutes, but what’s there is thoroughly enjoyable…nothing drags long enough to lose pace and there’s no self-indulgent rambling. Joe Walsh fans should pick this one up.