“Hotel California”. Know that song? Good! Heard of the Eagles, as in the American band? Excellent! What about Joe Walsh, one of their members who plays guitar and has sung lead vocals in a few of their tracks? Did you know about his solo stuff and former band James Gang? Do you know he tried to make his most famous song, “Life’s Been Good”, replace the American national anthem? If you know all that stuff, great! I bet most of you youngins would have struggled with any of those questions aside from the first two. You have a lot to learn, read on!
Actually everything I just wrote up there sums it up quite well. He was part of a band called James Gang in the 60s and 70s and became the main attraction of that band with his guitar playing. In late 1975 he joined the Eagles and performed on their most famous album, Hotel California as well as the iconic title track from that album. He has also released many solo albums, although Analog Man, released this year, is his first in 20 years. I keep hearing how the Eagles hate each other (well it can’t be too perfect in the world of rock n roll), so it makes sense that all four members (plus the one that got fired) have been working on solo albums since the last Eagles studio release.
I was correct in the title of the album alluding to the fact that Joe Walsh is a man who grew up with analogue technology, and I thought this meant the album would be recorded on tape, much like Foo Fighter’s recent record, Wasting Light. From what I can tell, the album has actually been recorded digitally, with the title track telling us how Walsh is “an analog man in a digital world”. The penultimate track, “Funk 50”, is a digital version of the tracks “Funk 48” and “Funk 49” that he wrote with James Gang. This indicates a key theme of the record is Walsh’s old age, and he presents the lyrics the way he always does, with honesty and wit.
Analog Man is a great comeback album for Walsh. It’s very tightly cut, only spanning 36 minutes, a decision that most likely can be attributed to producer Jeff Lynne. Instead of making up for lost time by stuffing the record with as much content as possible (ala AC/DC’s Black Ice), the album gives listeners a great set of songs and not much else. While I wouldn’t say there are killer hit singles on Analog Man, unlike the other albums I’ve reviewed this year, there is less filler present.
The record has both rock songs and pop songs. It will please both Joe Walsh and Eagles fans. The first time I heard “Lucky That Way” I immediately thought of the early Eagles songs such “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Tequila Sunrise” and especially “Best of my Love”, as “Lucky That Way” has a very similar chord progression. It’s interesting as those are the songs before Joe Walsh joined the group. Eagles fans may remember “One Day at a Time” making an appearance on the Farewell 1 Tour DVD and here’s the song’s official recording after 7 years.
My surprise favourite song on the album is “Family”. A very old school sounding pop track, “Family” is literally just about that. This is going to sound douchy as, but this song is perfect. Perfect composition, perfect music, perfect structure, perfect vocal delivery and perfect lyrics. I actually have nice thoughts about my family when I listen to this song. With all love songs being about partners, it’s nice to have a song just about a loving family.
Joe Walsh has received critical acclaim as a guitarist, and just when I was worried there wasn’t enough guitar work on this album, the album ends with “India”, a digitalised instrumental track showing off what Walsh does best. It’s a nice way to finish.
Analog Man is a Joe Walsh album through and through. It has his humour, his storytelling and some good guitar work. Some more solos would have been great and some more ambition, as this is a rather safe affair. Analog Man is still a good album that has been tightly cut, giving us the best bits and only the best bits. Good comeback albums are acclaimed when they sound the way the fans wanted them to do, and Analog Man succeeds in doing so.
Tracklisting below, with my favourites in bold.
- “Analog Man”- 4:03
- “Wrecking Ball” – 3:45
- “Lucky That Way”– 4:14
- “Spanish Dancer” – 3:49
- “Band Played On” 4:03
- “Family” – 4:21
- “One Day At A Time” – 3:18
- “Hi-Roller Baby” – 3:18
- “Funk 50” – 1:57
- “India” – 3:44