Sunday, August 18, 2013

THE SUBLIME RETURN OF JOE WALSH



















        
 “It’s been 20 years since my last album folks, and I’ve got a lot to say.”
           
So proclaims the sticker on the new Joe Walsh CD Analog Man. Pull out the disk and it looks like a tiny vinyl record.
           
Some of the songs on this album are as good as any of Joe Walsh’s best. “Band Played On,” in particular, stands right up there with “Rocky Mountain Way,” “Turn to Stone,” or “A Life of Illusion.”
           
Even if you don’t know his name, chances are, you’ve heard his music. He’s got this one from his days as the leader of The James Gang called “Funk #49” that goes like this: “Dnyeer, nyeer-nyeer nyeer, nyeer-nhuh-nyeer nyeer-nhuh-nyeer-nyeer-nyeer….” You’ve heard it. Believe me. Plus he’s one of  The Eagles.
           
For the album’s title song, Joe gets right up there in that microphone and declares he’s an “Analog Man,” trapped in a digital world he never even made. We can relate. He’s saying he prefers tangibility: “The whole world’s living in a digital dream / It’s not really there—it’s all on a screen.”
           
Strangely, both Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen have a song called “Wrecking Ball” this year. Bruce even titled his album after it. (Compare and contrast the covers. Eerily similar, front and back. Viewed backwards together, secret messages are revealed maybe.) But whereas the Boss’s image refers to the literal destruction of property gobbled quickly up by foreclosure-happy banks, Joe’s metaphorical “Wrecking Ball” is more like a way of life to be lived.
           
While none of the ten songs on the album needs skipping, some are inevitably catchier than others. “One Day at a Time,” notably, has more going for it in the music than the lyrics. Recovery makes a lousy topic for rock! “Family,” good for slow dances perhaps, underscores this issue firmly. Songs about how blessed and thankful is the speaker are more of a delight to write than they are to crack a beer and hear.
           
Still, “Band Played On,” with it’s analogy of the sinking “Titanic” and the country trying to stay afloat, makes up for a lot—and with Ringo Starr on drums. (ELO’s Jeff Lynne helps on a few songs, as does Rick Rosas, who usually plays with Neil Young.)
          
 In a year when we’ve already gotten some of the best material from some of rock’s greatest artists, oh yeah, another gem.


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