As a member of the Eagles, Joe Walsh brought his rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities and impeccable guitar work to the band’s already lush sounds when he replaced guitarist Bernie Leadon in 1975. As the main man in the James Gang and as a solo artist, Walsh has enjoyed a handful of serious hits, all of which are now in perennial rotation on classic rock radio. With 20 years passed since his last solo effort, Walsh returns with Analog Man.
Analog Man kicks off with proclamations about how the new-fangled digital world vexes the aging rocker. The irony is that, as Walsh is singing about how he’s “still analog” and lamenting the fact that “some ten-year-old smart ass” has to guide him through trouble-shooting his computer issues, the album was recorded in the digital medium. Luckily, the sound doesn’t suffer for the irony, and the record shows off a much more polished effort than we’ve ever seen from Walsh, Eagles work aside. The serious message about the nature of the “digital world” and its effects on youth are the first of many surprisingly serious points made on the clown prince of rock’s big return to form.
Producer Jeff Lynne’s fingerprints are all over Analog Man, and his production aesthetic on a track like “Wrecking Ball” (not to be confused with The Boss) hints at Lynne’s past work, specifically his success with Tom Petty’s 1989 classic solo effort, Full Moon Fever. While we may not have expected Walsh to join the Nashville via Liverpool sect, Mr. Walsh’s alleged nickname “Lumpy Wilbury” feels quite appropriate after a few spins of Analog Man.
Production touches aside, the album is still a Joe Walsh record, chock full of the man’s should-be legendary guitar work and aloof vocal stylings, with some humor peppered throughout. The very Nashville track “Lucky That Way” sounds like a continuation of Walsh’s mega-hit “Life’s Been Good”, though with more severity than its predecessor. Previously, Walsh has addressed that his sobriety has allowed the “real Joe” to be heard without the shield of humor.
That’s not to say he doesn’t go for a laugh or two. Opposing the serious nature of songs like the somewhat shlock-heavy “Family” and the poignant, would-be recovery anthem “One Day at a Time”, “Funk 50″ offers a hilariously updated take on the James Gang classic, in which Walsh’s guitar “rides again” over a late ’80’s, ZZ Top-style programmed beat.
All in all, Analog Man is an amicable return to the solo spotlight for Walsh, showing off his dusty skills in a slick, very different sonic arena.
Essential Tracks: “Analog Man”, “Wrecking Ball”, and “One Day at a Time”