Joe Walsh, ‘Analog Man’ – Album Review
If the wait for Joe Walsh's 'Analog Man' seems long, that's because a couple of years after he released ‘Songs For A Dying Planet’ in 1992, the unthinkable happened.
Hell froze over and Walsh found himself participating in a full blown reunion of the Eagles, a union that remains intact ever since, with the band celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Walsh might never release another solo platter. Especially since there were other obstacles in the way; in addition to frequent touring with the Eagles, Walsh also decided that it was time to clean up and live an alcohol-free lifestyle for the first time after decades of being one of most colorful personalities in rock and roll. Having long since moved past those sophomoric hijinks, it was time to clean up the rest of his life as well.
‘Analog Man,’ co-produced with Jeff Lynne, is the incredibly cohesive and lucid result of Walsh’s long journey back to good. The prog-infused title track finds Walsh seemingly grappling with the new technology driven world that he lives in. As he quips in the lyrics, “When something goes wrong/ I don’t have a clue/ Some 10 year old smart-ass has to show me what to do.” But don’t misunderstand, Walsh is more plugged in than the lyrics might lead you to believe. ‘Analog Man’ is social commentary that finds him lamenting the “always-on” state of our society.
The occasional presidential candidate has thoughts on a number of issues sprinkled throughout the album's 10 tracks. ‘Band Played On,’ an evenly paced sitar-tinged rocker driven by guest drumming from Walsh’s brother-in-law Ringo Starr, draws inspiration from the Titanic tragedy, with Walsh finding similar troubling “icebergs” in today’s world. He doesn’t sugarcoat his thoughts and frustration regarding “a lot of sh-t out there that nobody can see,” saying that “we’re all out here dead in the water” and ultimately, “up sh-t creek without any paddle.”
But ‘Analog Man’ also has a feeling of awareness of the fragility of life and a newly gained appreciation and gratitude for all that is good. ‘Lucky That Way,’ co-written with Nashville collaborator Tommy Lee James, who pitched in on several tracks on the album, can be read as a somewhat unintentional update to his classic ‘Life’s Been Good.'
In ‘Family,’ featuring the always gorgeous vocal accompaniment of David Crosby and Graham Nash, Walsh shares that he’s finally aware that “All that we have is each other/ And that’s all I really need.”
Most of the material on ‘Analog Man’ features Walsh at the core on guitar and vocals, turning in a number of gravity-shifting guitar solos and generally brilliant axe work, most notably on the title track and ‘Wrecking Ball.' Lynne often fills out the bulk of the instrumentation in layers, but it never feels overdone, which can be a sticking point of some of his past productions.
‘Analog Man’ rocks more than you might expect from Walsh at this stage of the game, particularly when using the most recent Eagles output as comparable evidence regarding what logically could have been. It reminds us that Walsh’s world and that of the Eagles are indeed, still two very different places. For fans of his ‘70s output, that is a very good thing.
A relatively short statement at 37 minutes in length, 'Analog Man' leaves you wanting more, especially after hearing the closing instrumental ‘India,’ which cosmically blends a hodgepodge of guitars, synthesizers and drum programming. Sound-wise, this paints a very interesting picture of what apparently happens when you leave Walsh to his own devices, you can only wonder what might be around the bend. We’ll wait anxiously to find out that answer with the next solo album.