Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Joe Walsh Album

So What (Joe Walsh album)Image via WikipediaBy Grant Gerbov

Joe Walsh's magical music career has spanned well over four and a half decades. Between his stints with the James Gang and the Eagles, Walsh hit a productive and artistic peak in the early 70's with the release of: "Barnstorm" (1972), "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get" (1973) and "So What" (1974). "So What," the best Joe Walsh album, is the crowning gem of this tremendous trio.

Composition, performance, and production are the three primary elements that separate "So What" from "Barnstorm" and "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get."

Seven of the nine compositions on this album are some of Joe's best work. While "Barnstorm" and "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get" contain some great tracks, the sum of the songs on these two albums don't hold up as well.

"Welcome to the Club," has some of Joe's best guitar chord work coupled with some of his better lyrics. Great drum work dominates on this track as well. "County Fair'" glides the listener through a sonically enchanted journey, highlighted by Joe's reverse recorded guitar solo. "Falling Down" features vocal arrangements that remind me of Brian Wilson's best work.

All of these great tracks are supported by superior performances by the assembled musicians along with Joe Walsh unique guitar work. In addition, "So What" contains fantastic backing vocals by Randy Meisner, Don Henley and Glenn Frey of The Eagles, along with J.D. Souther and Dan Fogelberg. Their work alone sets "So What apart from other Joe Walsh efforts.

This is by far the best produced Joe Walsh album. Producers: Joe Walsh, John Stronach, Bill Szymczyk and Engineers: Al Blazk, John Stronach, Bill Szymczyk, crafted a record that is cleanly mixed with a distinct separation and definition of sounds while incorporating innovative techniques such as Joe's reverse recorded guitar solo on "County Fair." The arrangements and use of synthesizers and strings are complex, but never give the listener the idea that the music is over-producer or that the producers are "reaching" for something that isn't there. Concurrently, Joe Walsh's voice never sounded better than it does on these tracks.

Most importantly, there is also a greater depth of emotion on "So What," exemplified by "Help Me Through the Night" and "Song for Emma." Emma was Joe Walsh's four-year old daughter. She was tragically killed in a traffic accident by a drunk driver while her mother was driving her to preschool. Joe dealt with this tragedy by composing a very moving and spiritual ballad that in very few words captured the beauty, uncertainty and mystery of life.

If you don't have "So What" in your CD or record collection, you are missing an album that stands well, the test of time.

If you enjoy listening to Joe Walsh songs as much as I do, check out the title track to Kerry Leigh's new album, "Anger Grows." You can download a free MP3 of the track at:

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