Classic Rock Review

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Joe Walsh So What (1975)


Joe Walsh got his start at a guitarist for the James Gang, which he left for a solo career in 1971. Known best for his efforts with the Eagles, it was Walsh’s 1974 album, So What, that secured him a place with the Eagles after Bernie Leadon departed. Walsh is still credited as the guy that gave The Eagles’s laid-back sound a swift kick in the ass.

First and foremost, Walsh is an unbelievably solid guitar player. Walsh belongs to a class of guitar player that hasn’t surfaced in the 90’s alternative rock scene. It’s almost sad really. Walsh is really a master of his instrument, while recently formed groups can barely play (i.e. Veruca Salt, seen 3/15/97 on Saturday Night Live).

So What has a sound that is firmly rooted in the 70’s. Today, the 70’s feel is very refreshing. When you listen to So What, you feel like you’ve jumped back to the mid-70’s again, which is a nice feeling. You catch all of the harmonized backing vocals that was a 70’s staple, while listening to guitar work that is creative in any era.

“Welcome To The Club” has a enough rhythm changes to keep you hooked for hours, with signature Walsh guitars that build and fade meticulously. Lyrically, Walsh is a bit more subtle here than he’s famous for, spinning a yarn about crazy situations on the road.

“Falling Down” has a soulful, western feel to it. The rhythm work is done on a 12-string, with most of the leads added delicately with a 6-string electric. Present again are the 70’s vocal harmonies, which are layered so that they’re almost ghost like.

On “Time Out”, Walsh returns the style that made him famous on “Rocky Mountain Way.” The song features a combination of standard and slide lead guitar that Walsh does so well. To date, I can’t think of anyone who so perfectly combines these two styles. The drumming and bass are very prominent on this track. Walsh seems to let the rhythm guys hold the song while he paints over it. This isn’t anything new, it’s the standard Rx for rock and roll. It’s just that when you listen to this album, you notice all of the ridiculously simple things that many bands don’t do anymore.

“Help Me Through The Night” was the doorway into the Eagles and beyond. This was the first song that Henley, Frey and Walsh worked on together. With Henley and Frey on backing vocals, it sounds like the song is from Hotel California. While the presence of the Eagles is noticeable, the song still preserves the feel of the rest of the album.

While So What lacks any mega hits, it’s probably his most beautiful album. With it’s firmly rooted 70’s style, it will show some signs of age on the turntable today. But its strengths, great guitar work, great vocal harmonies, and peaceful demeanor are timeless in any era. With So What in the background, a nice drink and a loved one nearby, the album promotes a wonderful “time out” to unwind.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh So What | | Leave a comment

Joe Walsh So What (1975)

61IxVq5cEmLFrom Phonograph Record

What a distressingly large percentage of the perfect strangers with whom I happen to chat while waiting in line for ball games, premieres of motion pictures, rock music concerts, and food stamps refuse to recognize is that being as venerable a rock giant as Joe Walsh is not necessarily any picnic.

Much as his sister Raquel must remain ever vigilant about new acquaintances relating to her strictly in terms of the mass misconception of her as an empty-headed sexpot, so must Joe always suffer being compared unfavorably to the Joe he used to be.

Were it possible to listen to this album in a vacuum, it might well come to be regarded as “a very promising debut by an obviously gifted newcomer.” But, because nature abhors a vacuum, it should surprize no one when the same heartless ingrates and snivelling wimps who thought it witty to write, “…yeah, and some people will record anything,” about Christopher Milk’s epochal Some People Will Drink Anything say about So What, “So what?” Indeed, many will doubtless characterize this latest waxing of the Welch wit and whimsey as vacuous, boring, egregious, or even execrable, even though it is only a few, if any, of those things.

To get the obvious out of the way at the outset, no single track here quite measures up to the memory of ‘Rocky Mountain High’, although all of the faster selections sound almost exactly like it. Probably even Welch’s least placcable admirers will have to concede under only negligible duress that, insofar as the guitar work is concerned, So What’s solos, licks, riffs, vamps, comps, fills and so on have little hope of making anyone forget those that illuminated such earlier Jeff boogies as Truth or Over Under Sideways Down. Which is to imply, rather than that the current crop is either inept, lugubrious or banal, that they are merely lacking their usual incandescence.

Pop buffs – in which category I would include all those who aren’t dismayed to the very verge of mayhem at the prospect of ever again hearing ‘Laughter in the Rain’ – will be at least partially filled with remorse on discovering that there is naught on So What even half as cute and catchy as the James Gang’s ‘Midnight Man’, or ‘Midnight Rider’, from Gregg’s first solo album. Nor is anything quite so virulently vocalized as Wilson’s 1965 hit, ‘In the Midnight Hour’.

Nor – to lump all of the potentially traumatic news into just a couple of paragraphs – do either of the ballads hereon so much as approach such classics of John’s as ‘Sunshine On My Shoulder’, this despite the euphonious presence of several of his pals from the Eagles.

Fans of classical-rock will doubtless argue that Jim’s synthesized caress of Ravel’s ‘Pavane (whatever the hell that is) of the Sleeping Beauty’ effortlessly eclipses his earlier cover of ‘Pictures of an Exhibitionist’, and thus alone justifies immediate acquisition of this wonderfully eclectic album. Sadly, though, they will be in the minority.

All in all, then, So What will probably immodestly enrich the lives only of those who aren’t intimate with the monumental towers of funk that are Jimi’s previous albums. All the rest of us can do is hope that he’ll somehow regain his mid-’70’s form.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh So What | | Leave a comment