Classic Rock Review

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Joe Walsh The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get (1973)


I rarely do this, but the review that states this album has ‘stinkers’ on it, hasn’t bought the same album I have. I’m not sure what album they have, but it’s not the one I have. The album I have is a pretty wonderful collection of songs, played by great musicians, and made with the decision that Joe Walsh does not have to play a guitar solo for every song he writes. And to me that’s refreshing. I’m glad he thought so too.

I’ve always thought that The Eagles needed Joe Walsh more than he needed them. Songs like ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ Walsh could have written on his own, in his sleep, while making Pot Noodles. The best thing that comes from his association with The Eagles is his work with Don Felder, and on ‘You Bought It, You Name It’, this ‘team’ comes up with one of the best Joe Walsh tunes of his career. But that’s on another album. I’m just stating the simple fact that Joe Walsh is an immensely talented musician, who’s experimentation with everything, not just guitar, makes him quite a talented man indeed. And this album is full of experimenation. So there are no stinkers.

Second point is this. In 1973, a Grammy went to the engineering work done by Geoff Emerick on Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run. It’s pretty obvious that the Grammy’s are decidedly ‘fixed’, because I swear Alan Parson’s engineering on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ puts BOTR to shame. And many albums I’ve heard from that year put BOTR to shame. Steely Dan’s ‘Countdown To Ecstasy’, 10cc’s debut album, Frank Zappa’s ‘Overnite Sensation’, ELO’s ‘Eldorado’, George Harrison’s ‘Living in the Material Word’ to name only a few on a large list. The Grammy went to the wrong person for the wrong album.

And I have to say, and I own ”The Smoker . . . . ‘ on vinyl, that this album is in fact, one of the best sounding albums from that year, if not the best, that I currently own. It literally sounds so modern that I was very hard-pressed to remind myself that this was 1973 I was listening to. It is an incredibly engineered & recorded album, and this alone makes songs that are so called ‘stinkers’, truly worth hearing for the amount of hard work and patience that went into mixing and making this album. I have many albums from 1973, and this one is just about the best one I’ve ever heard. Sorry Pink Floyd!

What I also love about this album is the contributions by all of Walsh’s band at the time, Joe Vitale on Drums, Flute, and Keyboards, Rocke Grace on Keyboards, and Ken Passarelli on Bass. Each of these musicians contributes songs to what is called a ”Joe Walsh” album, and I just like the fact that if you were in Joe Walsh’s band, he had no problem with you writing songs for ‘his’ album. I also like the fact that Walsh so rarely chooses to guitar solo on this album. He pratcically doesn’t do one at all, barring ‘Rocky Mountain Way’. That I find incredibly interesting, and it actually removes that expectation of ”well, I’ll get through the song til the guitar solo comes up, then I’ll just move on to the next one”. It forces you to accept that there is no guitar solo coming to ”redeem” the song in any way, so you might as well listen to what Walsh thought was more important, and that’s the song itself.

There are some beautiful songs on this album, and songs that truly ‘rock’. Most Best Of collections take from this album ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, ‘Bookends’ and ‘Meadows’. But they miss the other songs, which would mean making the whole album a best of collection. And I do believe every song on this album is as good as anything Walsh has ever worked on. The material his band comes up with, and those he wrote. Passarelli’s ‘Happy Ways’ is a great bit of Pop, where Grace’s ‘Midnite Moodies’ is an instrumental with great playing from everyone. Particularly Vitale’s Flute. When it appeared in the song, I had to look at the credits once or twice to see who was playing Flute! Discovering it was the drummer, just made me say, that guy is pretty talented. He’s not just ‘a drummer’, like that’s a bad thing ‘just to be’. His whole band was full of talent, and Walsh lets that shine through on every song here. The title of the album may be confusing, but what happens on it sounds cohesive, artistic, and just a pleasure to listen to.

Need you buy this album? That’s not up to me, but I wish that you would. Just to hear what Walsh was capable of as a solo artist, and that The Eagles were lucky to have him.

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get | | Leave a comment

Joe Walsh The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get (1973)


Now here is an album I have not heard in a long time and it happens to be one of my all time favorites. I had the vinyl version when it first came out and distinctly remember playing it several times a week. I liked Joe Walsh’s voice and guitar playing. For this listener both of those factors remain very distinctive to this day.

The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get (24 Karat Gold) is a stellar piece of diverse rock music, originally released in 1973. I would have to say that Joe Walsh has never topped this solo work since. His place in rock history is secure with his contributions to The James Gang and The Eagles and this particular release launched a very successful solo career.

Audio Fidelity has made an excellent choice to remaster this classic slice of rock music as part of their 24 karat gold releases. Besides the rock anthem “Rocky Mountain Way” this album offers diverse jazz rock fusion inflected instrumental pieces like “Midnight Moodies”.

It gives the listener the opportunity to realize the full talent range of Joe’s band at the time that consisted of Joe Vitale (vocals, drums, flute, keyboards, and synthesizer); Rocke Grace (keyboards, vocals), Kenny Passarelli (bass, vocals) and Mr. Walsh provided guitars, vocals, keyboards and synthesizers. The multifaceted talent of this band was allowed to shine through on the nine tracks on this album and now it sounds superior remastered from the original source tapes and given the Audio Fidelity treatment in the gold disc version.

Some of the tracks are atmospheric with dreamy intros like “Wolf” with its beautiful acoustic guitar chased by a piercing electric lead with Walsh providing some of the best vocal tracks of his entire career. “Meadows” which opened side two on the LP has a funny intro with Joe screaming before launching into some fine six-string work. He was one of the clown princes of rock for many years and his antics were well documented prior to him giving up the sauce. This is yet another very strong track with great instrumentation and vocals.

The entire album is unblemished and stands as nine tracks of time tested rock. Really there are no weaknesses which made it an easy choice to make into a special edition 24 karat gold release. It makes it a bit less of a task to remaster and package when all you have to do is capitalize on the strengths of a recording rather than embellish any weaknesses. The original artwork is included with a windowed cardboard sleeve as usual with a nice reproduced tri-fold CD sleeve.

I think Walsh and this album was and still is highly underrated. It is one of the best albums recorded in the 70s and needs to be recognized as such. Hopefully this new version will shed some light on Walsh and the release with new found enthusiasm and gratitude for a superb rock classic now given its just due.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get | | Leave a comment