Classic Rock Review

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

220px-Joe_Walsh_-_The_Smoker_You_Drink,_the_Player_You_GetFrom amazon.com

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 So What (1975)

61IxVq5cEmLFrom dailyvault.com

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 But Seriously, Folks (1978)

MI0002058244Joe Walsh is one of those artists you can never forget. It may be from his work with The James Gang or The Eagles or simply for his sense of humour and the escapades he went on under the influence of alcohol earlier in his career. It could easily be all of the above. All of these elements are what make the artist what he is today.

On December 11th Audio Fidelity reached back into the archives and unearthed the Walsh classic “But Seriously, Folks…” (1978). Releasing this collection of classic rock music was an easy choice. There are 8 choice cuts on the album and now they can be enjoyed in the label’s 24 karat gold format which lends itself well to rock music.

From the crazy cover depicting the legendary guitarist/vocalist in an underwater restaurant of sorts to outstanding instrumental forays that separate itself from the rest of the album on “Theme From Boat Weirdos,” this is musical entertainment at its very best. Walsh was and is to this day a unique guitar player. He is very talented, so much that whatever direction he decides to go, it sounds great. On the opening track “Over and Over” he offers up some reggae atmospheres and on his soon to be signature song “Life’s Been Good” (8:57 version), he cranks out a few outrageous riffs to give it more depth and keep the listener wondering what might be right around the corner. You always thought you knew what to expect when Walsh recorded an album but it never was the case. This is what separated him from everyone else and made his music something to look forward to.

His band mates from The Eagles help out on the recording making this a “cannot miss” release for Walsh. Certainly he never needed any help but it did not hurt to have such talent to add to the mix. If you travel back further into Walsh’s Barnstorm days he was already taking things to another level by the brilliant mixing of genres and dazzling guitar wizardry. Not only does the man have a distinctive vocal style that is instantly recognizable, he mastered his instrument many moons ago. This solo recording is yet another example of his prowess as a musician and consistent creative force.

Audio Fidelity has impeccable taste. They also released Walsh’s incredible The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get in 2009 (read the review). What would make this collection of 24kt Gold releases complete is to resissue So What and Barnstorm. James Gang albums would be a welcome addition as well.

There is not a bad cut on this album. Besides the previously mentioned tracks “At The Station” is classic Walsh and anyone that is a fan of his music will find great joy in hearing this in such a clear and crisp format. This is Joe in his element and providing another very strong solo album. When you think the album is closed out when “Life’s Been Good” tails off, wait, there is a very interesting a funny segment that takes you out. All I can say is beware of the “Flock of Waa Waa’s.” This is one part of this album I totally forgot about after all these years. And by the way, if you are not familiar with the history of Walsh, that particular is track is spot-on autobiographical as it was prior to him getting sober.

There is still time to grab this classic Walsh solo album for your music fan before the supplies run out. They are numbered limited editions. This is good time of year to think about a great stocking stuffer and what a surprise it would be to be able to find this gold CD tucked in between your sweet favorites this year.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh But Seriously Folks | | Leave a comment

Joe Walsh Barnstorm (1972)

barnstormBarnstorm, Joe Walsh’s first solo album after leaving the James Gang, garnered him fame not only as a guitarist but also as a songwriter. While it’s true that Walsh established himself as a late-’60s/early-’70s guitar hero on the Gang’s more boogie-oriented rock numbers, it’s Walsh’s love of lushly textured production and spacy, open-ended songs featuring both acoustic and electric guitars that is showcased here on this wildly adventurous and forgotten unqualified masterpiece. Recorded at the Caribou Ranch in Nederland, CO, Barnstorm reflects the big sky and wide open spaces.

Accompanied by bassist Kenny Passarelli and drummer Joe Vitale, Walsh freely indulges himself with fat guitars and keyboards, beautiful choruses, country tinges, and pastoral pop hooks, as evidenced by the glorious opener, “Here We Go.” This segues, via the sound of a spooky lonesome wind, into the hauntingly beautiful psychedelic country tune “Midnight Visitor,” with elegantly woven acoustic guitars, fat carnival organ sounds, and – of course – the sound of the wind before it slips out the back door.

And so it goes with the nearly Baroque psychedelic suite of “One and One,” which slides seamlessly into “Giant Bohemoth” (sic) and the rollicking “Mother Says.” Everywhere on the album’s front half, reverie and American mythological archetypes and history weave together, displacing the listener from the here and now.

The openly pastoral country-tinged rock of the album’s second half signifies Walsh’s considerable gifts as a songwriter who uses his guitar as a dreamy, mercurial narrative device, as signified by the masterpiece “Birdcall Morning” – one of the greatest rock & roll love songs of the early ’70s.

It is actually mirrored by the sadness and organic bluesy quality of “Home” and the unabashed pop/rock romanticism of “I’ll Tell the World,” complete with glorious four-part backing harmonies and a crunching guitar crescendo. Speaking of crunch, Barnstorm was also the first place that Walsh’s classic “Turn to Stone” nugget ever appeared.

In its original version, its guitars have far more edge, sinew, and raw power than on its subsequent re-recording. Rather than let it end there, Walsh tips the scales one more time back to the mysterious in the acoustic guitar and harmonica moment “Comin’ Down.” It’s another love song, which evokes the notion of the past as a way of creating a hopeful present.

And it just whispers to a close, leaving the listener literally stunned at what has just transpired in the space of 35 minutes.

April 5, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh Barnstorm | | 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

Joe Walsh But Seriously, Folks… (1978)

MI0002058244From muzikreviews.com

Joe Walsh is one of those artists you can never forget. It may be from his work with The James Gang or The Eagles or simply for his sense of humor and the escapades he went on under the influence of alcohol earlier in his career. It could easily be all of the above. All of these elements are what make the artist what he is today.

On December 11th Audio Fidelity reached back into the archives and unearthed the Walsh classic “But Seriously, Folks…” (1978). Releasing this collection of classic rock music was an easy choice. There are 8 choice cuts on the album and now they can be enjoyed in the label’s 24 karat gold format which lends itself well to rock music.

From the crazy cover depicting the legendary guitarist/vocalist in an underwater restaurant of sorts to outstanding instrumental forays that separate itself from the rest of the album on “Theme From Boat Weirdos,” this is musical entertainment at its very best. Walsh was and is to this day a unique guitar player. He is very talented, so much that whatever direction he decides to go, it sounds great.

On the opening track “Over and Over” he offers up some reggae atmospheres and on his soon to be signature song “Life’s Been Good” (8:57 version), he cranks out a few outrageous riffs to give it more depth and keep the listener wondering what might be right around the corner. You always thought you knew what to expect when Walsh recorded an album but it never was the case. This is what separated him from everyone else and made his music something to look forward to.

His band mates from The Eagles help out on the recording making this a “cannot miss” release for Walsh. Certainly he never needed any help but it did not hurt to have such talent to add to the mix. If you travel back further into Walsh’s Barnstorm days he was already taking things to another level by the brilliant mixing of genres and dazzling guitar wizardry. Not only does the man have a distinctive vocal style that is instantly recognizable, he mastered his instrument many moons ago. This solo recording is yet another example of his prowess as a musician and consistent creative force.

Audio Fidelity has impeccable taste. They also released Walsh’s incredible The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get in 2009 (read the review). What would make this collection of 24kt Gold releases complete is to resissue So What and Barnstorm. James Gang albums would be a welcome addition as well.

There is not a bad cut on this album. Besides the previously mentioned tracks “At The Station” is classic Walsh and anyone that is a fan of his music will find great joy in hearing this in such a clear and crisp format. This is Joe in his element and providing another very strong solo album. When you think the album is closed out when “Life’s Been Good” tails off, wait, there is a very interesting a funny segment that takes you out. All I can say is beware of the “Flock of Waa Waa’s.” This is one part of this album I totally forgot about after all these years. And by the way, if you are not familiar with the history of Walsh, that particular is track is spot-on autobiographical as it was prior to him getting sober.

There is still time to grab this classic Walsh solo album for your music fan before the supplies run out. They are numbered limited editions. This is good time of year to think about a great stocking stuffer and what a surprise it would be to be able to find this gold CD tucked in between your sweet favorites this year.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh But Seriously Folks | | Leave a comment

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

MI0002222260From voices.yahoo.com

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

Joe Walsh Analog Man (2012)

Joe Walsh Analog ManFrom blogcritics.org

Analog Man is Joe Walsh’s first solo CD in 20 years. While many people may know him best for his work with The Eagles, he first became known as part of the James Gang in the late ’60s. He also had success on his own as a solo artist, particularly with his 1973 hit, “Rocky Mountain Way,” and 1978’s “Life’s Been Good.”

For Analog Man, Walsh again mines his own life for material as he did in those classic hits. But this CD finds him in a much healthier, saner place. The recording is dedicated to his wife of four years, Marjorie, and reflects his experience in getting sober and straight, as in the song “One Day at a Time.”

Walsh’s newfound contentment is reflected in “Lucky That Way,” which features his brother-in-law Ringo Starr on drums, and “Family,” where he is joined by Graham Nash and David Crosby on background vocals.

“Analog Man,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Band Played On” are all comments on modern life. The idea expressed here is that everything has gotten too busy, people are too stressed, and we all need to slow down and simplify. “Band Played On” specifically is concerned with environmental issues, and uses the Titanic is as a metaphor for our modern world, slowing sinking while everyone just ignores the situation. Ringo provides the drumming on this one, too.

“Spanish Dancer” is not one of my favorite songs on the CD. The lyrics are less personal but quite beautiful, but the song sounds overproduced. I think this was an experiment that does not quite work. “Hi-Roller Baby” is another less-personal song which has a rather odd sound. It’s not one of my favorites, but there is some great guitar work on it.

“Funk 50” is a belated sequel to The James Gang’s hit “Funk 49,” one of the first songs to feature Walsh. While “Funk 49” was all about “trouble brewin'” though, “Funk 50” is all about how Walsh now knows what he wants and that he’s going to make his music and show everyone he’s back. “India” is a rocking dance instrumental, which shows—as does the whole CD—that Walsh still has the guitar chops.

Jeff Lynne produced this CD along with Joe Walsh, and his influence is pervasive. He also provides guitar and background vocals. I don’t think that his promotion is always right on target, especially on “Hi-Roller Baby” and “Spanish Dancer.” I think the idea may have been to bring to mind the trippy sound of “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Life’s Been Good,” but it doesn’t really work for me.

Nevertheless, Analog Man is an interesting and often excellent CD which should show listeners that Joe Walsh is, indeed, back.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh Analog Man | | Leave a comment

Joe Walsh Analog Man (2012)

Joe Walsh Analog ManFrom nodepression.com

It’s great to have Joe Walsh back as the main event. Even better, his trademark yowl and stinging guitar seem to have survived the ravages of time and self-abuse pretty much unscathed.

Even though the title cut has Walsh yearning to travel back in time, his accompanying music is timeless. “What’s wrong with vinyl,” he asks, reproducing the same James Gang era sounds of his that debuted on vinyl in ’68, this time with the help of another power trio with producer Jeff Lynn on keys and percussionist Steve Jay.

Walsh’s first solo outing in two decades is strong all the way through; lyrically, vocally and instrumentally. His self -deprecating sense of humor still shines through. “When something goes wrong/ I don’t have a clue/ some ten year old smart ass has to show me what to do,” he moans as an analogue man trying to get by in a digital world on “Analogue Man.”

Also included are a couple of musical updates on his life since ‘78’s autobiographical “Life’s Been Good.” Walsh theorizes that since his career “started in the middle of nowhere/ (he) didn’t have far to fall” on “Lucky That Way.” On “One Day At A Time,” he realizes “I was the problem when I used to put the blame on everybody else’s shoulder but mine.”

But Analogue Man is no preachy, post-rehab follow-up It’s lively performance from a guy who still has a lot to say and whose voice has been missed. Nobody else’s vocals ever sounded like Walsh, and he didn’t need autotune to get that sound. And on guitar, Walsh’s voice was and still is one of the most unique ones around. “Funk 50,” his update on the James Gang classic, “Funk 49” still has that crackle and crunch that made the original jump out at you. The new version, with Walsh the sole musician on the cut, playing bass and drums as well as contributing guitar and vocals, slaps you upside the head as hard as the original.

He finishes up with the wiggly and crunchy instrumental “India,” stompin’ funk with Walsh darting in and out with stinging barbs.

And as if this comeback wasn’t enough payback for loyal fans who have been hoping for years for Walsh to come screeching back, it’s being reported that he’s been holed up in a Cleveland studio with the rest of the James Gang recording new versions of their classic rock. Although it took a while, now at last life has been good to Walsh fans as well.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh Analog Man | | Leave a comment