Joe Walsh has been on a bit of a roll as of late. He toured for his first solo album in almost 20 years, the critically acclaimed and Jeff Lynne-produced Analog Man, then he hooked up with his old friends the Eagles and had a successful run of shows celebrating the rock-umentary, The History of The Eagles.
In recent interviews, and in the movie, Walsh talks of his post-Eagle drugs and alcohol addiction and that he eventually was unable to produce any music. While the Eagles where on their 19-year vacation, Walsh produced six albums on his own. 1983’s You Bought It, You Name It was, by far, the best. The album peaked at No. 48 on the Billboard charts, a disappointment considering its predeseccor, There Goes the Neighborhood reached No. 20 — but You Bought It … had big stones.
Walsh teamed with his friend, longtime Eagles overseer Bill Szymczyk. Szymczyk kept things simple by bringing in Walsh’s road band, bassist George “Chocolate” Perry and friend, keyboardist, flutist and drummer Joe Vitale. Walsh also bought in guitar ringer Waddy Wachtel on rhythm and synth guitar. The results is fine, three-chord rock and roll, dotted with emotional ballads and whimsical funk work outs.
The albums starts with “I Can Play That Rock and Roll,” a Who/Rolling Stones-type stomper that went to No. 13 on the rock charts. Waddy does his best Keith Richards impersonation, while Walsh delivers a trademark slide solo. The next song is an Eagles song — well, sort of. Don Felder wrote the music and contributed the dueling co-lead guitar on “Told You So.” Walsh delivers the howling solo guitar and lyrics. One can only imagine how it would have sounded if Don Henley and Glenn Frey had contributed to the words and arrangement.
Walsh is not known for his slower songs, but he’s written a few middle-of-the road classics. The song “Here We Are Now” comes close to reaching his prior glory, and features bandmates Henley and Timothy B. Schmidt on vocals. Side one concludes with the Vitale and Walsh tribute to breasts, “I.L.B.T.’s”! Walsh had a minor pop hit, at No. 52, on his hands with “Space Age Whiz Kids” — which is still fun, though a little dated.
“Class of ‘65,” meanwhile, should have been an Eagles song: Great harmony vocals, an effective acoustic lead guitar, and lyrics which are pensive and subtle. The highlight of the album is the track “Shadows,” which gives a glimpse at the darkness that was closing in on Walsh’s personal and professional life — even as Walsh and Waddy’s guitars create a swirling tapestry. The album closes with “Themes From Island Weirdo’s,” an piano, bass and guitar instrumental which is as relaxing as it is enjoyable.
Next up for Walsh, after the bounce-back Analog Man, is a rumored blues project. Let’s hope it hits the musical heights of this 1983 gem.