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.