If you only know Joe Walsh for his work with the Eagles, you’re not alone. The one word that best sums up his solo career is “undervalued.” Considering his phenomenal guitar artistry and song-crafting talents, that’s something that needs addressing. To set the ball in motion, we’ve taken a deep dive into his discography and pulled out the finest picks. You might not agree with all our choices, but if we can convince at least one person that Joe Walsh’s career didn’t begin and end with the Eagles, we’ll consider it a job well done. Without further ado, here’s our pick of the top 10 Joe Walsh albums of all time.
#10 – Songs for a Dying Planet
Joe Walsh is a super talented guy. He writes, he sings, he plays the keyboards, and he does things with a guitar that no mere mortal has any right to. But every now and again, he scores a home goal. 1992’s Songs for a Dying Planet was one of those times. Coming off the back of the disappointing Ordinary Average Guy the previous year, Joe Walsh was clearly eager to prove he hadn’t lost his touch. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed. That’s not to say the album is a complete travesty. The first few tracks are downright fierce, with “Shut Up” and “Fairbanks Alaska” easily ranking among his best songs in years. “Coyote Love” is just as promising, while the dreamy “I Know” is jaw-droppingly good. But then Joe Walsh loses his way. We won’t dwell on the negatives, but suffice to say, the album flopped on both sides of the Atlantic. He wouldn’t release another solo album for 20 years – on the strength (or lack thereof) of this album, you can’t blame him.
#9 – You Bought It—You Name It
Walsh’s sixth studio album is a mixed bag. He’s never been an artist to take himself too seriously, but here, he goes a little too far with the comedy. There’s even a song called “I.L.B.T.s” that he threw in the mix just to prove the record label never bothers to listen to the master before they press it. He proved his point, but not necessary to the benefit of the album. Fortunately, there are enough strong songs to salvage it, most notably “I Can Play That Rock & Roll” and “Space Age Whiz Kids.” Overall, it’s too wacky to be wonderful, but it’s still a good listen.
#8 – The Confessor
Even his biggest fan would have to admit that Joe Walsh isn’t the most consistent artist on the block. His back catalog is full of amazing songs, but you’ll struggle to find an album without a few stinkers. Case in point – The Confessor. The first couple of songs are downright dorky. ” But persevere. Something good is on the horizon. At the halfway mark, we hit the title track, a song so good, you’ll forgive the silliness of “I Broke My Leg” and “Bubbles” in a heartbeat. A scathing, 7-minute slice of pure rock and roll, it’s Walsh at his very finest. The huge guitar riff would be worth the listen alone. A so-so album saved by a majestic song.
#7 – There Goes the Neighborhood
There Goes the Neighborhood finds Joe Walsh in good spirits and good form. Things get off to a flying start with the simple but charming “Things,” and carry on in much the same vein from there. There’s not a great deal of variety, but when the songs are this solid, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you only have time to listen to one track from the album, make it “A Life Of Illusion,” a stupendously good slice of classic rock that finds Joe Walsh in an unusually philosophical mood as he ponders life’s ups and downs. Set against a jaunty acoustic melody and featuring some wicked guitar slides, it easily ranks amongst his best works.
#6 – You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind Review
The worst thing you can say about You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind is that, at under 35 minutes long, it simply isn’t long enough. On the quality of the recordings, it could be twice as long and we’d still be begging for more. Well, we would anyway – for some reason, a small but vocal group of fans have taken a strong dislike to the album. To each his own. In our opinion, any album that includes 18 minutes of “Rocky Mountain Way” can never be a bad thing, especially when it also features an acoustic version of “Help Me Thru the Night” and a fabulous rendition of “Walk Away.” Stadium rock rarely gets better than this.
#5 – Analog Man
Twenty years after Songs for a Dying Planet, Walsh dropped its follow-up. If its predecessor was a disappointment, Analog Man was anything but. Walsh is clearly in no mood to reinvent the wheel, and his producer, the mighty Jeff Lynne, doesn’t try to make him. Everything we’d want from a Joe Walsh album is here, from the tender introspection to the wry lyrics and the always faultless guitar work. It’s not challenging, and it’s about as rock and roll as a church picnic, but that’s the point. It’s the sonic equivalent of slipping on your favorite pair of slippers after a long day. Walsh may sing about being an old fart, but if he is, it suits him. As comebacks go, you couldn’t ask for much better.
#4 – So What
Two albums into his solo career, and Joe Walsh was still firing on all cylinders. So What might not be quite as remarkable as its predecessors, but it’s still outstanding. There are a few familiar songs (including a clean-cut version of “Turn to Stone” from his debut album, Barnstorm) along with a good selection of new tracks. All are good, but special mention has to go to the gorgeously mellow “Help Me Thru the Night,” an introspective ballad made all the better by some lovely backing harmonies from the Eagles. If you want to hear some classic rock at its finest, don’t miss it.
#3 – But Seriously, Folks…
Joining the Eagles didn’t put a stop to Joe Walsh’s solo experiments. His first solo album after joining the band as a full-time member is But Seriously, Folks…, an incredibly insightful, melodic album that features some of the most interesting songs of his career. There’s the nostalgia laced “Indian Summer,” the melancholy “Theme From Boat Weirdos”, and the tantalizingly introspective “At the Station.” And then, of course, there’s “Life’s Been Good,” Walsh’s bittersweet, deeply cynical take on the excessive lifestyle of the self-indulgent rockstar. The jury’s still out on whether he drew from real life for its inspiration (although considering the band he was in, we can take a pretty good guess). Either way, it’s sublime – as, indeed, is the rest of the album.
#2 – Barnstorm
Joe Walsh’s first solo project after leaving the James Gang introduced us not only to a legendary guitar player but an incredibly talented (and criminally underrated) songwriter. Barnstorm’s only tragedy is that not enough people have heard it. Sonically adventurous, wonderfully executed, and brimming with promise, it’s a thing of rare beauty. There’s not a bad song to be heard, but if we had to name the highlights, they’d include the sinuous “Turn to Stone,” the mysterious “Comin’ Down,” the hauntingly beautiful “Midnight Visitor”.. actually, forget the highlights. There are too many to mention. Just listen to the album. Then listen to it again. It won’t change your life, but it’ll make the next 35 minutes of it a joy.
#1 – The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get
Considering the sheer, undiluted brilliance of Barnstorm, expectations were running high by the time Walsh came to release his second solo album. The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get didn’t disappoint. If anything, it exceeded expectations. Each of its nine tracks is perfection, from the Beatles-esque “Days Gone By” to the spirited calypso of “Happy Ways” and the futuristic blues of “Rocky Mountain Way.” Individually, the songs are flawless. Collectively, they’re heaven. Play it loud and play it often. You won’t be disappointed.
Top 10 Joe Walsh Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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