[Review] Joe Walsh: But Seriously, Folks… (1978)

Life’s been good and Joe Walsh has never been better on his first new album after joining Eagles.

Kronomyth 5.0: Flying with the eagles.

Joe Walsh and Bill Szymczyk stuck around in Hotel California long enough to record the platinum-selling smash, But Seriously, Folks… The best album of his career features the best song of his career, Life’s Been Good, and tackles some of the same themes as the last Eagles album, including the cost of stardom and lost innocence. The production is much more polished than past Walsh records, featuring the tight studio sound of Hotel California with elements of disco and reggae in the mix. It also showcases Walsh’s range as a songwriter without feeling like it’s all over the place, making it his most consistent album to date.

That Walsh puts his crown jewel in a fool’s cap speaks volumes of his self-deprecating sense of humor. “Life’s Been Good” pokes fun at stardom in a way that Eagles (or at least Don Henley) wouldn’t dare. In its original eight-minute version, it’s a virtual thesis on rock and roll excess. (The CD version includes the silly “flock of wah-wah’s” bit at the end.) Even without that song, this would still be my favorite Joe Walsh record. There isn’t a bad song on here, from the opening Over and Over (the closest in sound to “Life’s Been Good”) to the instrumental pairing of Inner Tube and Theme from Boat Weirdos. (The first track confirms that Walsh probably does have a good ambient album in him.)

It would be tempting to listen to Walsh’s contributions to Hotel California and The Long Run and expect But Seriously, Folks… to sound the same, but you’d be selling Joe Walsh short. Walsh and Szymczyk have a more consistent vision on this album that cleans out the clutter of five different voices. Tomorrow, for example, seems to go down much smoother than “the Sad Cafe,” and Second Hand Store than “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” It doesn’t hurt that Walsh has a top-notch band behind him that represents its own sort of super group, featuring Joe Vitale, Jay Ferguson and Willie Weeks.

If you’re only going to buy one Joe Walsh album, it’d better have “Life’s Been Good” on it. And it might as well be this album, since song for song it’s the smoothest ride in a string of records that usually had at least one pocket of turbulence. All of Walsh’s records are enjoyable on some level, but this is the one record that’s truly enjoyable from end to end.

Original elpee version

A1. Over and Over (Joe Walsh) (4:52)
A2. Second Hand Store (Joe Walsh/Mike Murphy) (3:36)
A3. Indian Summer (Joe Walsh) (3:03)
A4. At the Station (Joe Walsh/Joe Vitale) (5:09)
B1. Tomorrow (Joe Walsh) (3:38)
B2. Inner Tube (Joe Walsh) (1:25)
B3. Theme from Boat Weirdos (Joe Walsh, Joe Vitale, Jay Ferguson, Willie Weeks, Bill Szymczyk) (4:44)
B4. Life’s Been Good (Joe Walsh) (8:04)*

*Track time listed as 8:57 on CD reissue.

The Players

Joe Walsh (guitars, synthesizers, vocals), Jay Ferguson (keyboards), Joey Murcia (2nd guitar), Joe Vitale (drums, percussion, flute, synthesizer, background vocals), Willie Weeks (bass) with Jody Boyer (background vocals on A2/A3/B4), Don Felder (pedal steel on A2, guitar on A4), Glenn Frey (background vocals and vocal arrangement on B1), Don Henley (background vocals on B1), Timothy B. Schmit (background vocals on B1), Bill Szymczyk (tambourine on A4, background vocals on B4). Produced by Bill Szymczyk; engineered by Bill Szymczyk and Ed Mashal.

The Pictures

Album design & photography by Jimmy Wachtel. Aquatically assisted by Mark Foltz, with the aid of Jage Jackson, Michael Curtis and Willie Gibson. Sleeve photography by Jimmy Wachtel and Lorrie Sullivan.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on May 16, 1978 in the US and Canada (Asylum, 6E/TC5/ET8-141), the UK (Asylum, K/K4 53081), Germany (Asylum, AS 53 081) and Japan (Asylum, P-6562Y) with gatefold cover and innersleeve. Reached #8 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Asylum, P-10397Y).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Elektra, 6E-141-2).
  3. Re-released on 24k remastered compact disc in 2012 in the US (Audio Fidelity, AFZ 079).

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