Sunday, June 8, 2014

Eagles - Snapshot #2 - Solo Eagles Fly High

 Of all the former Eagles to emerge into solo territory in 1980, only guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh had any form as a solo artist.  Prior to kicking off his solo jaunt, Walsh had been a member of the James Gang, going solo in 1971.  In 1972, he put together a backing group and recorded the album ‘Barnstorm’ (US#79).  He kicked off his solo career proper in 1973 with the album ‘The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get’ (US#6), which featured the FM classic ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ (US#23/ UK#39/OZ#39), perhaps Walsh’s most instantly recognisable song.

Two more albums followed, 1974’s ‘So What’ (US#11/ OZ#55), and the 1976 live set ‘You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind’ (US#20/ UK#28/ OZ#85), before Walsh was recruited to replace Eagles’ guitarist Bernie Leadon just in time for that group’s ‘Hotel California’ album.  Walsh was the only member of the Eagles to continue his solo career whilst still on tenure with the band.  In 1978, he released the album ‘But Seriously Folks’ (US#8/ UK#16/ OZ#31), which proved there was a still an appetite among fans for Walsh the solo artist.  The album yielded Walsh his biggest solo hit in the form of ‘Life’s Been Good’ (US#12/ UK#14/ OZ#56), a witty, self deprecating account of rock star decadence, of which Walsh was familiar.

Following the Eagles’ break-up, Walsh first resumed solo missions with the U.S.#19 hit single ‘All Night Long’, lifted from the ‘Urban Cowboy’ soundtrack.  His first full length album arrived in 1981 in the form of ‘There Goes The Neighbourhood’ (US#20/OZ#63), which spawned Walsh’s final foray inside the U.S. Top 40 with the single ‘Life Of Illusion’ (#34).  Joe Walsh released three further album’s during the 80s - ‘You Bought It - You Name It’ (US#48) in 1983, ‘The Confessor’ (US#65) in 1985, and ‘Got Any Gum’ in 1987.  The late 80s were spent touring with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band.

Walsh recommenced solo duties with the 1991 album, ‘Ordinary Average Guy’, released on the Epic label.  The album featured eleven tracks in all, most of them penned by Walsh.  The stand out was the title track, ‘Ordinary Average Guy’, a rock come reggae ode to himself and all other celebrities being just ‘ordinary’ and ‘average’ - tongue in cheek of course.  When I saw the Eagles play live in 1995 in Sydney, they performed a number of solo hits from each member.  Among those was ‘Ordinary Average Guy’, which was performed with a dozen or so life size cardboard replicas of well known music stars, movie stars and celebrity identities - it was a highlight of the show (one of many).  The album as a whole was a more measured, even mellow affair by comparison to Walsh’s back catalogue of work.

‘Songs For A Dying Planet’ followed in 1992, before Walsh resumed Eagles’ duties in ‘94.  The futuristic themed ‘A Future To This Life’ appeared and almost as quickly disappeared in 1995.  It would be seventeen years before Joe Walsh released his next solo album, 2012’s ‘Analog Man’, the reflections of an aging rock star in a digital world.  Walsh benefited from the production work of Jeff Lynne (E.L.O.), and even invited along old friend Ringo Starr as guest drummer.  The title track best illustrates that Joe Walsh has retained his rocking, guitar gymnastics, and proclivity toward clever, comic lyrics.

Prior to his tenure with the Eagles, bassist/vocalist Timothy B. Schmit played with country-rock outfit Poco.  He joined the band in 1970, as s replacement for Randy Meisner, who himself would go on to join the Eagles.  Schmit played with Poco until 1977, when once more he replaced Meisner, this time as Eagles’ bassist (a job he auditioned for eight years previous).  Following the demise of the Eagles in 1980, Schmit rejoined his old cohorts in Poco, prior to that band also splitting once more in ‘84.  Poco reformed once more in 1989, but this time without Schmit in the playing roster.

Prior to releasing his debut solo album, Schmit had already dipped his creative toes into solo waters with the single ‘So Much In Love’, which featured on the hit soundtrack to ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High’ in 1982.  His first solo album arrived in 1984 in the form of ‘Playin’ It Cool’ (US#160).  As you’d expect, Schmit’s silky smooth vocals are a highlight on the album, which also featured guest appearances from Beach Boy Carl Wilson, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and J.D. Souther.

In between solo work over the years, Schmit has leant his sublime high tenor vocals to work by the likes of Bob Seger, Steely Dan, Jimmy Buffet, and even Spinal Tap, as well as a stint with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band (though not at the same time as Joe Walsh).  Schmit released his sophomore album, creatively titled ‘Timothy B.’ (MCA label -US#106), in 1987.  The lead out single was the synth inflected, 80s pop styled ‘Boys Night Out’ (US#25), which I purchased on vinyl 45 at the time.  The album featured eight tracks in all, penned by the song writing team of Timothy B. Schmit, Bruce Gaitsch, and Will Jennings.

Schmit returned in 1990 with the album ‘Tell Me The Truth’, a favourite with the critics who lauded the album’s smooth, polished nature.  In all, six producers had a hand in the album, with guest players including Don Henley, Siedah Garrett, Rita Coolidge, and Marilyn Martin (see separate post).

Aside from maintaining a presence on tour and in studio with the Eagles, from the mid 90s on, Timothy B. Schmit has released two further solo albums, ‘Feed The Fire’ (2001), and ‘Expando’ (2009), a return to Schmit’s country and folk-rock roots, echoing his Poco days, and early Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The Eagles will likely always be regarded as being greater than the sum of its individual parts, but those parts as solo artists have also established a fine body of work.

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