Reissue of So What honors legacy of Joe Walsh

The classic studio album So What from singer-songwriter Joe Walsh is the Eagles guitarist’s third solo studio album. The original 1974 release on ABC-Dunhill Records appeared during a peak period in the rocker’s storied career, following his Top 10 solo LP, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, which was a major commercial breakthrough the year before thanks to Top 25 single, ‘Rocky Mountain Way.’ So What features Walsh’s “usual high-caliber musicianship and great production,” according to a news release from re-issue label Audio Fidelity, which is making the set available as a Hybrid Super Audio compact disc (SACD) using Direct Stream Digital (DSD) technology.

Walsh released So What in December 1974. The album contains more introspective material than his previous solo recordings, featuring tracks such as ‘Help Me Through the Night’ and ‘Song For Emma’ (the latter presented as a tribute to Walsh's daughter, who was killed in a car accident a year earlier). Eagles’ bandmates Don Henley, Glenn Frey, JD Souther, and Randy Meisner contribute backing vocals on a few tracks, and Walsh would join the Eagles the next year for the Hotel California album.

Most of the nine tracks on So What feature guitar solos of “unquestionable quality in [Walsh’s] usual rock style,” and the “popular rock genre that Walsh so well defined with his earlier albums is present here.” The press announcement adds Walsh’s greatest skill was “knowing when to let loose and when to lay back.” A number of classic tracks are featured on So What including a more polished version of ‘Turn to Stone,’ which was originally recorded for the Kansas native’s 1972 solo debut, Barnstorm.

“I know this album's going to be an important one for me,” said Walsh prior to the release of So What. “I want it to be the difference between [The Beatles] ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper ... I want it to be a big, big step … in thoughts, vocals, playing and maturity,” he comments in a prepared statement. So What is one in a sequence of four “consistently high quality albums” Walsh recorded and released in the first half of the 1970s. Audio Fidelity calls the album “a classic and inspired album … Walsh at his peak … [he] has never done better.”

So What was produced by Walsh and John Stronach (REO Speedwagon, Jo Jo Gunne, Alvin Lee) with the only exception being ‘Song For Emma,’ which was produced by Bill Szymczyk (Eagles, B.B. King, The James Gang). The album was mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. Other titles on the track list include ‘Welcome To The Club,’ ‘Falling Down,’ ‘Pavane Of The Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Time Out,’ ‘All Night Laundry Mat Blues,’ and ‘County Fair.’

Walsh, 67, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Eagles in 1998. He’s also joining the group as one of the recipients of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors along with singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and actress and Broadway star Cicely Tyson. Each is being recognized for Lifetime Artistic Achievements during the Honors Gala on Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, DC. The event is also being televised for a Dec. 29 national broadcast.

Watch Joe Walsh in a classic live performance of ‘Turn To Stone.’

As A Matter of Fact…

* Joseph Fidler Walsh was born November 20, 1947, in Wichita, Kansas. His father was killed in a plane crash when Walsh was five, and he later moved with his mother and stepfather to Columbus, Ohio. The family moved further east when Walsh was 12, settling in New York City and Montclair, N.J., where Walsh attended high school and played oboe in the school band.

* Walsh was inspired by The Beatles and joined a local band called The Nomads as the bass player. After high school Walsh attended Kent State University and played in various bands around Cleveland.

* Walsh dropped out of college after one term and moved to California to begin his career in music. He met guitarist Glenn Schwartz in 1967 and joined the band Pacific Gas & Electric. The group changed its name to James Gang and opened for Cream in 1968 as a trio, signing with ABC's new Bluesway Records subsidiary in January 1969.

* Following the release of a 1969 debut album titled, Yer' Album, the most successful incarnation of the James Gang was created with Walsh, bassist Dale Peters, and drummer Jim Fox. Subsequent albums James Gang Rides Again (1970) and Thirds (1971) spawned the group’s classic singles ‘Funk #49,’ ‘Tend My Garden,’ and ‘Walk Away.’

* Walsh left the James Gang in December 1971 and began a solo career by forming a band called Barnstorm with drummer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale and bassist Kenny Passarelli. A self-titled debut album appeared in October 1972 with only moderate success.

* The follow-up solo project, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, was released in June 1973 under Walsh's name only. The album peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and lead single, ‘Rocky Mountain Way,’ was a huge hit on both FM and Top 40 radio, peaking at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.

* In 1975 Walsh was invited to join Humble Pie following the departure of Peter Frampton. He declined the offer and instead joined the Eagles as Bernie Leadon's replacement. Walsh debuted as an Eagle on the 1976 album, Hotel California, and firmly established himself in the band by providing a harder rock sound on songs such as ‘Life in the Fast Lane.’

* Walsh continued to perform as a solo artist, releasing later Top 40 classics ‘Life's Been Good,’ ‘All Night Long,’ ‘A Life of Illusion,’ and ‘Ordinary Average Guy.’ In 1994—after a 14-year hiatus and several solo albums—Walsh reunited with the Eagles on the album Hell Freezes Over, which topped the Billboard 200 and sparked one of the most successful tours in music history.

* In June 2012 Walsh released Analog Man, his first solo album in 20 years. The next year the award-winning documentary, “The History of The Eagles,” was showcased at Sundance and Walsh joined the associated The History of The Eagles World Tour, which was launched in conjunction with the documentary’s release on DVD. The tour wraps up July 29 in Bossier City, Louisiana.

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