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Sunday, 17 January 2010
“The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get” by JOE WALSH (2009 Audio Fidelity 24-Karat Audiophile CD - No'd Ltd Edition - Kevin Gray Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...
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"…Oh Yeah! AAGH! AAGH!"
As a war-weary veteran of
over 3000 posts/reviews across 8 years of Amazon and Blogger postings - like
many music fans purchasing remastered CDs - I grow tired of record companies
and their blurbs about 'meticulous transfers' and 'painstaking
restoration'... So it was with a certain
amount of gonad-holding trepidation that I approached the latest Audiophile
reissue of one of my favourite Joe Walsh albums – his 2nd studio
effort - 1973’s album "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get."
But I'm so glad that I bought
this because ‘seriously accomplished transfer’ jumps to mind. I'm properly blown
away - I really am. But to the voice-box details first...
Original Produced by Joe
Walsh and BILL SZYMCZYK - the musicians were:
JOE WALSH - Lead Guitar, Lead
Vocals, Keyboard and Synthesiser
JOE VITALE - Drums, Flute,
Vocals, Keyboards & Synthesiser
ROCKE GRACE - Keyboards and
KENNY PASSARELLI - Bass and
JOE LALA - Percussion
CLYDIE KING and VENETTA
FIELDS - Backing Vocals
1. Rocky Mountain Way
2. Book Ends
4. Midnight Moodies
5. Happy Ways
6. Meadows [Side 2]
8. Days Gone By
9. Daydream (Prayer)
His second solo vinyl album
"The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get." by JOE WALSH was originally released
September 1973 in the USA on Dunhill/ABC DSX-50140 and on Probe SPBA 6275 in
the UK in October 1973. This US-only 24 KT + Gold CD (HDCD encoded) on Audio
Fidelity AFZ 059 (Barcode 780014205928) is a December 2009 straightforward
reissue of that Seventies rock classic (36:10 minutes). Engineer and
disc-cutter KEVIN GRAY (over 150 credits to his name) has remastered the
original first generation tapes using AF's "analogue to digital
converter" system. Without any further 'sonic manipulation', the disc is
then cut in 'real time' to get the very best sound achievable.
The inlay is placed behind
the CD in the card wrap - some people have found that this left it with
indentation on other AF releases - all I can say is that it hasn't done so
here. Other buyers have also complained about the AF version of The Cars
"Heartbeat City" - songs that were segued together on the original LP
were clumsily separated with jarring breaks on the CD reissue - again not so
here. Rocke Grace's funky flute instrumental "Midnight Moodies"
segues into the crystal clear bass opening of "Happy Ways" and while
the rock of "Meadows" fades out, the drum and cymbal count of
"Dreams" sneaks in so sweetly - there are no gaps - the transition to
each is seamless and beautifully handled.
The outer card wrap is
numbered on the rear (a limited edition of 3000), the fold-out inlay reproduces
the outer and inner gatefold artwork of the original US sleeve (pictures Side 1
and 2 of the Dunhill/ABC labels too), but disappointingly doesn't have any
further liner notes nor historical appreciation (this is something AF really
should address). But as ever, the real fireworks on a release like this, lies
in the sound...
Having been a rabid fan of
this album for over 35 years and having parted with a hefty wad of cash to
acquire this Audiophile CD, the temptation of course is to 'hear' stuff because
you desperately want to. But that's a no-brainer with AFZ 059. The sonic
improvement is so absolute and so obvious as to render that argument completely
mute. The reproduction is clean, muscular and staggeringly detailed. Every
instrument seems to be `there' all of a sudden - especially on the lethal
double of Vitale's "Bookends" followed by Walsh's "Wolf" -
the synth on the first pounds out of the speakers, while the spacious echo of
Walsh's guitar on the second sounds glorious - just huge.
The album's opener
"Rocky Mountain Way" was always going to be a sonic tester for this
reissue - and it doesn't disappoint - guitar riffage everywhere - drums and
bass so sweetly complimenting - it's astonishingly clean and full of power. "Happy
Ways" was written by Kenny Passarelli and Joe Lala's lifelong friend
BERNARD "BUDDY" ZOLOTH (of Blues Image fame) and it has Latin-based
acoustic guitars that are so Stephen Stills' Manassas - the sonic clarity is
simple breathtaking on it. The flanged guitar of "Days Gone By"
coupled with the flute and keyboards - again wonderfully vibrant. There's a
keyboard flourish about one minute into "Dreams" which literally made
me stop in my tracks - gorgeous clarity - then it rocks about 2:18 and I'm
blubbering like a fool. The album finishes with the quiet piano of
"Daydream (Prayer)" which is perhaps the prettiest song on here - the
girly vocals of King and Fields now so beautifully clear.
I own the AF versions of
"Montrose" by Montrose and "A Nod Is As Good As A Wink..."
by Faces and thought them great in some ways, but slightly underwhelming in
others - not so on "Smoker". The words "meticulous
transfer" actually do apply here because every single second of every
single song screams it. If I met Kevin Gray on the street, I'd shake his hand,
pat his kids on the forehead and stick a medal on his chest.
Joe Walsh talks babble at the
beginning of "Meadows" and eventually screams "Oh Yeah! AAGH!
AAGH!" On thrilling to this fabulous CD reissue, I now know exactly what
he means. A stunning job done…
PS: see also my reviews for
the Hip-O Select version of his 1972 debut album "Barnstorm" and BOTH
the 2004 Japanese Card Repro and the 2009 Japanese SHM CD versions of his 3rd
album "So What" from 1974...