"Sets Me Free Without A Warning..." - Barnstorm by JOE WALSH (2006 Hip-O Select CD Remaster)
It's hard for me to be rational about Joe Walsh's "Barnstorm" - I've adored it for over 30 years and this brill-sounding CD reissue has only made matters worse!
First things first though - this HIP-O SELECT re-issue has had a troubled existence. It was first released in January 2006 to howls of derision because someone had used the wrong master tapes (laden with unbearable amounts of hiss) and even left gaps between the songs on Side One where certain tracks segue into each other. Mistakes were admitted, it was withdrawn, and it re-appeared in November 2006. To complicate things further, there are in fact 4 variants of the album on CD, the US 1980s crappy MCA issue which is rubbish, the wonderful silver disc version by Mobile Fidelity in 1990 which is superb but rare and pricey, a 24-bit remaster issued in Japan in December 2004 as a mini-album repro that is now also rare too and extortionately priced. And now this - the Hip-O Select USA November 2006 re-issue. I've got the Mobile CD, the Japanese repro and now this - and to my ears, the HIP-O SELECT version is even better than the Mobile and Japanese issues. Finally, a remaster worthy of the record and - what a peach of a remaster it is!
Having left THE JAMES GANG behind after 3 great albums, Walsh recruited KENNY PASSARELLI and JOE VITALE to record his solo debut in March of 1972. It was finally released in the USA on Dunhill DSX 50130 in October 1972 with its British counterpart released November 1972 on Probe SPBA 6268 (later reissued in 1974 on ABC). It was afforded the luxury of a gatefold sleeve, which is reproduced on both sides of the gatefold inlay in colour (the inside of the UK sleeve was in black and white). There's no new liner notes though - nor any juicy bonus tracks nor outtakes - which is a damn shame - a missed opportunity there.
The album has been REMASTERED by GAVIN LURSSEN who did such exceptional work on the two STEPHEN BISHOP Hip-O Select titles "Careless" and "Bish" and the stunning 2 CD "Gold" set for Universal by THE CRUSADERS (see separate reviews). Originally produced and engineered by BILL SZYMCZYK, "Barnstorm" was always a `sloppy' album in feel (in stark contrast to say "So What" from 1974) and was always going to be a difficult album to remaster well - but LURSSEN has done a fantastic job. The instruments are live and in your face. There is still hiss on some of the tracks but in the main it's minimal. Some love the rough feel of the recordings; it drives others crazy; personally I find there's charm in them that's missing in the more polished later albums. The production difference for instance when you go from the slightly hissy "Giant Bohemoth" to the all-out riffs of "Mother Says" is marked. MS rocks like a monster now and even in the centre passage where all the instruments crescendo and threaten to get out of hand, this remaster holds it all together - YOU HEAR IT ALL - the drums, the wonderful keyboard flourishes - even the men giggling like loons at the end when it fades out. Superb stuff.
But then comes the gem I've been waiting for - "Birdcall Morning" - I'm lost man - I go to pieces at hearing this. After 30 years it finally sounds a fresh as a new sixpence - a beautiful song now given beautiful sound. I've A/B'd this with the Japanese issue and it's just brighter - fuller somehow - wonderful. "Turn To Stone" is the original version and is just HUGE in sound - a little `too' rough I would say for most tastes. The album ends with the lovely acoustic ditty "Comin' Down" - the strings rattling around the speakers with the harmonica playing it out.
A little know fact about one of the album tracks is worth mentioning. "I'll Tell The World (About You)" was written by ALAN GORDON and ALLAN JACOBS of the obscure American band THE MAGICIANS. They made 4 singles on US Columbia in the mid Sixties (never got an album out). The band featured FELIX CAVALIERI who later went on to be with The Rascals and Mountain - Walsh probably heard the song through him. Sundazed have a wonderful CD out which has this beautiful song on it - well worth checking out. A top-notch cover version done by Walsh - and a truly magical criminally forgotten Sixties original - someone please stick this in an advert somewhere!
To sum up, the remaster on this forgotten 1972 gem is a joy. "Barnstorm" is an album you need to get into your life and this version of it is the best yet.
Joe Walsh once ran for President of The United States of America. On the strength of this album, I could never understand why he didn't he get the job.