Tuesday, 9 February 2016

"Barnstorm" by JOE WALSH (2006 Hip-O Select CD - Gavin Lurssen Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Sets Me Free Without A Warning…Wonder Why..."

It's hard for me to be rational about Joe Walsh's "Barnstorm" - I've adored it for over 45 years and this brill-sounding American CD reissue has only made matters worse.

First things first though - this Hip-O Select/Geffen CD re-issue on B0006229-02 (No Barcode) 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Mistakes were admitted - it was withdrawn and it re-appeared in November 2006.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 5 variants of the album on CD - the American 1980s crappy MCA issue, the wonderful silver disc version by Mobile Fidelity in 1990 (now rare and pricey), a 24-bit remaster issued in Japan in December 2004 as a mini-album repro - with a further 2011 reissue of that in Japan on the SHM-CD format - and then this - the Hip-O Select USA November 2006 issue. I've the Mobile CD, the 2004 Japanese one and this - and to my ears - the HIP-O SELECT version remastered by three-times Grammy winner GAVIN LURSSEN out does them all…

1. Here We Go
2. Midnight Visitor
3. One And One
4. Giant Behemoth
5. Mother Says
6. Birdcall Morning [Side 2]
7. Home
8. I’ll Tell The World
9. Turn To Stone
10. Comin’ Down

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.

GAVIN LURSSEN has remastered the album – he's an engineer who did 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 for them all). 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. Walsh and his guitar have a sound and this album exemplifies that - warts and all.

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. Alana Gordon and Allan Jacobs of the obscure American band THE MAGICIANS wrote "I'll Tell The World (About You)". Allan "Jake" Jacobs later went on to be JAKE and THE FAMILY JEWELS. The Magicians made 4 excellent 7” singles on US Columbia in the mid Sixties that unfortunately each sank without trace (never got an album out either) and they quickly disbanded. The group’s last single "Lady Fingers" had help in its production from BILL SZYMCZYK - and as Szymczyk produced "Barnstorm" - it was probably he who introduced the lovely “I’ll Tell The World” to Walsh. The US Sundazed label have a wonderful anthology CD of the band's work called "An Invitation To Cry" which has the original of this beautiful song on it - well worth checking out. Someone has posted a video of their original version on You Tube - in fact and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if this long forgotten Sixties gem turns up in a hip 'n' happening advert somewhere near us soon - it's that good.

To sum up - the remaster on this lesser known 1972 gem is an absolute joy. "Barnstorm" is the kind of album you need to get into your life - and this Hip-O Select Remaster is to my ears the best version of it yet. It's been deleted years now and typically garnished a rather nasty price tag - as much as £40 on occasion - but if you can find one - I urge you to seek it out.

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 get the job…

PS: (March 2009 footnote) The Japanese-only 2004 24-bit CD Remasters of Joe Walsh's first 3 albums "Barnstorm", "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get" and "So What" complete with vinyl LP repro sleeves and inners have now become hugely expensive collector's items. Someone in Japan seems to have noticed this, because the 3 are being 'reissued' on 22 April 2009 in Japan again but on the new SHM-CD format (Super High Materials) - but this time along with the missing 4th title - the live set "You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind". They are available for pre-order from the 2 excellent Japanese mail-order sites "cdjapan" and "mundojapan".

PPS: (October 2009 footnote) see also review for "So What" the SHM-CD

PPPS: check out his 2012 live video with DARYL HALL on “Daryl’s House” where they covered “Funk 49”, “Life’s Been Good” and a stunning version of a forgotten Hall solo track called “Somebody Like You” (see YouTube)

PPPPS (how many Ps can you have, Feb 2016 footnote): For GAVIN LURSSEN REMASTERS see also my reviews for “Driving Wheel” by Little Milton, “Gold” by The Crusaders, “Careless” and “Bish” by Stephen Bishop, “Occasional Rain” by Terry Callier and “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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