CD Review of Joe Walsh: The Definitive Collection

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Buy your copy from Joe Walsh:
The Definitive Collection
starstarno starno starno star Label: Geffen/UMe
Released: 2006

As a piece of product, The Definitive Collection is unbelievably crass – it’s nothing more than a repackaging of the nine-year-old Greatest Hits: Little Did He Know…, timed to coincide with the upcoming MTV reality series centering on Walsh’s relationship with his daughter Lucy (a relationship interrupted, natch, by the guitarist’s long love affair with the bottle). Nor is it particularly definitive; sure, the big hits are present and accounted for, but – “Funk #49,” “Rocky Mountain Way,” and “Life’s Been Good” notwithstanding – this collection doesn’t make a terribly persuasive argument for Walsh’s spot in the rock & roll firmament.

It’s a shame, because as a recording artist, Walsh has always been too inconsistent to garner the attention or respect he’s probably due. His early albums with the James Gang are peppered with rock classics, his contributions to the Eagles’ late-period recordings were invaluable (just imagine The Long Run without “In the City”), and his solo releases were surprisingly solid for a guy who worked hard to cultivate his (not completely inaccurate) public persona of a drunken, happy-go-lucky doofus.

So perhaps the time is right for a widespread reappraisal of Joe Walsh’s collected works, and if The Definitive Collection helps start that discussion, then it isn’t entirely worthless – but Universal could’ve done better than just slapping a new title and barely-altered artwork on a nine-year-old collection. Walsh’s catalog is strewn with minor classics nowhere to be found among these 15 tracks (where, for the love of God, is “I.L.B.T.s”?), and the dots betwixt the hits are generally lacking in the kind of wonderfully crunchy, often humorous context that has typified the best of his music.

Better to stick with a used copy of the double-disc Look What I Did! anthology – you’ll get a lot more chaff for your money (nobody needs a live version of “Ordinary Average Guy”…or maybe even a studio version, come to think of it), but you’ll get a better idea of why Walsh matters in the bargain.

~Jeff Giles