Joe was an Eagle and he was cruising high. Hotel California (1977) was a massive hit. Through the 1970s, Joe had maintained a steady solo career even between the various groups he was a part of during the decade. His last solo album was You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind (1976) but his writing credits on Hotel California was one song co-written with frequent collaborator Joe Vitale and one co-writing credit with Henley/Frey.
In those days, Joe was a prolific songwriter, so it was just a matter of time before he felt the urge to produce another solo album. But Seriously, Folks… emerged in 1978. More than 40 years later, the album remains Joe’s best received work.
But Seriously, Folks… is Joe’s most commercial album, focused songs, superb playing and in sync with the vibe of the mid to late 1970s. There’s nothing experimental or pushing the musical boundaries in these eight songs. His work with James Gang and Barnstorm were less polished, edgier, more blues-based with guitars that growled. But Seriously, Folks… is more pop-oriented, the songs are cleaner and more rounded. His earlier work was more blue jean grunge-rock, he’s wearing a suit on this album cover, and even though you get a full dose of Joe’s goofy humor, adult rock is where the money is at.
The 35 minutes of music on this album is very melodic and finely crafted. He populated the album with friends, the Eagles are here in placed, with Don Felder adding some fine guitar work on two selections. Joe’s long-time drummer, Joe Vitale, plays drums and adds some synthesizer. Willie Weeks was a very popular session player in those days and provides some very melodic bass. Most of the keyboards is provided by former JoJo Gunne and Spirit band member Jay Ferguson. Bill Szymczyk, who produced several Eagles albums and worked with Joe through most of the 1970s is the producer. The album was recorded in Florida, which might account for the laidback vibe and easy-going atmosphere.
“Life’s Been Good” cracked the door on Joe’s sense of humor, which he would exploit on later albums. On the song, we was singing almost as one of rock’s elder statesmen, a roll he would grow into later. It speaks of outlandish behavior, which he certainly was guilty of as his drink and cocaine use would get seriously out of hand and as his career would tank. All you have to do is look at some of his later albums to see that he was uninspired and treading water.
But Seriously, Folks… starts with “Over and Over,” a familiar Walsh-sounding tune, bright and uptempo, with some fancy guitar/organ runs and a nice solo in the middle bridge.
“Second Hand Store” a slower version of “Over and Over” with plenty of guitars, a piano instead of an organ. A nice arrangement with Joe’s multi-tracked vocals.
So you burned your bridges and headed downstream
Never know until you try
Spent your fortune on a river boat queen
Then the river ran dry
You end up sittin’ on a sand bar
Down to a handful of treasures
‘Nother shot of gold won’t get you very far
When you got forever
“Indian Summer” is a pretty song, Joe bring some interesting guitar licks to this uptempo tune of remembrances. The arrangement includes echoing guitars and soft chorus. A lot of melodic enjoyment in a three minute song.
Well, the summers are hot and the winters get cold
Not a lot smarter, but another year old
Sometimes I’m still at the fishing hole
And you never needed bait where we used to go
Just a safety pin hook on a bamboo pole
Take the big ones home; let the little ones go (far away)
“At the Station” is a fast-moving, bundle of energy and guitar riffs, the hardest rocking thing on the album, which isn’t saying much. There really are no fiery guitars, only fun shredding going on here. Layered guitars and a horn section. “At the Station” is one of Joe’s best songs, it never lets up as it races to the finish line.
“Tomorrow” is as close as you get to a ballad, strumming acoustic guitars, a south seas vibe, and you get the best vocal performance on the album. A nice organ solo compliments the guitars and plenty of percussion.
There must be millions of reasons
To try and explain, you’re never through
When they give you twenty-four hours
Only so much a man can do
Tomorrow, made up my mind
Gonna get busy, come from behind
Today I’m staying right where I am
Break a few rules, make a few plans
“Inner Tube” because they are beautiful, willowy and melancholy. Often I do not believe Joe takes his music seriously. He writes a song like this and then has to compensate for it with “Life’s Been Good,” to show he can be rocker-poet. I always enjoy these little instrumental songs, he’s done a few on his albums.
“Theme From Boat Weirdos” is an atmospheric synthesizer and flute-driven interlude, and one of the longer songs on the album. Sometimes he does not expand them like he does here. Apparently, this was created from a jam in the studio as his core band and producer are credited as co-writers. Joe does uncork a nice piece of guitar work. This song didn’t need lyrics, it sails on its own.
“Life’s Been Good” is one of Joe’s most famous songs, it lives on by way of classic rock radio. It was released as a single and make it to the top ten. An eight minute song, it was cut in half to get airplay. He dials in some of his most creative guitar riffing. Joe likes to tell stories in his songs and he obviously does here, of his on the road exploits and life in the fast lane. When Joe passes away, this will be the song played in his memory, his “Thanks for the Memories.”
My Maserati does 185
I lost my license now I don’t drive
I have a limo ride in the back
I lock the doors in case I’m attacked
I’m making records my fans they can’t wait
They write me letters tell me I’m great
So I got me an office, gold records on the wall
Just leave a message maybe I’ll call
Thirty-five minute is not much but there’s no filler, no excess. The songs are lean. This is an album like Rubber Soul or Who’s Next or Court and Spark or Crosby Stills and Nash, you pop it in the CD player and ride the experience, song after song, then play it again.