by Jeff Fiedler
Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.
While it’s not quite as obscure an album as One More Song, it’s slightly strange just how little attention is paid – certainly in comparison to Don Henley’s solo efforts – to Joe Walsh’s 1978 solo effort But Seriously, Folks … (or any of his many fine solo albums from the ‘70s and early ‘80s, for that matter). The album did yield one classic-rock-radio staple in its closing cut, the eight-minute, self-parodying tour de force “Life’s Been Good,” but for some odd reason, nothing else from this album managed to follow “Life’s Been Good” into the charts. Consequently, you absolutely never hear any other song from this album on the radio, in spite of the fact that “Life’s Been Good” may not actually be the best or catchiest song from the album. Because of that, if you’ve never heard the full album (and most of you almost certainly haven’t), you’re missing out on several of Walsh’s finest and most criminally overlooked pieces of songwriting.
The inherent problem in marketing the disc may have simply been that Walsh had made his name with guitar-rock classics like the James Gang’s “Funk #49” and “Walk Away” and his own solo hit “Rocky Mountain Way,” and Walsh really doesn’t spend much of this album in rock or guitar-hero mode, instead dialing it down and exploring his softer and more contemplative side. That said, Asylum may have simply been worried about releasing anything as a single from this disc that didn’t fit Walsh’s usual mold, hence the unlikely choice of “Life’s Been Good” as the single – it may have been reggae-tinged and in dire need of editing for release as a 45, but at least there was a memorable guitar lick at the beginning to identify it as a Joe Walsh cut.
The soulful acoustic pop of the optimistic “Tomorrow” might initially take some listeners aback who are only familiar with Walsh from “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Life’s Been Good.” But Walsh surprisingly fares just as well in this setting as he does churning out memorable guitar riffs, and “Tomorrow” is so vibrant and so catchy that you wonder how in the world it escaped the attention of radio programmers.
Just as appealing is the breezy and stunningly beautiful, nostalgia-minded “Indian Summer,” which would have sounded perfect on the radio side-by-side with the single “Thunder Island” by Walsh’s label-mate Jay Ferguson (formerly of the ‘60s band Spirit), who fittingly serves as the keyboardist in Walsh’s backing band on this album. “Over and Over” was released as a follow-up single to “Life’s Been Good” – again, it’s not as immediately catchy as “Tomorrow” or “Indian Summer,” but it sounds more distinctly like Joe Walsh, so it was a safe choice – but the cut inexplicably missed the Top 40, even though its music is in the same vein as the chorus from “Life’s Been Good.”
It’s also worth drawing attention to the album’s clever and funny packaging, the ever-self-effacing Walsh going to the time-consuming trouble of shooting the album’s artwork entirely underwater in a swimming pool. Naturally, this posed no shortage of problems, and as you can tell from a close examination of the cover, he and the crew eventually gave up on trying to pin all the objects down and prevent them from floating upwards to the surface. Still, it’s an unforgettable cover image, and it suits the album nicely.
In spite of the lack of more hit singles from But Seriously, Folks … ,Walsh would eventually score two more Top 40 hits for himself as a solo artist with the country-rock of the Urban Cowboy soundtrack cut “All Night Long” and the mariachi-tinged acoustic grooves of 1981’s “A Life of Illusion,” but it is still pretty astounding that for all of Walsh’s many albums outside of Eagles work, he’s had just four minor Top 40 hits (none of them Top Ten hits, not even “Life’s Been Good”) as a solo artist and, stranger still, none at all as a member of the James Gang. While his later solo discs would get quite spotty, his studio albums from 1972’s Barnstorm through 1981’s There Goes the Neighborhood all have their share of great moments and are worth seeking out. (Buyer’s warning: You Can’t Argue with a Sick Mind is not actually a studio album but a concert disc, though there’s almost no way you can figure that out from the original album cover.)