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on December 25, 2004
I try not to be the kind of fan who automatically gives an artist 5 stars, but 'Barnstorm' earns every star it gets. For those into classic rock, this is a must-own that you can't easily get. The stars aren't for breaking new ground, but they're for the best use of classic/folk-based rock I have ever heard. If you're sick of your "local classic rock station" playing the same damn things over and over, "Barnstorm" is a breath of fresh air.

This album does everything many later classic rock albums overdid or underdid. It has its share of hooks but doesn't rely on them and let the rest of the musicianship suffer. There are some truly beautiful mixtures of electric and acoustic textures I haven't heard anywhere else; "Here We Go" starts slow and soft with acoustic guitars, but picks up power and rocks to the end, and the incendiary "Turn to Stone" is punctuated with acoustic transitions between verses. There's not a weak track out of the bunch--from the 'Lord of the Rings'-inspired "Midnight Visitor" (which manages not to become wrapped up in itself like Led Zeppelin's Tolkien-influenced works did), to the well-textured instrumental "Giant Behemoth" featuring drummer Joe Vitale on flute, a morse-code message and a passage Walsh would quote later on "Songs for a Dying Planet" (the album, not the song), and a cover done so well as to be his own--though, to be fair, I've never heard the original--of the Magicians' "I'll Tell the World." Walsh even pays homage to Neil Young with "Coming Down." Lyrics are strong, and although he never had the sweetest voice (kinda like the aforementioned Neil Young), he still makes the songs shine, in addition to some of his best guitar work, both catchy and sublimely beautiful. This is a great album to put on and become enthralled in--put it on, turn it up, and let your mind absorb it.

I know there's a million "Any rock fan MUST OWN!" albums out there, but this truly earns the title--and gets left out, unfortunately, as MCA still hasn't reissued an American version. Perhaps with the re-release of "You Bought It--You Name It" and "Got Any Gum" (inferior releases, relative to this), "Barnstorm" and "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get" will both get a long-deserved remastering; the Japanese import of Barnstorm is the only way for most fans to get the CD, but the sound quality of it is a bit sketchy, and may sound a bit thin on headphones.

But if you can get your hands on this in any medium (CD, cassette, vinyl, 8-tracks, etc.), do it. Whatever you pay, it'll be worth it.
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Revised: Originally Hip-O used the wrong mastertapes for this album and that CD version had A LOT of distracting tape hiss and had an edit between "One and One" and "Giant Bohemoth"--this edition has been corrected with a new remaster so those in stock SHOULD be the right one but there are a earlier editions out there.

Atmospheric and fascinating Joe Walsh's Barnstorm (aptly named)brought forth this terrific album after Walsh left the James Gang. Everything from the inspired opener "Here We Go" to the unusual "Birdcall Morning"works. From the instrumental "Giant Bohemoth" which slides right into the stunning "Mother Says" the album doesn't miss a beat. Although a tad loud and compressed when compared to the nearly flawless Mo-Fi transfer, "Barnstorm" sounds good in the remaster from Gavin Lurssen.

The biggest song here "Turn to Stone" would show up again in a slightly inferior version on "So What?" but the original primordial monster is here. Featuring crunchy a guitar lick and a stunning guitar solo Walsh never got this experimental again. The album closes out with the acoustic guitar/haronica driven "Comin' Down" which provides a tranquil close to a magical album.

Like the Mo-Fi release the magical sound qualty of the original recording has been retained (but honestly the Mo-Fi is still the best sounding version of this on CD). This is, in fact, the best the album has ever sounded outside of the Mofi. Walsh never got better as a songwriter than here (although he came close with another couple of strong albums such as "The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get"). This classic album only lacks bonus tracks and outtakes which would have made this classy package complete and liner notes on the making of the album (we get a replica of the original artwork gatefold sleeve in the CD booklet with the credits but nothing more).
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on December 12, 2001
The period 1972-1975 generated five classic albums from the multi-instrumentalist pair, Joe Walsh and Joe Vitale: BARNSTORM, THE SMOKER YOU DRINK, SO WHAT, YOU CAN'T ARGUE, and the glorious Vitale solo album, ROLLER COASTER WEEKEND. It's beyond me why the first and last albums in that list are unavailable in the US. (In fact, it's one of life's tragedies that ROLLER COASTER WEEKEND has never been released on CD anywhere in the world.) But I digress ...
It's as though Joe Walsh was visited by the muse once or twice around 1972/73, given a lego-set of melodies, riffs and solos, and told to get on with assembling them into some songs. Many themes keep returning on the four Walsh solo albums: 'Turn to Stone' for instance shows up on three of them. A guitar solo from 'Here We Go' on BARNSTORM gets woven into a totally different song on YOU CAN'T ARGUE. 'Giant Behemoth' gets recast and becomes 'County Fair' on SO WHAT. With each album, it's as if he pulls his lego-set apart and starts rebuilding again.
What I love about this album is the breadth of it all. Like Steve Miller, Joe could play both guitars, piano and synthesizer, but he was better than Steve at each of them. Joe Vitale was no slouch either on piano, flute and synth, and, though now much overlooked, he was certainly one of the top 10 rock drummers of the time. Bassist Kenny Passarelli went on to a financially more lucrative career with the Elton John band (e.g. ROCK OF THE WESTIES).
This album was recorded in an era when the band and their session guests wrote and played everything -- the producer didn't, as he might today, overlay his selection of drum machine rhythms, library samples and synths. Producer Bill Szymczyk creates a warm ambience, but the mix is cloudy. I've heard much clearer albums, even from 1972.
I still believe that THE SMOKER YOU GET is Walsh's masterpiece, but it's extraordinary that this, its precursor, is so hard to buy.
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on May 15, 2006
This is one of my favorite records, and I've been trying for years to get it on CD. I have the original vinyl, but those Dunhill pressings were never much good. So, I was very happy to see that the record was reissued on CD. Unfortunately, there's some tape hiss, but most distressing, track 3, "One and One" has been edited to fade out with a long pause between it and the next tune "Giant Bohemoth". On the original vinyl, these two tunes seque into each with no fadeout of any kind. The edit on the reissue totally disrupts the "flow" of the album. Very, very disappointing.
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE******************
Apparently this reissue was initially released using a set of incorrectly marked master tapes. The reissuing company has now found the correct masters, have cut a new digital remaster and is now circulating the corrected issue of this record.
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on July 21, 2000
Inexplicibly unavailable as a mid-priced domestic U.S. CD,(some John Fogerty-type legal snarl perhaps?) this is Joe Walsh's "Pet Sounds". In some ways a continuation of the direction Walsh was headed with the side 2 "suite" on "James Gang's Rides Again", featuring the same kind of dynamic, lushly layered and meticulously produced tracks.Walsh is ably assisted by some crack musicians, especially multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Joe Vitale, whose own excellent (and near impossible to find) mid- 70's solo album sounded very similar to this one. This is sophisticated pop-rock comparable to Todd Rundgren at his best. If you only know Joe Walsh from the two or three songs that classic rock stations beat into the ground ("Life's Been Good", "Rocky Mountain Way"),or his "hired hand" stint with those tired, uninspired corporate "rockers" the Eagles, you'll be surprised by the depth of artistry on "Barnstorm". Truly one of rock's top albums.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon July 22, 2008
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, the wonderful silver disc version by Mobile Fidelity in 1990 (rare and pricey), a 24-bit remaster issued in Japan in December 2004 as a mini-album repro (now that's rare too and even more pricey) - and now this - the Hip-O Select USA November 2006 issue. I've the Mobile CD, the Japanese one and this - and to my ears, the HIP-O SELECT version is even better than the Mobile and Japanese issues!

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.

SOUND:
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. 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 as 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. Allan "Jake" Jacobs later went on to be JAKE and THE FAMILY JEWELS. The Magicians made only 4 singles on US Columbia in the mid Sixties, which are really excellent. 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 he 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, I 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 to my ears is the best version of it 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.

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 this time along with the missing 4th title - the live set "You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind". They are availble for pre-order from the 2 excellent Japanese mail-order sites "cdjapan" and "mundojapan".
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on March 2, 2007
Yikes! This Geffen edition from Japan utilizes the same horrible master as the one Hip-O Select issued last year in which they managed to use the wrong tapes to produce the CD. It is LOADED with tape hiss, so much so that I could not get through the entire disc before turning it off. I have been in touch with Hip-O's parent company (Universal) and they acknowledged the mistake, saying that a vastly improved edition with the correct master tapes will soon be in stores, but after nearly a year it has yet to appear and when it does the consumer may not be able to distinguish between the two editions. It's hard to understand a mistake like this not being caught before production. But it's worse that a company would allow unsuspecting consumers to buy this garbage and not rectify the matter after all this time. Great music, bad business practice. I'm keeping my vinyl!
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on September 22, 2005
Barnstorm [IMPORT] - Joe Walsh is his shinning moment. I never tire of listening to this work, either in vinyl or CD form. I have owned this work since its release, on vinyl, in the 1970's. There is a cohesion to this work, a direction. It conveys raw creativity.

My favorite cuts are HERE WE GO and MOTHER SAYS. It is one of the better rock albums, but has just enough of that country twang to keep everyone interested. It is a musical journey to the American West.

This was Walsh's transition from The James Gang to his solo work and eventually his teaming up with The Eagles. This is Joe Walsh's greatest musical achievment. In my opinion, while quite capable, Walsh has never captured the musical magic of Barnstorm. His other solo work and his work with The Eagles pales by comparison. If you are a fan of American Rock you need to own this CD.
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Joe Walsh left The James Gang because he wanted to experiment and because he found that band's power trio format creatively constricting. Experiment he does on "Barnstorm," and the result is his one true masterpiece. He usues keyboards and synthensizers to augment the best batch of songs he ever wrote. There are no obvouis hits, though "Here We Go," "Birdcall Morning" and "Turn to Stone" are the best songs from a uniformly excellent batch. This is one of the great "lost" classics from the 1970s.
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on October 19, 2000
I was able to find this one through the Mobile Fidelity Labs label, and what a gem this is. Its brilliant from start to finish. It has the feel of a concept album, and not just from the opening grandeur of "Here We Go", seemingly preparing you for some sort of journey. The tracks are very grandiose and orchestrated, sometimes bleeding into one another; it hardly FEELS like a solo album. An although it doesn't rock as hard as _Smoker_ or some of the earlier James Gang albums, it has a unique, self-assured tone and this indescribable magic aura. Listen to the insistent, mysterious "Midnight Visitor" to see what I mean. The original (and vastly superior) mix of "Turn To Stone" also appears here. The only song Joe ever wrote that evoked the spirit of this album is "County Fair" off of _So What_. If you haven't heard this, you'll be amazed at how the rest of his stuff, no matter how good, just pales in comparison.
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