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This article was originally published in issue #37
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Some people have more than their fair share of talent. Joe Walsh is one of those people. Superb singer, songwriter, lyricist, keyboard player and above all guitarist. He can do it all better than most and I have always been a big fan. So when I heard about the Analog Alien Double Classic Joe Walsh pedal, I was more than keen to get my hands on it.
You certainly won't forget it's on your pedal board because it's a vibrant yellow. In fact it's not just yellow, it's yellow sparkle! It doesn't take batteries so it would have to live on a board where you can feed it some 9 volt power. It's named the double classic, or JWDC for short, because we have two classic essentials for guitar in one pedal, namely a compressor and an overdrive. If I had to use only two pedals to get by (and I often have), it would be a compressor and an overdrive, and the convenience of them being in one unit is always a bonus.
It's possible that some of our readers won't be all that familiar with compressors or will have tried one and walked way wondering what all the fuss is about. For the modern guitarist covering various styles and situations, however, a comp is up there on the 'must have' scale of importance. I am not going to go in to massive detail about what compression is, but basically it will smooth out transients to make the quiet bits louder and the loud bits quieter, and as such it will generally give you more sustain. Sustain is our friend and it makes our job easier so we like compressors!
Some compressors such as the Boss CS range or the MXR Dynacomps are quite lo-fi and radical in what they do. Studio rack mount compressors, such as the old DBX 160x, are a lot more subtle in their effect and can be a lot more 'feel it' rather than hear it. The compressor in the JWDC is a lot more like a high end studio rack comp. As such, it takes a little more thought to use well rather than your average kick it in and let's go stomp box. The Sensitivity, Ratio and Output controls need careful tweaking to match your guitar and amp set-up, but once you find the sweet spots, the results are very musical and will give increased dynamic range from your guitar without it being really obvious you are using a compressor.
The overdrive side is called 'classic amp' and that's a good way to think of what Analog Alien is going for in terms of voicing. A simple way to think of this is to imagine the break up your amplifier's output tubes give when cranked, rather than the high gain style pre-amp tubes. So again, it takes some tweaking to get it speaking to your particular amp. If you run a dead clean amp, then you will get tube like break up from the pedal but certainly not high gain. If you run a little crunch from your amp then the JWDC will have something to work with and will reward you with thick dollops of gain. Like most overdrive pedals, it will give you more from your amp and is ideal to kick in for solos or to generally bring to life a dull uninspiring amp. The treble and bass pots really do what they say they are going to do, so there is plenty of room to adjust to various amp and guitar set-ups. Gain and output pots add to the mix to make guitar, pedal and amp all speak to each other.
There is also a mini toggle switch to run your compressor before or after the classic amp side of things, so switching in both the compressor and the OD will lead to more tonal options. Stacking a comp into an overdrive is an old trick I employ a lot and it tends to be more usable to me than a compressor after the overdrive and with this pedal, you have the option. Both pre and post sound good on this pedal - it just depends on your perception of 'good' and I prefer the pre option.
Overall, this is a really nice sounding and musical pedal that needs to be set carefully with your particular guitar and amp. You can tell that it has been designed with a hugely experienced player in mind and as a result more experienced players will love it and get the best from it. Then again, so will less experienced players, but it might take just a little longer. Joe Walsh is a player whose sound is in his fingers, so don't expect this pedal to instantly give you his tone, but it will certainly kick some life in your existing set up.