Due to its title, its stylized cover, and articles portraying Joe Ely as having fallen in love with computers and synthesizers, Hi-Res, his fifth studio album, unfairly got a reputation as some sort of synth pop effort, a sort of "Joe Ely meets Kraftwerk" monstrosity. So, those who actually hear it may be surprised to find that it actually sounds like most of Joe Ely's other records, the musical arrangements dominated by slashing electric guitar work, the songs often bearing Ely's cockeyed sense of humor. There are synthesized keyboards and even synth-drums to be heard here and there, and the arrangements are more elaborate and somewhat more pop-oriented than before, but this is still the same Joe Ely who made Musta Notta Gotta Lotta. That album, however, had largely erased the country influences in Ely's music, and here they are only a memory. "Dame Tu Mano" has a distinct Tex-Mex feel, but that's just about it. Still, if Hi-Res is an essentially misunderstood album, that's not to say it is a great one. The real problem with the disc is not the sound of it, it's the material. For once, Ely is not relying heavily on Butch Hancock to augment the songwriting, and it shows. "What's Shakin' Tonight" is a dynamic opener; "Cool Rockin' Loretta" is a keeper, and so is "Letter to Laredo." But "She Gotta Get the Gettin'" and "Locked in a Boxcar with the Queen of Spain" sound like retreads, and the rest of the songs are just forgettable. Thus, this is an uneven collection, and unfortunately it came at a time, more than three years after Ely's last studio album, when he needed to reintroduce himself to his audience and expand on it. Instead, his audience was put off, and nobody else joined in.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann