Friday, December 07, 2007

Long road for the Eagles

It is impossible to listen to any music by Don Henley without looking for the political. From his earliest solo work, the masterful I Can’t Stand Still, which featured the blistering Them and Us, through each of his subsequent recordings. Furthermore, it is equally impossible to listen to anything written by Glenn Frey’s solo career without picturing flamingos, art deco clothes and Miami Vice.

In their latest recording, Long Road Out of Eden, Henley and Frey – the two original members of the Eagles – return to their formulaic ways in a not-so-unpleasant manner.

Don Henley, older, wiser, is clearly at a point in life where even he understands that the world exists in spite of his preaching of gloom and doom. While he still manages a swipe or to at the wastefulness and, of course, ignorance of Middle America, he does so in a much more resolved way. His line “light fading and the fog is getting thicker”, from the song Frail Grasp of the Big Picture takes us through his fears of the future, but never so close to the point of no return.

His other expertise is touching on the subject of lost love and loneliness. In the song, Waiting in the Weeds, he croons:

“I've been biding time with the crows and sparrows, while peacocks prance and strut up on the stage. If finding love is just a dance, proximity and chance, you will excuse me if I skip the masquerade.”
This is Henley at his best.

However, Henley still is a master lyricist – whether he’s filled with anger, sorrow, rage or melancholy, he can still make an epic song. On this album, that song is the title track. Instead of taking on “bubble-headed bleach blondes”, Ronald Reagan or whose fault it is that Johnny can’t read, he paints an almost searing portrait of a homesick soldier in Iraq, fighting for his life while his country feasts on barbeques and pecan pie, and its leaders are bloated with entitlement, loaded on propaganda. The song quickly leads into the instrumental track; I Dreamed There Was No War. Written by Frey, who tries to invoke the Vietnam era in it’s mournful sound.

Here also, however, instead of fighting to change America, or the world for that matter, Henley seems to have accepted what is and the fact that after 35 years in the music business, there not a damn thing he can do about it.


As a member of the Eagles, Glenn Frey went from being the voice of the band’s origins (Take it Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling) to often living in the shadow of Henley’s incredible lyrical prowess. However, Long Road is also an opportunity for Frey to regain some stature in the band. Unfortunately, by relying too much on co-songwriter Jack Tempchin, he only reaches back to the early – to mid 80’s. While that was a time of great chart success, it was a far weaker period for his songwriting. It is curious to me why, after all this time, he would once again team up with Tempchin. While the duo did ride the charts with You Belong to the City, Smuggler’s Blues and The One You Love, the rest of the CD seems to get its energy from the earlier Eagles style of country-fried rock and roll. To me, Frey and Tempchin’s songs just don’t seem to fit.

On the final track, Frey seems to understand his, and the bands relevance.
The time we shared went by so fast, just like a dream, we knew it couldn't last. But I'd do it all again, If I could, somehow. But I must be leavin' soon; it’s your world now.

Of course, with all Eagles recordings, the other members have their moments to shine as well. Joe Walsh has always that more humorous touch and does a great job on his second song, Last Good Time in Town. His first track, Guilty of the Crime, an old Frankie Miller tune, will probably be a favorite live song and mixes well with the country style of the album.

The other member (since the other original member, Don Felder, was fired last year) is Timothy B. Schmitt. Schmitt may be the luckiest man in the music industry. Signed on to replace Randy Meisner after Hotel California, his sole contribution to the band was the top ten hit, I Can’t Tell You Why. Yet, since he was a band member when they took their haitus (as Henley said when they first appeared in the Hell Freezes Over Tour, “for the record, we never broke up. We just took a 14-year vacation), he continued to be a member and a contributor.

On Long Road, Schmitt does some justice on Paul Carrack’s I Don't Want To Hear Anymore, although to me, it sounds too much like a Mike+The Mechanics song (not surprising as he was with that band). However, he more than makes up for it on Do Something, which of instead of mourning the gloom and doom, seeks to lift you up from it all.


The Eagles have come a long, long way from standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Even with numerous personnel changes, they have always stayed with the formula that has served them so well over the years. Their harmonies have never sounded better and they still make an enjoyable recording. If you were hoping for the next Hotel California, this is not it. This isn’t another Long Run either. Instead, what you have is a glimpse of the past and a tribute to the present. There is nothing ground-shaking here and like a number of other 70’s bands who have recorded anew, this isn’t the beginning of any new chapter.

What I gained from listening to Long Road Out Of Eden is that sometimes it’s good to visit old friends – even if it’s just to say goodbye.

Best songs: Long Road Out of Eden, Waiting in the Weeds
Worst song: Fast Company

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