Hell Freezes Over
Geffen Records, 1994
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/26/2005
I read a few months back that the Eagles were feverishly working on a new album, which of course got me all excited. The release of their single "Hole In The World," even furthered the anticipation. Shame on me for forgetting that the Eagles takes longer to record than Keith Richards has been dead (What is the count at, 29 years?). So, I decided to give their '94 comeback album a spin while I wait.
First things first, the four "new" songs that open up the record. None of them are great works by any stretch of the imagination, but by the same token these aren't "Disco Strangler." "Get Over It" is probably the most rocking song the band has put down since "Heartache Tonight." The smart-ass lyrics that jab at people who complain about everything made me laugh. That line "Let's kill all the lawyers" may be the over the top, but it is in jest.
The next three tracks are all ballads, and Eagles ballads. Timothy B. Schmidt provides the vocals for "Love Will Keep Us Alive" and while it's suitably romantic, I couldn't help shake the feeling that I had heard this song before. Turns out the band covered this ground already with "I Can't Tell You Why," which bests "Love Will…." in every way imaginable. Rock and roll be damned, "The Girl From Yesterday" further blurs the line of what kind of music the Eagles exactly play, a little bit country or a little bit rock (and no, Donny and Marie never were either of those things). Finally, there is "Learn To Be Still," which is a good Don Henley song, emphasis on the Don Henley.
Okay, the main point of Hell Freezes Over, besides to make a boatload of money, was to document the band's televised reunion and subsequent 1994 tour. The rest of the tracks on the disc are taken from that first show. Things get off to a glib start, with Glenn Frey commenting "For the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation," before the opening strains of "Tequila Sunrise" serenade the audience.
From this point on, with the lone exception of "Hotel California," you hear The Eagles play the songs everyone knows, exactly the same as they always have. While it is nice for there to be a sense of familiarity with the songs, these people could have stayed home and plopped a CD in the stereo and heard the exact same thing. Also, the choices of "New York Minute" and "Pretty Maids All In A Row" are somewhat confusing; surely there were other songs they could have picked? Maybe "Doolin' Dalton," which would have worked tremendously wellin this setting? The only saving grace is that most of the tracks chosen are among the best the band has recorded: "Life In The Fast Lane," "Take It Easy," "Desperado" and "Hotel California."
Speaking of the latter, this is easily the best track on the disc. The band actually tried something different; this version is "unplugged," as it were. Flamenco guitar takes the place of the wild, electric solos of the original. A Latin drumbeat accompanies the soloists, just creating a wholly different vibe. The things is, it works. The pacing remains somewhat the same, but everything is much more laid back overall. Don Henley is in fine form, and you get the feeling the boys were having fun.
I was really torn about how to rate this disc. On the one hand, the songs featured here are all time favorites of mine. However, some of them aren't, the new songs are underwhelming, and there is a superior live album for the band already out there on the shelves. This record could have been so much more, and the fact that making it so would have been extremely easy is disappointing.