Hell hath frozen over. Pigs are currently soaring through the sky. The Cubs have won the World Series.
OK, so that last one was far-fetched. The point is that squabbles and controversy be damned, because the Eagles have released a new studio album -- and a double disc, at that.
The last time the Eagles actually put out a record of new material was 1979. For reference, that was six years before I was born and a decade away from the fall of the
I have to give it to the Eagles; the least they could do after waiting practically three decades in between albums was put out a double LP. While the curse of the double album rears its ugly head here once more, it was a pleasant gesture. One could easily trim this album to a single disc with little effort and come up with an effort that easily trumps The Long Run.
After purchasing this album on the day it came out and listening to it over and over again, I could not make up my mind on how well the Eagles recaptured their sound. To help with this process, I went back and listened to The Long Run,in an attempt to find some continuity. There isn’t a heck of a lot, but that is a good thing, sports fans. The Long Run was the work of a group exhausted and bitter at each other and it showed. Long Road Out Of
Don Henley has stated in recent interviews that the track order on the first disc was designed to help fans remember just what the Eagles were about. Therefore it’s no coincidence the opening tracks are among the best on the album. “No More Walks In The Wood” is a stylistic and spiritual successor to “Seven Bridges Road,” displaying those classic Eagle harmonies. “How Long” was a track the band used to perform in the early 70s, and as such captures that period of their history tremendously; slip this in their
Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and one couldn’t tell it wouldn’t belong.
After those blasts from the past; the proceedings begin to vary. The ballads for the most part display a disturbing lack of modernity; “What Do I Do With My Heart” comes off as having been written by Diane Warren, never a good sign. “No More Cloudy Day” has a vintage Eagles number buried somewhere underneath the gloss and shine, so it peeks through every now and then. The band is much more successful when they eschew the technically flourishes and just play; “Do Something” and “I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore,” both driven by Timothy B. Schmidt, are much more in line with what one has come to expect from the Eagles.
Thank God Joe Walsh didn’t get canned along with Don Felder; his two numbers are among the most entertaining cuts. “Last Good Time In Town” is hilarious and brilliant on a few levels; if you know anything about Walsh’s former lifestyle, I guarantee laughter. “Somebody” finds Glenn Frey digging deep for some emotive phrasing and vocals that are different from the norm, although unfortunately he reaches too far.
The centerpiece of the album is the title track. Basically, the Eagles' statement on the war in Iraq in music form isn't entirely successful -- world music influences and biting, powerful guitar work enhance a track that has little to offer lyrically, mostly because the words are too specific, devaluing the overall message. The refrain...well, it isn’t “Hotel California,” let’s put it that way.
That was never so true as with the best songs on the record. I would argue none really sound like the Eagles you remember, but damn it, they are just stunning. The Latin-flavored “It’s Your World Now” caps the bands career (theoretically) in a touching but not hokey sentiment. “
Finally, there is “Waiting In The Weeds.” It is an excellent study in mood and melody; from the opening chords Henley and Co. set a tone and stick with it. The music itself is understated; there is no sappy orchestral arrangement waiting to ruin things. Henley’s lyrics are at his evocative best, as unrequited love is a subject he’s always had success with. And cementing the track are those golden harmonies arranged and performed to perfection. I do not hesitate to place this among their best songs.
Long Road Out Of Eden is an album created by professionals doing what they do best, for the most part. Mistakes are made, and it is too long, but it's a solid disc by a group that wants to recognize its past but not stay entrenched in it, and in the end that's a good thing.
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