// Album Recommendation

The Eagles

Long Road Out Of Eden

(2007)

“Captains of the old order
Clinging to the reins,
Assuring us these aches inside
Are only growing pains.”

Long Road Out Of Eden by the Eagles

In 1980, upon The Eagles’ acrimonious break-up, Glenn Frey proclaimed: “The Eagles will get back together, when hell freezes over!” After 10 years, six albums (including three No. 1s), and fifteen hit singles, it was officially over. And for good, it seemed. Since their fourth LP (and first No. 1 album), 1975’s One Of These Nights, and to a larger degree the exhaustive recording process of 1977’s Hotel California album, tensions within the band were a steadily growing problem, as big egos, greed, jealousy and insecurities emerged. Main songwriters Don Henley and Glenn Frey (rightfully dubbed America’s Lennon/McCartney), responsible for the majority of their most memorable songs, were both perfectionists and had long since taken control, working hard to obtain commercial and critical success in equal measures. As the ambitious leaders of the band, they stuck together and constantly pushed the other members mercilessly to strive for perfection, and while it certainly paid off in view of the creative end result, it also slowly but surely resulted in the end of the band. During the long, agonizing creation of their sixth studio album, 1979’s The Long Run, the internal frictions caused by the pressure of having to equal – or better – Hotel California finally took its toll on Henley’s and Frey’s friendship to the point, where they could barely stand to look at each other. From then on, it was only a matter of time before The Eagles disbanded. They continued to play a number of concerts, but no more music was recorded, and then in 1980 the actual break-up was announced.

Fast forward to 1994 and The Eagles announce their reunion and the release of the ironically titled album Hell Freezes Over, a collection of their classic, old songs played live before a small MTV audience, as well as four new but underwhelming studio recordings that were devoid of their trademark harmonies and sounded more like solo material than The Eagles. It didn’t bode well for a future album of all-new songs, but as a fan you couldn’t help but remain hopeful, even if your patience were being tested during the course of the next many years. In 2007, 13 years later, a time warp nearly as long as that between their 1980 break-up and the 1994 reunion, The Eagles finally released Long Road Out Of Eden (their fourth No. 1 album) – a meticulously crafted double album featuring all of 20 songs. The first track No More Walks In The Wood, an a cappella-like hymn displaying those 24-karat Eagles harmonies to great effect, starts off the album much in the same vein as they ended the first chapter of their recording career with their last single Seven Bridges Road. The second song, the effectively nostalgic How Long, takes us all the way back to the very beginning with a sound quite similar to the quintessential Country Rock of The Eagles’ debut single Take It Easy. Apart from How Long, written by Eagles co-writer J.D. Souther, and the charming, Mariachi-flavored Tex-Mex ballad It's Your World Now, complete with marimba and Mexican horns, (which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1973’s Desperado album), the remaining songs have most in common with late-period Eagles (’77-’79).

If there’s one song here, which proves that Henley and Frey have still got that special magic as a songwriting team, it’s Busy Being Fabulous. It’s classic Eagles, and as smooth and melodic as their 70s hit singles New Kid In Town (‘77) and The Long Run (‘79). The achingly beautiful Center Of The Universe, with its subtle, acoustic guitars, gorgeous harmonies, and Henley's melancholic lead vocal, takes its rightful place among the best of the songwriting team's ballads (After The Thrill Is Gone and The Sad Café). Frail Grasp On The Big Picture is an edgy R&B/Blues Rock-inspired track and a cleverly crafted acerbic commentary on tabloid media and the ignorance of Middle America (“Even if one of them was to read the newspaper / Cover-to-cover / That ain’t what’s going on / Journalism’s dead and gone”), as well as its self-righteous religion (''And we pray to our Lord / Who we know is American / He supports us in war”). Yet another great Henley/Frey collaboration is the funky Fast Company. With Henley's late-70s Bee Gees falsetto, a thumping bass and drums inspired by Prince, it’s the album’s most adventurous track and a reminder that sometimes The Eagles do show a willingness to mess with the formula (Those Shoes off The Long Run is also proof of this).

As with the epic title track of 1977’s Hotel California, Henley’s and Frey’s epic, 10-minute title track Long Road Out Of Eden is the album’s ambitious, cinematic centerpiece. In Hotel California the scene took place in the California desert and the emotionally barren and desolate environment of L.A., Henley’s surreal lyrics depicting the excess and illusions of the rich and famous. In Long Road Out Of Eden the scene is acted out in the desert in Iraq with evocative sounds of Arabian flute and military snare drum, and bleak, surreal lyrics that depict the greed of the U.S. government and the delusions of an entire nation (“Bloated with entitlement, loaded on propaganda / And now we’re driving dazed and drunk”). Joe Walsh delivers a scorching, goosebump-inducing guitar solo worthy of vintage Eagles, and Don Henley remains a superior lyricist with refreshingly cynical and clever lines such as “Captains of the old order / Clinging to the reins / Assuring us these aches inside / Are only growing pains” and his bitter but truthful conclusion “All the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools”. A sentiment he also expresses in Frail Grasp On The Big Picture (“Well, ain't it a shame / That our short little memories / Never seem to learn / The message of history”) and the stinging Business As Usual (“We got the prettiest White House that money can buy / Sitting up there in that beltway bubble / The El Jefe talks about our freedom  / But this is what he really means / Business as usual”).

Henley and Frey also contribute songs that they each co-wrote with other songwriters. The atmospheric Business As Usual was written by Don Henley and “fifth” Eagles member (Don Felder’s unofficial replacement) guitarist Steuart Smith, as was one of the album’s absolute highlights, the metaphoric, poetic and romantic elegy Waiting In The Weeds, a mid-tempo track underpinned by low-key acoustic guitars and mandolin. More than ever Glenn Frey proves himself to be the Paul McCartney to Don Henley’s John Lennon with soft compositions such as It’s Your World Now, the Country-tinged No More Cloudy Days, which boasts a lovely, melodic hook, and the acoustic ballad You Are Not Alone, written for his teenage daughter. The latter track in particular is the type of catchy and charming, little song that Paul McCartney has written numerous times, both as a member of The Beatles (e.g. For No One off Revolver) and as a solo artist (e.g. Put It There from Flowers In The Dirt). Lead guitarist Joe Walsh and bass player Timothy B. Schmitt contribute noteworthy songs, too. Joe Walsh’s Steely Dan-esque Last Good Time In Town is a humorous sequel to Life In The Fast Lane (off Hotel California) about the allure of domestic bliss as opposed to partying all night long. Do Something, sung and co-written by Timothy B. Schmitt (with Don Henley and Steuart Smith) could be interpreted as both a romantic lament and a quiet, sorrowful plea for sociopolitical awareness (“But when I feel like giving up /And I'm ready to walk away / In the stillness, I can hear a voice inside me say / Do something, do something”).

Every time I’m listening to Long Road Out Of Eden in one sitting, by the time the last song fades out, I’m thoroughly impressed and really rather overwhelmed and touched by the fact that they managed to make such a superior comeback after all these years. After all, it had been all of 28 years since their last studio album. There may not be any songs to rival old classics like Desperado, One Of These Nights, Lyin' Eyes, Hotel California or New Kid In Town (all to be found on The Very Best of The Eagles), but Long Road Out Of Eden is one of their most impressive and consistent albums despite its length. And second single Busy Being Fabulous is a beautifully composed song that deserves to be on a future "Greatest Hits" compilation along with all those old classics. Catchy melodies and choruses, eloquent lyrics, stellar guitar work, tasteful production, impeccable lead vocals and tight harmonies, Long Road Out Of Eden has it all in abundance and is far better than any fan had any reason to expect. It's another classic Eagles album.

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