I'm sorry if I can't seem to summon up the appropriate politically correct outrage that the new Eagles CD is only available at Wal-Mart and that a teenager in a Chinese sweat shop is making 14 cents a day making lead-filled toys so I can buy this wonderful two-disc set for only $11.88. It's just so good that my conscience has been numbed!
When the Eagles had their reunion in 1994 with "Hell Freezes Over" I was ecstatic, but still that album only had a few new tracks and newer acoustic versions of some of their classic songs. That's what makes "Long Road Out of Eden" so refreshing. The creativity and harmonies that have been a trademark of the band for so long are in wonderful abundance.
There are common themes that run through the Eagles extensive catalog--love, love lost, loneliness and social satire--and not surprisingly they show up on the new disc as well.
I don't know of too many records that kick off with a poem written by the current Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University, but this one does. John Hollander's poem "An Old Fashioned Song" is Eaglized into "No More Walks in the Wood" : a soaring harmonic tour-de-force marriage of word and glorious vocal. The radio hit "How Long" follows up and evokes the country-rock hybrid of past compositions yet sounds fresh at the same time. Don Henley's "Busy Being Fabulous" laments the demise of a relationship of a couple one of which is more in love with the spotlight than their significant other and does so with an instantly catchy chorus and mid-tempo beat.
Okay, call me a big sentimental softie but the delicate ballad "What Do I Do With My Heart" caused a lone tear to trickle down my face on first listen. The call and response part between Don Henley and Glen Frey after the bridge where he is pleading is just classic and so emotive.
The quirky voice of Joe Walsh is an acquired taste which I acquired a long time ago with "Life's Been Good." It is a welcome change from the more sedate vocals of his compatriots and adds nice contrast. The song he sings, "Guilty of the Crime" isn't great, but it has a lot of heart, great slide guitar and is fun.
Bassist Timothy B. Schmidt handles the vocals on "I Don't Want To Hear Anymore" which is a gentle radio-friendly tune which is also about a breakup. At this point you start to think that geez, these Eagles really are in dire need of a hug.
"Waiting In The Weeds" showcases the lyrical dexterity these seasoned tunesmiths are capable of. "I don't know when I realized the dream was over/there was no particular hour, no given day/you know, it didn't go down in flame/there was no final scene, no frozen frame/I just watched it slowly fade away." I would've paid $11.88 for this one awesome Henley masterpiece.
The Bruce Hornsby-eque "No More Cloudy Days" serves as a counterpart to love-lost-breakup songs and describes in a warm way the hope and beauty and fear around a new relationship.
"Fast Company" is my least favorite song on the album. It's not terrible, it just pales when compared to some of the other gems presented. It's a throwaway song that doesn't really connect on an emotional level. At least not with me.
Schmidt returns on "Do Something" which is a countryish slow number and again is about the numbing process of getting over a broken relationship. Man, I hope these guys are getting some therapy.
Glen Frey closes out disc one on a hopeful note with "You Are Not Alone." It's simplistic, but effective and the martial drumming and airy background vocals make it endearing and original.
The title track of the album is the disc two opener and while I like the Henley wordplay and the sarcasm throughout it is a little bloated as it clocks in at over 10 minutes long.It starts with over a minute of what sounds like desert wind blowing or something. I get that they are trying to make it into this centerpiece of the album but it kinda comes across as self-indulgent. I do like the crispy guitar solo in the middle though.
A wonderfully performed guitar and keyboard instrumental "I Dreamed There Was No War" follows and it is both powerful and thought-provoking even sans vocal.
"Somebody" is in the vein of "Fast Company" on disc one. It's not awful, but it ain't great either.
I've loved past examples of the biting wit of Don Henley like "Dirty Laundry" and "Get Over it" but "Frail Grasp of the Big Picture" not only comes across as preachy and a little condescending, it's not a very well-constructed song. I mean, the music is great, but it seems to have just had the lyrics slapped on top of it and it isn't very memorable. Again, a nice guitar solo though.
Joe Walsh shows up right on time and gets the album back on track with the funky "Last Good Time in Town." That's the beauty of the Eagles--with four legitimate lead singers, they can add so many flavors to an album. This is a fun song and fits the nasally-voiced guitarist well.
"I Love to Watch a Woman Dance" is a delicate, wonderful little song that sounds like it was made for a movie. It has some tasty mandolin and accordion and is simply magical.
Angry Don is back on "Business as Usual" complaining about everything from consumerism to politics and it would be more effective if the song was more fully realized. It's just not very tuneful and is one of those disposable album tracks that will fade into obscurity. I do like the part when he repeats over and over how it's a "soul-sucking world" but gee, I hope Henley really isn't that angry all the time. Stop and smell the roses once in a while, Don.
The Henley/Frey song "Center of the Universe" is the penultimate song and is a nice harmonic ode to love.
"It's Your World Now" with it's Latin beat and tasty mariachi-like horns is a nice closer to this much-anticipated return to greatness by one of rock's most talented bands. If this is the last Eagles album it just may be their best overall as well. These lyrics sum it all up quite nicely: "It's your world now/use well your time/be part of something good/leave something good behind/the curtain falls/I take my bow/that's how it's meant to be/It's your world now."