Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eagles - Snapshot #1 - Solo Eagles Fly High

The word ‘legendary’ is bandied about far too much in relation to high achieving and/or influential music artists (actually it’s bandied about far too much in general).  But one band that merited the application of the world ‘legendary’ are the Eagles.  In the decade between their formation in 1971, and messy and prolonged disbandment in 1982 (though they hadn’t actively played together since 1980), the Eagles amassed several platinum albums, many millions in record sales, a clutch of Grammy Awards, sold out world tours, and had earned the widespread respect of their peers.  The band eventually reformed in 1994 (and as Glenn Frey stated “for the record we never broke up, we just took a 14 year vacation”), releasing the #1 album ‘Hell Freezes Over’ - a quip at what was once considered necessary for the band to ever play together again.  The album featured four new cuts, and eleven classics recorded at a MTV concert performance, and went on to sell over five million copies.

But what of the intervening twelve years, between the dissolution of the Eagles, and their eventual reformation.  What follows is a look in isolation at one solo project from each of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt, recorded during that period.

Eagles drummer/ vocalist Don Henley released his debut solo album ‘I Can’t Stand Still’ (US#24/ OZ#42) in August of ‘82.  Produced by Henley with Danny Kortchmar and Greg Ladanyi, and released on Elektra Records, the album featured 11 tracks in all, 6 of which had been co-written by Henley and Kortchmar.  The lead out single was ‘Johnny Can’t Read’ (US#42/OZ#49), a salutary tale about the declining state of the education system in the U.S., wrapped in a bouncing rock-a-billy coating.  But it was the follow up single that would announce Henley’s arrival as a solo artist.  ‘Dirty Laundry’ cleaned up its act and shone bright at #3 on the U.S. charts in early ‘83 (OZ#51).  Lyrically, it was an acerbic swipe at gossip, rumour mongering, and gutter journalism.  The track featured a blistering guitar solo from Joe Walsh.  The title track and third single, ‘I Can’t Stand Still’ (US#48), was a trouble in paradise love song.  Aside from his own talents, Henley assembled an impressive list of guest players, including former Eagles Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, J.D. Souther, Toto players Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather, and Warren Zevon.  The album (which I own on CD) was an impressive start to Henley’s post-Eagles career.  But bigger things were on the way.

Henley released his sophomore solo album, ‘Building The Perfect Beast’ (OZ#4/ US#13/UK#14) in late ‘84 and hit commercial pay dirt.  The album realised the hit singles ‘The Boys Of Summer’ (OZ#3/ US#5/UK#12), ‘All She Wants To Do Is Dance’ (US#9), and ‘Sunset Grill’ (US#22), as well as earning Henley a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

The album , ‘The End Of The Innocence’ (US#8/ UK#22/ OZ#44) followed in 1989, and yielded the title track (co-written by Henley and Bruce Hornsby) as a hit single (US#8/ UK#48), as well as the track ‘The Heart Of The Matter’ (US#21).  In 1992, Henley returned to the upper reaches of the charts with ‘Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough’ (US#2/ OZ#4/UK#22), a duet with Patty Smyth.  Henley’s most recent solo album was 2000’s ‘Inside Job’ (US#7), with most of his creative energies directed to the reformed Eagles.

Eagles’ guitarist/vocalist Glenn Frey released his debut solo album, ‘No Fun Aloud’ (US#32/OZ#44) in May of ‘82 on the MCA label.  The ten track affair spawned two hit singles - ‘The One You Love’ (US#15), and ‘I Found Somebody’ (US#31).  Next up Frey released the album ‘The Allniter’ (US#37/UK#31) in mid ‘84, which yielded the hit singles ‘Sexy Girl’ (US#20), and ‘Smuggler’s Blues’ (US#12/UK#22), the latter featuring in an episode of the TV series ‘Miami Vice’, in which Frey was a guest actor.

Glenn Frey’s moment in the sun as a solo artist came via his 1985 hit single ‘The Heat Is On’ (US#2/ OZ#2/UK#12), lifted from the blockbuster Eddie Murphy comedy film ‘Beverly Hills Cop’.  Frey followed this up in late ‘85 with ‘You Belong To The City’ (US#2/OZ#20), culled from the ‘Miami Vice’ soundtrack album.

Three years elapsed before Frey resurfaced with the album, ‘Soul Searchin’ (US#36/OZ#49), released in August of ‘88.  The album featured ten tracks, eight of which had been co-written with regular song writing cohort Jack Tempchin.  The album’s only hit major single came in the form of ‘True Love’ (US#13/OZ#54), which I purchased at the time on vinyl 45. The track ‘Livin’ Right’ reached #22 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart (#90 Hot 100), whilst the title track performed well at #5 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart.

Four years later Frey returned to the fray with the 1992 album ‘Strange Weather’.  Frey worked with Jack Tempchin and Jay Oliver to pen 15 songs for inclusion on the album, but commercial fortunes were waning for Frey the solo artist, as the album missed the U.S. top 200, and only the single ‘I’ve Got Mine’ (US#91) made a dent, or at most small scratch on the paintwork of the Hot 100.  Prior to reforming the Eagles, Frey released a live album in 1993, a mixture of Eagles and solo work.  In 2012, Glenn Frey released the album ‘After Hours’, a collection of mellow classics from a bygone era, perhaps beginning to feel that he too is a mellow classic from a bygone era.

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