Monday, December 17, 2012

Classics Of Our Lifetime That Do Not Necessarily Rule: Don Henley’s The End Of The Innocence!

The Good: Some great lyrics, Nice vocals, Decent arrangements and instrumentals
The Bad: Some real duds
The Basics: With its wonderful poetry and melodic music, The End Of The Innocence creates an enduring, though repetitive and inconsistent, album.

My mother, an avid enemy of rap music, abhors pretty much anything on the radio right now. Every now and then, when she is feeling especially vocal about it, she will challenge me by shouting, "What will your generation leave behind [musically]?!" It is unfathomable to her that any of today's music will endure and be sung in fifty years. She usually comes to this level of angry goading while we are traveling in her car and she hears "Hotel California" or classic Stones that she croons along to.

I mention this because as I listen to Don Henley's The End Of The Innocence, it occurs to me that: 1. this is some of the music of my young adulthood and 2. So many of the classics (artists, albums, or musical movements) are not as flawless as my mother's lopsided argument would make them out to be. Like so many musical artists who are talented, Don Henley's The End Of The Innocence is not perfect, despite several of the tracks being classic and songs that will be sung fifty years from now.

The End Of The Innocence is, perhaps, the seminal Don Henley album, featuring such known singles as the title track, "The Last Worthless Evening," "The Heart of the Matter," and "New York Minute." The End Of The Innocence might be the peak of Henley's commercial success away from The Eagles. How distant Henley was from the rest of the group is open to questioning; having just reviewed the Eagles's album Hell Freezes Over (reviewed here!), I noted that "New York Minute," which appears on The End Of The Innocence, is credited as a Henley/Glen Frey song on the Eagles album, but as a Henley, Danny Kortchmar and Jai Winding song on Henley's album. Either way, it's a great song.

Don Henley's album is essentially an adult contemporary rock album that jettisons the country music feeling that The Eagles sometimes owned. It's perfectly appropriate that the video for "The Last Worthless Evening" includes Henley singing in a nightclub; it is that type of sophisticated, smoky sound that dominates The End Of The Innocence (the album). The vocals are clear, many of the songs tell a story and the overall sound is mature and consistent. It is a solidly rock album, going from pop-rock that is faster and louder ("Shangri-La," "How Bad Do You Want It?") to the slower rock ballads that explode Henley's vocal talents ("New York Minute," "The Heart of the Matter").

Henley's rock is more articulate than most music on the radio today. His songs resonate because they explore atypical concepts or use classic techniques. So, for example, Henley tells stories, slowly leading the listener, "Harry got up / Dressed all in black / Went down to the station / And he never came back / They found his clothing / Scattered somewhere down the track / And he won't be down on Wall Street in the morning . . ." ("New York Minute"). He rails against capitalism (an irony for a recording star of his popularity) on "If Dirt Were Dollars" and "Shangri-La" and evenly openly attacks the decadence of Christianity on "Little Tin God."

What makes utterly no sense to me is that Henley does none of the drumming (or any other instruments) on The End Of The Innocence. Henley was the drummer for The Eagles, so it seems odd to me that as he stretches out as an artist, he would forgo more control over the music. At least he co-wrote all the songs.

The real drawback of The End Of The Innocence is the inconsistency of the tracks. Most of them are repetitive, with the refrain from the song being repeated at least three times. This makes the album hard to listen to several times in a row. But even worse is that some of the just keep repeating the one line over and over again. So, while I admire the sentiment of "If Dirt Were Dollars," the fact that that line (the title) is repeated over and over and over and over and over again just kills the song. It almost leaves such a foul taste as to ruin the heartwrenching and poetic "The Heart of the Matter."

But the balance is definitely in favor of Henley here. Despite the way most of the songs repeat over and over again, the lines are often poetic or clever or, at the very least, are well presented. If that doesn't make something enduring, I don't know what does.

The best track is "The Heart of the Matter," which is a wonderful expression of loss and desire set to music, the low point proceeds it with the far too repetitive "If Dirt Were Dollars."

For other album reviews, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Forty Licks - The Rolling Stones
The King Of Rock: The Complete 50's Masters - Elvis Presley


Check out how this album stacks up against other albums I have reviewed by visiting my specialized Music Review Index Page for a relative listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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