Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For Those Of Us Who Were Not Aware Of An Absence . . . Hell Freezes Over By The Eagles

The Good: Some great songs, good vocals, interesting music
The Bad: One or two tracks that don't live up, Live versions of some songs are weaker.
The Basics: When the Eagles reunited for an album, they created four new tracks and put them before live renditions of classic songs, making for a decent album.

Well, I think the only Grateful Dead song I actually know is "Shades Of Gray," having now learned "Peaceful Easy Feeling" (which is NOT "Peace Corp. Easy Feeling") was, in fact, a song by The Eagles. I open my review of Hell Freezes Over this way because this album means different things to different people. I imagine to fans of The Eagles, who were told repeatedly by Don Henley that the band would reunite when hell froze over (hence the album title), that this is a long awaited reconciliation between friends. For those who are not invested in the history of The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over is another album to be reviewed independent of hype or history. This is the latter type of review.

Hell Freezes Over is a collection of fifteen songs by The Eagles, with the first four being new studio tracks and the subsequent eleven being live versions of classic Eagles tracks. The new tracks are "Get Over It," an exhortation for society to quit whining (it ought to be Dr. Phil's theme song) and simply put problems out of one's mind, "Love Will Keep Us Alive," a somewhat sappy ballad, and "The Girl From Yesterday," a new classic breakup song, and "Learn To Be Still," an earthy track asking the listener to appreciate the world around them. Unsurprisingly, the last track is written by Don Henley. Henley also co-wrote "Get Over It."

The Eagles, as a band, are certainly true originals. As it turns out, they are almost single-handedly responsible for Southern California Country-Rock movement. Their sound defines the border between country and rock and roll, long before Billy Ray Cyrus swept onto the pop charts. Songs like "Take It Easy," which appears here in live form, are the essence of what came to be defined as Southern Rock. The Eagles do soft ballads quite well, with memorable ones including "Tequila Sunrise," "I Can't Tell You Why," and "Desperado," all of which are on Hell Freezes Over in live versions.

Most of the live versions are adequate, some are even enhanced by being live. For example, "Desperado" has a quality to it that is somehow more lonesome when performed as the live track on Hell Freezes Over. Similarly, "New York Minute," absent the studio production sound becomes frighteningly articulate and even more wrenching than the original.

Other tracks suffer in their live forms. "Hotel California," the brilliant horror-rock song about a hellish hotel is missing something in its Hell Freezes Over live incarnation complete with applause at the end. It clocks in at 6:54 and that seems short to me, as well. Strangely, "Life In The Fast Lane" seems listless as well in its live form, lacking the production hurt the song some. I guess it doesn't seem so urgent, so much pressure that the studio version implies.

What is consistent and works very well on live classic tracks and newer tracks are the lyrics. Writers from the Eagles include Don Henley, Glen Frey, Don Felder, Timothy Schmit, and Joe Walsh - the entire band. The only tracks that were not written or co-written by any of the Eagles was the new hit "Love Will Keep Us Alive." The distinctive thing about The Eagles is that the lyrics are often decent, using less predictable rhymes than usual and many of them tell a story. So, even one of the less recognizable tracks, like "The Last Resort," is admittedly well written as it tells the story of the Natives losing their land.

The Eagles have a strong social conscience which pushes past what most bands today are willing to do. It does not appear to just be Don Henley either, though the liner notes begging listeners of this disc to help pressure Congress into reauthorizing the Endangered Species Act no doubt had strong influence from Henley, it is one of his causes. The Eagles's music, though, is all about relating to one another and relating well to the Earth.

And it rocks. For a group that is all male, utilizes guitars, bass, pianos, keyboards and drums, The Eagles have a remarkably diverse sound, at least on Hell Freezes Over. No two songs sound remotely alike and the truth is, were it not for the strong vocals - primarily by Don Henley and Glen Frey - it would be hard to connect all of the songs to the same band. Listening to "Hotel California" and "Take It Easy" and convincing oneself they are from the same group is more an experience based on outside knowledge than aural observation.

Regardless of how one comes to the album, Hell Freezes Over is a solid listening experience that is likely to be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys good adult contemporary rock or country. This is a very diverse album and it's a pleasure to hear, though one wonders why the four new tracks were not simply done live, making the album all live. I suppose a comeback that uses mostly classic material can't be perfect. This comes close, though.

The best track is "New York Minute," the least impressive was "Wasted Time."

For other classic rock artists, check out my reviews of:
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
Twenty Four Seven - Tina Turner
The Sounds Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel


Check out how this album stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page where the reviews are organized best to worst!

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