Eagles take flight with new album

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Don Henley: ‘We are a band that knows how to bide its time, and how to wait,’ he says

Ray Waddell

The Eagles have broken records and toured widely since 1994, including their 2004 farewell tour. Photograph by : Reuters

“I’ve been biding time with crows and sparrows while peacocks prance and strut upon the stage,”‘ Don Henley sings on “Waiting in the Weeds,” one of several powerful set pieces from the Eagles’ new Long Road out of Eden, the band’s first studio album since 1979.

The line is pretty descriptive of the Eagles, Henley believes. “We are a band that knows how to bide its time, and how to wait,” he says. “We’ve just been sort of waiting for some of this bad music to die down, for certain trends to go away, so we can get out there on the dance floor again.”

Henley takes Billboard through the making of Eden, due out Tuesday exclusively at Wal-Mart stores.

Can you talk about how the songwriting and recording processes have changed?

The songwriting process hasn’t really changed that much. The thing that has changed somewhat is the recording process, and that’s because of technology. We’ve recorded a few songs here and there since the turn of the century, but we haven’t done a whole album, and the changes in the technology are amazing.

There is a lot of social commentary on this record, but there is also a focus on personal relationships and the human condition, as well.

We’ve always had love songs and we’ve always had social commentary. I think we’ve gotten a little bit better at both ends of the spectrum. In fact, I think our love songs have matured a little bit and the social commentary has matured, as well, and gotten maybe a little bolder. But, it’s an Eagles album, it’s all over the map, both musically and subject-wise. I guess there are more love songs on it than anything else. The last two songs on the record in particular are both messages from Glenn (Frey) and I to our children.

Those are more about “big-picture love” than “I love you tonight.”

It’s not just a boy/girl thing. We both have young children. We are both trying really hard to be good parents. That’s one reason it took so long to make an album, because we are so busy trying to be good parents.

There’s a question in the song “Do Something” that kind of struck me as, in many ways, central to the theme of this album: “How did we get on this road we are travelling?”

“Do Something“‘ is an interesting song because it starts out like a love song, but then it takes on larger implications. And that line that you pointed out could pertain to a relationship between a man and a woman or it could be a statement about the country as a whole.

Is this an optimistic album?

I think it’s basically an optimistic album, with the possible exception of “Long Road Out of Eden.” Of course, that’s about the war, and it’s also about the human condition. The point of the song is (that) we may think we are civilized, but we have a way to go yet.

But I think the point of the whole album is summed up on the last song that Glenn wrote with Jack Tempchin, “Your World Now.” The crux of the whole thing for me is those two lines: “Be part of something good, leave something good behind.” If there was one message to this album that I want to impart, that would be it.

There’s another line that hit home for me on “Business as Usual”: “I thought that I would be above it all by now, in some country garden in the shade” and, yet, here you are with a new record.

That’s right. Here I am, just turned 60. I’m not complaining. I’m thrilled and delighted. None of us ever thought it would go on this long. But we are a determined bunch of guys. We take our time, we are not afraid of the passage of time, necessarily, and we’ve been sitting one out for a long time. That is kind of what “Waiting in the Weeds” implies. Again, on the surface that’s a love song, but it’s also about this band. We’ve just been sort of waiting for some of this bad music to die down, for certain trends to go away, so that we can get out there on the dance floor again.

“Long Road out of Eden” has an interesting line: “Weaving down the American highway, through the litter and the wreckage and the cultural junk.” Is that what we are doing now?

I think so. I was originally going to write “weaving down the information highway” because I get on my computer every day and there is so much crap on the Internet. In the end I decided that it wouldn’t make a lot of sense with the rest of the song just to suddenly go over and start talking about computers and the Internet. So I changed it back to American highway just to make it broader in scope. I think with the words “cultural junk” I got my point across. I think we’ve cornered the market on cultural junk, pretty much.

You guys have been playing together since 1994. Why a new album now?

We were never a band that was able to record and write and tour at the same. When you go on tour at this age there is a lot of recovery time involved.

Plus, as I’ve said before, we all have young children, our priorities are different. Not that this album and our music isn’t important, but my kids are more important to me than anything, and that’s where I put most of my energy these days.

There are some people who seem to think that this is some sort of comeback, or we’ve been away, but, if I might say so, we’ve been breaking records all over the world since ’94 and we’ve been touring quite a bit. It just took us a while to get on a roll again, to get into writing mode and learning how to work with each other again in a studio.

This is still very much a band effort. There is co-writing and there is a lot of intermingling of vocals, a lot of harmonies.

At the end of the day, we agonized for two or three years how we were going to make an album that was going to be modern and cool and cutting edge, and finally we said, “To hell with it, we are just going to be the Eagles. We are just going to do what we do.”


Long Road Out of Eden (Eagles Recording Co.)

How is it possible to live up to 28 years of expectations?

In short, Long Road Out of Eden doesn’t, nor does the double disc completely tarnish the group’s legacy.

It’s pleasant, slick, and safe — like a bunch of millionaires hanging out on a sunny California day.

It also borders on hokey — like a bunch of millionaires reminiscing about their loves, lives and lamenting the current state of the world.

Yet Long Road Out of Eden still manages to draw listeners in, thanks to several strong numbers and at least one sparkling gem, “Waiting in the Weeds,” resplendent with heavenly harmonies, mandolins, pianos and lyrics about second chances.

“I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore,” written by non-Eagle Paul Carrack, is a low point.

plucks, and Timothy B. Schmit’s syrupy vocals, it sounds more like a naive boy-band ballad than a song performed by worldly men in their 50s and 60s.

Joe Walsh and his raw, Ozzy-like vocals counter the sap with “Last Good Time In Town” and “Guilty of the Crime.” Not only are they two of the most soulful tracks, they’re two of the more offbeat numbers.

Editing is obviously not a concept the Eagles are familiar with — Long Road out of Eden rambles on for 20 songs and 90 minutes.

Perhaps the Eagles felt the need to overcompensate for making fans wait 28 years, but as is the case with most double discs, this one would be much better as a shorter single album. D+

— Sandra Sperounes, CNS

© The Vancouver Province 2007


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