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Still Retiring After All These Years...
on March 17, 2006
Back in the `70s, the Eagles latched onto something that seemed very creative at the time. The `country rock' sound that was developed by Gram Parsons and the Byrds in the late `60s got polished to a high-pitched sheen by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, eventually abetted by Don Felder on lead guitar. Their first four albums were all crucial to their era, and brought `country-rock' to the forefront of popularity. By the time that they released "Hotel California," they were recognized as huge stars, and their creativity reached significantly beyond the standard arrangements of country rock. Then, `punk rock' attempted to change all that. The Eagles dismissed the do-it-yourself aesthetic of punk as a laughable aberration. Instead, they entered the recording studio for what seemed like years, only to emerge in 1979 with the most boring and ill-conceived album of their career, a poorly focused effort that was appropriately entitled "The Long Run." Judging by sales figures, the Eagles were right, though. Bands like the Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers languished and then fell apart, while "The Long Run" went platinum. Still, though, the band recognized that their relevance was diminishing, and they disbanded soon afterward. They haven't released a studio album since then.
Twenty-five years later, the band is touring and drawing crowds as if they had never left. In the interim, a collection of their greatest hits has become the best-selling album of all time, so in reality, they never really did go away. Without any considerable addition to their catalog of tunes, the band has toured sporadically, demanding outrageous ticket prices, and yet continually selling out stadiums around the world. This time around, the tour was mockingly entitled the "Farewell 1 Tour", and this DVD captures one complete show as performed in Melbourne, Australia. As this audience ascertains, fans of the band now consist of a mixed group of three generations, all of whom seem to think that the year is 1977, and "Hotel California" is still at the top of the charts. (As a side note, it is rather obvious that for this show at least, the band sent out roadies to ensure that the front row was filled entirely with attractive women, a rather transparent and ridiculous maneuver at this point of the band's career.)
The strange thing, though, is that three of the five `original' bandmembers are no longer aboard, and their contributions are unacknowledged here, except for a performance of Meisner's "Take It to the Limit". Joe Walsh has been an Eagle for the last two albums only, and Timothy B. Shmit didn't join until the sessions for their last album, yet they now consist of 50% of the `official' band, along with leaders Glenn Frey and Don Henley. As a longtime fan, I will always consider Schmit as a member of Poco (with whom he released over ten records and wrote nearly one hundred songs) and Joe Walsh as a solo artist. From a historic perspective (but certainly not a financial one), their careers as "Eagles' seems secondary to me, but it is their presence that fleshes out what otherwise would have been reduced to a singing/songwriting duo.
Interestingly, this collection relies heavily on the subsequent solo work of Frey and Henley ("The Boys of Summer", You Belong to the City" "Dirty Laundry"), and the previous solo work of Walsh ("Rocky Mountain Way", "Funk #49"). Classic tracks like "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Life in the Fast Lane," "Lyin' Eyes," "New Kid in Town," "Hotel California" and "Already Gone" are the reason that people show up, though, and here, they sound like spit-and-polish versions of the original studio recordings. There is no doubt that this band has the goods to play these tunes to perfection. For me, though, the net result is that I really miss Meisner, Leadon and Felder. They were integral to the band when the band was at its most creative, and their absence is palpable. In this configuration, the performances are extremely tight and well-rehearsed, leaving virtually every note sounding processed to perfection. Apparently, this is exactly how their contemporary audience loves them, so I cannot deny the `new' Eagles their extended run of popularity. Still, though, I can't help but wonder how I could ever miss them if they won't ever go away. B Tom Ryan