The Final Album: The Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden”

Founded in 1971 in Los Angeles, the Eagles quickly became heavy-rotation fodder for FM radio.  With their tight harmonies and exceptional musicianship, they were able to craft some of the most memorable songs over the past four decades.   Selling over 200 million records worldwide, the band was nominated for five American Music Awards and six Grammys.

Originally founded by Don Henley (drums/vocals), Glen Frey (guitar/vocals), Bernie Leadon (guitar/vocals), and Randy Meisner (bass guitar/vocals), the Eagles also experienced a carousel of members including the addition of guitar virtuoso Joe Walsh (guitar/vocals), replacement of Meisner by Timothy B. Schmidt, contributions by Don Felder (slide guitar), the departure of Bernie Leadon, to name a few.  Due to internal conflict, the pressures of touring, performance anxiety, and general problems with substance abuse that caused tempers to flair, the band broke up in 1980. Fourteen years later in 1994, they reunited with the release of Hell Freezes Over, which included previously released songs, but also four new ones.

From this point until 2006, the Eagles toured periodically and released live albums from their shows.  Over this time the band had been collaboratively recording new songs out of the public eye, and in 2007 they surprised Eagle’s fans with the release of a double album of all-new material titled Long Road Out of Eden (2007).

Long Road Out of Eden debuted at number 1 and received two Grammy awards – and was the highest-selling album of that year.  At that point, the Eagles consisted primarily of Don Henley, Glenn Fry, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt. The bandmates used modern technology to mostly work separately to add parts to tracks, record vocals, and combine those into final tracks.   A collector’s version was released in November 2007 which included two bonus tracks (“Please Come Home for Christmas” and “Hole in the World”).

At the 2009 Grammy Awards, the album won Best Pop Instrumental Performance and was nominated for three more: Best Pop Vocal Album; Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for “Waiting in the Weeds”; and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for “Long Road Out of Eden.”

The success of this unexpected album garnered questions about a follow-up but Frey and Henley suggested that the chances of one were remote, but not impossible.  With the death of Glenn Frey in 2016, any reunion comprised of the core Eagles band ended.

The album opens with the beautiful “No More Walks in the Wood” and it immediately reminds you of the silky harmonies the Eagles have always been capable of.   A number of the tracks lament of the loss of nature, the destruction of places where once they would spend quieter times.  This particular song is accompanied only by single strums of an acoustic guitar.

Other tracks like “How Long”, “Guilty of the Crime”, “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture” and “Fast Company” show that rock and roll was still in their wheelhouse.   Punchy distorted guitar work coupled with Henley’s percussive expertise made these songs instant radio-friendly tunes.   The musicianship hides biting commentary in the lyrics about fame, shallowness, and the culture of image management.   The solo on “Frail Grasp…” is as good as anything from the Eagles previously.

Joe Walsh provides a follow-up to his classic “Life’s Been Good” with “Last Good Time in Town”, a lament of how life has slowed for Walsh in his later years.  Along with the choice note selection in his guitar work is the hilarity of lyrics such as “Lately I’ve been staying at home, working the crosswords, turn off the phone”, dreaming he’s on vacation because he “likes the way that sounds” and it’s a “perfect occupation. “

“I Love to Watch a Woman Dance” is a gentle 3/4-time ballad sung softly by Glenn Fry.  The imagery he evokes is romantic and respectful of the subject matter, as the singer dances slowly with his love.  The song is a cover of John McNally’s 1999 version on his Dandelion Soul LP.

“I Dreamed There Was No War” is a mournful Grammy-winning instrumental, which is given an orchestral treatment.  And while it’s just over 90 seconds long it shows the Eagles don’t need lyrics to create something beautiful.

The album closes with “It’s Your World Now”, which is Frey’s comment on it being time for the band to move on and leave the door open for other younger artists to take over.  According to Frey, the song can be summed up by the lyric “be part of something good, leave something good behind.”

It’s a great closing to the last release by one of the most successful bands of all time but it also leaves you melancholy on the closing of an era.  “It’s almost as if we knew that record would be our last,” Henley told Rolling Stone.

-Will Wills

-Photo: Getty Images

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