I have a nebulous list of Undeniable Musical Truths running around in my head. One of these days I'm going to have to sit down and write them all out. I mention this list of truths because The Eagles have decided to take on one of them on their first new album in 28 years.
Which truism have the Eagles dared to do battle against? Most double albums would have been better off as a single album. So, are The Eagles exceptions to the rule or victims of it? Let's take a closer look.
The best thing about this record is the vocals. The harmonies are spectacular. Not many rock bands can run four lead singers to the mic. Not many bands can blend their voices this well. The weaker songs on this collection still sound good because the harmonies hypnotize. The Eagles belong in the discussion with The Byrds, CSN&Y, and a small handful of others as the best harmonizing rock bands ever.
The other strength of this record is these guys didn't spend the reported six years it took them to make this record trying to reinvent themselves. Everything you ever loved about The Eagles can be heard on Eden. Harmonies? We already covered that. Country-flavored rock goodness? Check. Gorgeous ballads? Nothing on the order of "Desperado," but those are here, too. The passage of time between The Long Road and Eden can be sensed, but not as much as you'd think. Eden is a record that – self-consciously, at times – plays to the band's strengths.
The downsides to the record? Let's start with the production. I noted the band resisted making changes to their sound as a strength, and I mean that. Unfortunately, it also bites this record in the ass a time or two. Some of the slower songs – particularly those sung by Glenn Frey and Timothy Schmit – sound like '80s Adult Contemporary songs recorded by Basia's producer or that clown Walter Afanasieff.
Next up… Don Henley's at it again. Did Don lose his sense of humor along with his ponytail? Wow, lighten up, dude. The Reverend Henley is bound and by God determined to wag his finger and tell you what's wrong with you. It's not that he doesn't have a point. We are fucked and you fucked up! It would have been nice if he'd found a way to put that in a song. Instead, we get rants backed by music.
Finally, the album is just too damn long. It's not too long because I don't have the attention span to listen to a double album; it's too long because there aren't enough outstanding songs to justify the expanded length. This 20-song set should have been pared back by at least six and maybe eight.
So The Eagles fought the law and the law won. Does that mean you shouldn't check out Long Road Out of Eden? Definitely not. There are a lot of things to like about this record – not least of which is its $11.88 pricepoint — if you can get past the stench of their exclusive deal with Wal-Mart, the bloat, and the occasional pompous lyric. These songs won't replace anything on their greatest hits packages, but will sit alongside them just fine.