Eagles' 'Long Road Out of Eden' is a bit too slick -Jim Farber
There's an oppressive competence to the Eagles' first album of new material in - yes, folks - 28 years. The close harmonies still hold. The sweet melodies continue to flow. And the words uphold a vintage mix of sentimentality and indignation. No true Eagles fan will walk away from these 20 tracks feeling wholly ripped off or misled.But where's the spark? The inspiration? In their stead, we find a grinding craft, a dutiful resolve to deliver just what's expected and nothing more.
Such blandness and calculation have always laid at the Eagles' heart. They were conceived in the early '70s with the steely purpose of malling late '60s country-rock, of planing down all the edge and dust off guys like Gram Parsons until his style ended up sounding more like Bread. But the care of the Eagles' vocals, and the singability of their tunes, forgave a decent amount of their smugness, slickness and greed ( I am not so sure I agree with this paragraph).
"Long Road Out of Eden" ups that slick element considerably. The sound is so well-oiled, it makes their '70s efforts sound like the Sex Pistols by comparison. Many of the ballads suggest as much a reunion of Air Supply as the Eagles, especially Glenn Frey's "I Love to Watch a Woman Dance," which, if possible, is even sappier than its title.
Such corn contrasts tartly with Henley's prickly speeches against humanity. A true oracle of the obvious, Henley piles up the usual suspects (America's arrogance, consumerism and ignorance of the consequences of war) like he's telling us something we don't know.
For comic relief, the group shoehorns in two songs from Joe Walsh, one of which, "Last Good Time in Town," boasts a fetching little bass line.
Timothy B. Schmit's voice has such innocence, it forgives the gooeyness of the material he sings. But old fans will probably be most charmed by the songs that blatantly reference the past. "How Long," written by J.D. Souther, has whiffs of the brisk country rock of "Take It Easy," while the final, "It's Your World Now," harks back to "Tequila Sunrise."
It's telling, though, that the latter song, addressing death, sounds so free of consequence. It epitomizes the tradeoff on "Long Road": Sweet tunes, professional playing and earnest intent in exchange for anything like a deep or uneasy feeling.