Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's Broke and Can't Be Fixed

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Long Way Home
Don Henley
Don Henley / Danny Kortchmar
I Can't Stand Still
1982; Asylum

In my songwriting I'm self-critical to a point where it stifles me, sometimes paralyzes me.
(Don Henley)

One of the worst-kept secrets in the history of rock and roll music was the break-up of the Eagles in 1981. Their label, Asylum, denied it, and even Joe Walsh, who did a solo tour in 1981, continued to refer to himself as a member of the Eagles. Only when the solo albums began flying (pardon the pun) out of the various members did the truth come out.

While all five members released solo projects in the immediate aftermath of the disbanding of the Eagles (Walsh's There Goes the Neighborhood, Don Felder's Airborne, Timothy Schmit's Playing It Cool, and Glenn Frey's No Fun Aloud), by far the most outstanding solo album came from Don Henley. Henley, the golden voice of the Eagles, teamed up with guitarist/songwriter Danny Kortchmar (best known for his work with James Taylor and Jackson Browne) and created one of the best albums of 1982: I Can't Stand Still. The album sold nowhere near as well as the Eagles' final album (Eagles Live), managing only "gold" record status despite a top five hit in "Dirty Laundry." That is a shame because I Can't Stand Still remains a highlight of Henley's professional life. Highlights abound, but the song that grabs and refuses to let go is "Long Way Home."

Don Henley has one of the best voices in rock and roll: not only is it technically good, he knows exactly how to use it. In this song he delivers the song with all the pain and emotion necessary to convey a broken relationship in the line "this house don't work and this dream don't work no more, and lover neither do you and I." The last note of the song is simply beautiful over the background singers (including his fellow Eagle Timothy Schmit).

Henley's songwriting skills are in top form as well, as evident by the great philosophy in the first verse, "there's three sides to every story, baby, there's yours and there's mine and the cold hard truth." The visuals in the song are superb: one can see Henley standing in the telephone booth, the phone in his hand and his coat pulled tight against the cold he describes in the opening line.

Henley's solo career took off with his second album Building the Perfect Beast. That album went platinum and earned Henley a Grammy for his hit "The Boys of Summer." While that song is the best hit single of the 1980s and Henley is better known as an Eagle, "Long Way Home" is an outstanding song showcasing his talent as a singer and a songwriter.


The entire I Can't Stand Still album -- the big hit "Dirty Laundry" pales in comparison to songs like "Lilah" and "Them and Us," the latter a seriocomical look at the arms race (complete with Warren Zevon, who was of Russian descent, providing backing vocals) that ranks with Randy Newman's "Political Science" as the best songs on the subject. "Johnny Can't Read" is another highlight.
"A Month of Sundays" (originally the B-side of "The Boys of Summer;" now on the Building the Perfect Beast CD) -- a marvelous song about the plight of farmers.

Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

No comments: