Wednesday, 9 December 2015

My Top Ten Albums of 2015 - Number Nine

The Dude abides. The Dude is my hero. The Dude can do no wrong.

But that doesn't mean I agree with everything The Dude says... and there is one area in particular in which I just cannot agree with him.

"Not the Eagles, man. I hate the fuckin' Eagles."

And I know it's not just The Dude. It's a popular opinion, particularly among snobbish musos... but I for one love The Eagles, and I have a special fondness for their drummer - surely the greatest singing drummer in the history of rock? Surely only Dave Grohl can offer him any competition? Who else are you going to suggest? Ringo? Collins!? Maybe Father John Misty...

Anyway, Henley released a couple of my favourite albums of the 80s, but he's been pretty quiet of late. In fact, Cass County is his first record in 15 years (the kind of statistic that makes me and my record collection feel very old). Still, as soon as I heard the debut single, Take A Picture Of This, on the radio, I knew very little had changed.

Let's put it like this: he's still got that voice. And he can still tell a damned good story.

Much hullaballoo was made around the time of Cass County's release that this was "Henley's country record"... but the Eagles were always a country rock band... and although there are fine collaborations here with the likes of Miranda Lambert, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Merle Haggard (not to mention Mick Jagger), much of the record sounds like classic Henley. Take A Picture... could easily be an out-take from his 80s highlights The End of the Innocence or Building The Perfect Beast.

Although some of the tracks do veer closer to old-style country than he's ventured before, they all tell very affecting stories - many from the perspective of a seasoned 60-something, which is not a voice you hear a lot of in rock songs (despite the fact that many classic artists are now that age and older). Take A Picture... is told from the perspective of a man looking back on a long marriage (with a sting in its tail); That Old Flame finds an older guy flirting with the possibility of rekindling a long-dead romance; Train In The Distance (not the Paul Simon song) has a Stephen King-esque quality to its childhood nostalgia.

Henley was always well known for his political activism - both in his lyrics and in his support of the Democratic party - and the angry young man still has something to say at 68, especially on tracks like No, Thank You and The Cost of Living.

Finally, there's a couple of stand-out short stories that deserve repeated readings. Waiting Tables and Praying For Rain prove Henley can still turn his imagination to lives outside the world of a grumpy old Eagle.

A very satisfying return, then - let's not leave it another 15 years, eh, Don?

"Yes, The Eagles, Dude. I love the fuckin' Eagles."

Next, at Number 8, a rambling lunatic reads the entire contents of his diary onto record. 


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