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Frey's most diverse album: a small jewel; yours to discover.
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 02/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The year was 1980, and the "Eagles pressure cooker" had neared the point of blowing up several times throughout the production of their studio album "The Long Run," released the prior year after the three grueling years of production which had inspired its title. And now, Glenn Frey finally couldn't take it any longer. He wanted to release solo albums and produce records for and with other artists. He wanted to do things outside the music business. He wanted the fun back in his life. And so one day, shortly after the benefit concert fort California Senator Alan Cranston (D) which would be the band's last live appearance, he called up Don Henley, the other half of the songwriting duo at the core at the Eagles, and told his stunned band mate exactly this. While many other things doubtlessly also contributed to the band's breakup, this phone call played a central role in it.
Freed from the "pressure cooker," Frey in 1982 released an album tellingly entitled "No Fun Aloud," the overall mood of which was set by the light, funky, brass-inflected type of R&B which would be characteristic of his following albums as well. (Frey is from Detroit and counts Bob Seger as one of his earliest musical influences.) Songs such as "Partytown" and "I've Been Born Again" reflect feelings he may very well not have known for a while. Even the satirical "All Those Lies" is a rather tongue-in-cheek take on people who get tangled up in the web of their own lies from time to time, rather than the acid social commentary which Don Henley would churn out in his own first solo release, "I Can't Stand Still," that very same year. And while Frey did sprinkle in that occasionally more pointed note in his follow-up albums (e.g., "Better in the U.S.A." on 1984's "Allnighter," "Smuggler's Blues," written for the "Miami Vice" TV series, and the title track of 1988's "Soul Searchin'"), he mostly stayed true to the musical style coined on his first solo album.
Then came 1991's "Strange Weather." By that time, the temporary ice age between the Eagles' former members was nearing its end, although they (and Frey and Henley in particular) were still resisting big-bucks offers to reunite. But whether or not it is due at least in part to that patching up process, the tone of Frey's last studio album before the Eagles' improbable 1994 reunion is different from his prior releases. While there is still plenty of funk, brass and R&B in songs such as "Delicious" and the only half-joking "Love in the 21st Century," a reflective mode dominates the arrangements of the title track, the inspiring "River of Dreams" (dedicated to Frey's wife Cindy) and the two short instrumentals "Silent Spring" (named for scientist-conservationist Rachel Carson's seminal book on the dangers of pesticides and dedicated to its author) and "Agua Tranquillo" (dedicated to celebrated Chicano writer Sandra Cisneros). The album also contains Glenn Frey's contribution to the "Thelma and Louise" soundtrack, "Part of Me, Part of You," and interpretations of works by Anne Rice and Stephen King, both of which excellently convey the mood set by the two authors' books: While "A Walk in the Park" instantly transposes you into Anne Rice's nightly New Orleans (celebrating the mysterious beauty of the night, however; no word of the vampire's anguish expressed in Sting's "Moon Over Bourbon Street"), in listening to "Brave New World" you cannot help but feel placed right in the middle of a scene from Stephen King's "The Stand" which, as the liner notes explain, Frey was reading when he wrote the song.
Perhaps most importantly, Frey no longer holds back with his opinions about politics and society: "I've Got Mine" and "Big Life" deplore modern society's self-centeredness and materialism, and the words and music to "He Took Advantage" (subtitled: "Blues for Ronald Reagan") could have come right off Don Henley's "End of the Innocence." To an edgy blues rhythm laced with grating guitar riffs, Frey intones his farewell to an obviously not missed president: "He looked you right in the eyes and told those beautiful lies ... He used us and betrayed us and made it seem alright; he turned his back on everyone, I don't know how he sleeps at night. And now he's walking away; he doesn't care what we say. We weren't too hard to deceive; we wanted so to believe. He was too good to be true; he took advantage of you."
Musically and in terms of production, the album benefits from Frey's cooperation with trusted friends Jack Tempchin, Jay Oliver and Eliot Scheiner, all masters in their respective fields; and while it lacks the "all star" cast for which Don Henley's solo releases soon became known - in fact, almost all instruments are played by Frey and Oliver - names such as Ben Tench (organ in "River of Dreams"), Al Garth (sax solo in "River of Dreams"), and Valerie Carter (background vocals) do stand out. All in all, "Strange Weather" is a wonderfully diverse platform for Glenn Frey's musical range, and for the range of his bright tenor which to this day (as last heard in yesterday's Concert for Artists' Rights in L.A.) has lost nothing of its force and still sounds not a day older than when Frey was in his 20s. This album may not be groundbreaking - which it has never pretended to be in the first place anyway - but it would have deserved much more attention than it has received since its release over 10 years ago.
The Eagles - Hell Freezes Over
Selected Works: 1972-1999
Long Road Out of Eden Deluxe Edition"
Frey Gets Serious
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unfortunately Eagles leader Glenn Frey's solo career has been consistently underrated compared with Don Henley's as Henley continued to write the 'searing social commentary' songs that made the Eagles so successful, while Frey deliberately 'lightened up' and played mainly soul & R&B influenced music. On 'Strange Weather' this all changes. There are songs about everything here from Ronald Reagan, to the environment, the LA riots to just having a good time 'before the ship goes down'. The mood is much darker than on Frey's normally lighthearted work. Even in the straight love songs such as 'River Of Dreams' and 'A Walk In The Dark' you get the sense that he is brooding on his own mortality, and this is also true in the magnificent, Eagles-like 'Part Of Me, Part Of You'. However he does throw in more humorous songs like 'Delicious' and 'Big Life'. The difference between Frey and Henley is that Frey does not take himself nearly as seriously, and he is also a far superior arranger and writer of melodies than Henley. The other major attraction is his exhilaratingly pure tenor voice which still sounds as good as it did in 1972. He probably sings with more depth and emotion on this album than he ever has. All Eagles fans should listen to this and decide whether the overproduced ranting on Henley's albums is really as good as its reputation suggests."