Having acquired million-watt success as the singing drummer and one of the principal songwriters of the Eagles, Don Henley opted to take the solo route after the Los Angeles based band called it a day.
Repeating the riches reaped with the Eagles, whose streamlined synthesis of country folk rock and pop gloss saturated the airwaves throughout the better part of the 1970s, Don was a regular presence on the charts from 1982 right into the ’90s. To date, he has released four studio albums, which are all excellent, but for those just getting hip to his music, Actual Miles: Henley’s Greatest Hits (Geffen Records) is the way to go.
A solid-gold vocalist, brimming with confidence and conviction, Don charges his shrewdly structured tunes with a soulful rock bent. The production of the songs included here are very much of their time — meaning big, sleek and technical. But passion remains at the forefront and an occasional edgy strut emerges across the polished finish, giving the material enough human honesty to separate it from a lot of the sterile machine driven stuff of the era.
Powered by crashing rhythms spewing a funky hard rock vibe, the scowling and scolding “Dirty Laundry” throws daggers at the mean-spirited media that thrives on gossip, disasters and death. Also sporting a similar bruising sound is the loud and defiant “I Will Not Go Quietly,” which features Axl Rose from Guns n’ Roses baying in the background.
A lightly battered disco beat that’s kind of cheesy but oh-so-catchy frames “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” while midtempo ballads like “The End Of The Innocence,” “The Last Worthless Evening” and “The Heart Of The Matter” address life and love in an intelligent and mature manner. Rigged with brass arrangements and cool cat crooning, “Sunset Grill” shuffles to a late night, smoky club type atmosphere and the brilliant “The Boys Of Summer” really needs no detailed analysis, as even the most casual rock fan is undoubtedly familiar with the classic anthem.
Don Henley’s keen lyrics, which mix cynicism, sarcasm, political awareness, humor and psychology into a harmonious cocktail, are some of the best of the bunch. He certainly lives a full and interesting life and such experiences and observations are reflected in his finely formed songs.