Glenn Frey was one of my favorite musicians. Granted he co-wrote and sung many of the songs on the best-selling album of all-time, but the late Frey’s talent was not just blurring the line between commerce and art. He had an obsession for pursuing his passion.
Frey was known to his inner circle as the “lone arranger.” His gift for vocal arrangements and melody was legendary, and his love of Detroit R&B was evident on all his recorded work — and most evident after the Eagles’ classic, Hotel California.
Let’s delve deeper into that often under-appreciated corner of his catalog with this handful of essential Glenn Frey/Eagles songs:
5. “WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HEART” (THE LONG ROAD OUT OF EDEN, 2007): This song from the Eagles’ final studio effort with Glenn Frey, a adult contemporary hit, harkens back to the days early days of his writing partnership with Don Henley. Mostly sung by Frey, with just a bridge from Henley, “What Do I Do With My Heart” is pure Detroit R&B with its subtle Fender Rhodes piano and R&B guitar licks. The song doesn’t fit the more country-themed album, but on its own is a undeniable gem. Honorable mention: “I Dreamed There Was No War.”
4. “I VOLUNTEER” (NO FUN ALOUD, 1982): Jack Tempchin wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and a lot of people think that represents Glenn Frey. It doesn’t. “I Volunteer,” co-written with Bill Bodine, was offered by Tempchin for Glenn Frey’s first solo album – and it’s a much more better representation. The songs oozes old-time soul. Frey teams up with ace guitarist (and Don Henley cowriter) Danny Kortchmar for a memorable rhythm-guitar web that the track rests on. Frey sings his ass off, with sorrow pouring out form each verse. Bill Champlin is even enlisted to provide a smooth yet authentic background vocal. Oh, the guitar solo is direct and as evocative as any solo on an Eagles album, and it’s Glenn Frey playing it. Honorable mention: “Lyin’ Eyes.”
3. “HERE’S TO LIFE (AFTER HOURS, 2012): Popularized by the great Shirley Horn, and covered on Glenn Frey’s last album, “Here’s to Life” is almost prophetic. Frey is comfortable standing in front of the microphone, and exploring his vocal instrument. The results are both moving and awe-inspiring. Honorable mention: “Sea Cruise.”
2. “AFTER THE THRILL IS GONE” (ONE OF THESE NIGHTS, 1975): One of the Top 5 Eagles tracks. Lyrically, Henley and Frey tell the story of what should be a break up. Are they talking about a band? A relationship? The song is an omen for the Eagles after The Long Run. Frey’s delivery is subtle and refined, while Henley’s is more intense and just as effective. The song sports stellar pedal steel guitar work from soon-to-be departed Bernie Leadon, and inspiring slide guitar work from Don Felder. Instrumentally, “After the Thrill is Gone” stands next to any of the Hotel California classics and lyrically its above many. It also points out the obvious fact that Glenn Frey and Don Henley were brilliant when writing songs together. Honorable mention: “Tequila Sunrise.”
1. “NEW KID IN TOWN” (HOTEL CALIFORNIA, 1976): This is the best Eagles song ever. Great guitar? Don Felder’s guitar parts on the song are sublime. Great keyboards? Yes, that’s Joe Walsh on Fender Rhodes and Hammond B-3 organ, playing like a master Motown keyboardist. Drums? Listen to Don Henley’s drum fills. Vocals? Glenn Frey delivers his only lead vocal on Hotel California with tenderness and authority. His harmony with Henley is perfect and uplifting. The lyrics, written by Frey and J.D. Souther, are also among the Eagles’ best.
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