Thursday, December 8, 2016

"Hotel California" Turns 40

On this day in 1976, the iconic Eagles album "Hotel California" was released.  The followup to the band's previous four successful collections became one of their biggest sellers, over 32 million copies sold worldwide.

Much of the success of HC is centered on the title song & lead cut.  However, almost the entire album is filled with masterpieces, from their signature country rock sound to one that's more edgy, there's a reason why this resonated with so many fans and continues to this day.  In addition to the amazing guitar solos on the title track and other songs, is the core of the band's success, lyrics and stunning vocals.  At the time of HC's recording & release, the members were founders Glenn Frey (vocals, piano, keyboards, harmonica, guitars), Don Henley (vocals, drums, guitar), and Randy Meisner (vocals, bass guitar) as well as Joe Walsh (vocals, lead guitar, keyboards) and Don Felder (lead guitar).  The powerhouse songwriting duo of Frey and Henley dominates the lyrically visual songs, a continuum of their stellar compositions from previous albums.  This collection is very much a concept album like 1973's "Desperado" but HC is a study in California's night life, addiction, fame, relationships, and environmental issues.

"Hotel California" is perhaps one of the most debated songs in history, its subject matter being all over the map depending on the listener.  It opens with one of the most recognizable guitar intros in rock music but it's Henley's haunting voice that steals the show.

"New Kid In Town" is the only song Frey sings lead on here and is a beautiful study in relationships and the fleeting nature of fame.  The song is about a woman who moves on to the next "Johnny come lately," and also mirrors the music business where the next big act is always waiting to take over.  Frey's stunning vocals on the bridge drives the message home.  Written by Frey, Henley, and J.D. Souther, the song took home a Grammy in 1977 for Best Vocal Arrangement, was the first single off the album, and hit number one in February 1977.

Also a single, "Life In The Fast Lane" chronicles a couple who spiral downwards in their drug-fueled, high living lifestyle.  Walsh came up with the guitar intro, Frey and Henley wrote the lyrics around that signature riff.  Dire lyrics and emptiness abound despite the frenetic pace of the arrangement.  It feels as if the couple is driving off the cliff long before they reach it.

"Wasted Time" is a gorgeous, melancholy filled ballad, one of Henley's finest vocal moments on HC.  Another Frey and Henley composition, the lyrics are heavy with emotion, "...So you live from day to day...and you dream about tomorrow...and the hours go by like minutes...and the shadows come to you take a little something to make them go away..."

Eagles fans know the backstory to "Victim Of Love" but despite the Felder/Henley controversy on who ended up singing lead, Henley owns the song.  It's a classic, in your face snarl about a woman who's disenchanted by every relationship yet knows "how to play it so well."

"Pretty Maids All In A Row" features Joe Walsh on lead vocals and Randy Meisner's fine "Try And Love Again" round out the variety on HC leading up to the stunning finale.

The album closes with the epic, sweeping ballad "The Last Resort."  Relevant at the time of its release and even more so today, the song looks at the destruction humans have inflicted upon the Earth.  Another Frey and Henley penned gem, the song takes listeners on a journey from innocence to greed, urban sprawl, and despair, "...You call some place paradise...kiss it goodbye..."  Always excelling on ballads, Henley's vocals reach every level on this prophetic song.

"Hotel California" won the 1977 Grammy for Record Of The Year, cementing its place in rock and roll history, as well as in the hearts of millions of fans across the globe.  If music lovers are looking for "new" music to buy, start here and buy the physical copy.  The artwork on the cover and the photos inside are as fabulous as the art flowing out of the speakers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Sunset Motel" Album Review

Reckless Kelly's 9th studio album "Sunset Motel" bolts out of the gate with the rollicking "How Can You Like Him," just a hint of what's to come on the much-anticipated release.  It's been a long span between this and 2013's lovely "Long Night Moon" and it does not disappoint.

Reckless Kelly is comprised of David Abeyta on lead guitars, Cody Braun on fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, and harmony vocals, Willy Braun on lead/harmony vocals, guitars, and harmonica, Joe Miller on bass, and Jay Nazz on drums.  The collection was recorded at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas, and brings a new warmth to RK's sound.  Perhaps it's the change in studios (RK hasn't recorded at Arlyn since their debut) or the depth of the content.  There's a quiet maturity felt in the lyrics (all penned by Willy Braun), the harmonies are perfect, and the instruments are classic clean and crisp RK.

"Radio" opens up with the singer flipping channels, most likely trying to find a station that plays good music but the song itself delves into the dark and disenchanting world known as mainstream radio.  The first line says it all in regards to the sad state of modern country music, "Come all you young lads with your trucker chain fads...and your hair just beginning to grow...Well you got a good look and that's all it took to get you booked on the next big show..."  It has a biting tone and rocking guitar riffs, driving the message home about how "artists" are made.

"Radio" segues into one of many standouts "Buckaroo," a mid-tempo modern day cowboy's lament about losing a love.  Meanwhile, the title track is a lovely yet sad ballad about the trials about addiction.  The motel is a symbol of all things bad and good that we encounter on the road of life.  The foreboding sound of the guitars sets the stage for the eerie lyrics "...Four walls to hold me...locked up inside...where the same thing that kills you is what keeps you hope for redemption, no safe place to fall...just a paradise waiting to escape from it all..."

Switching gears from the loneliness of "Sunset Motel," "The Champ is a knockout track about a relationship set to a sport and Wild West theme.  "...High noon and we're standing on Main Street...all or nothing and there's no backing second thoughts about a reputation...just clear leather and the hammer comes down..."  The song rolls along to a fabulous mandolin beat and despite the cheery sound, neither party truly comes out as a champ.  This is a true RK classic and is now a new favorite.

Other standouts include "One More One Last Time," a lush, harmonica driven ballad and "Volcano," a climate change rocker.  The latter has a big chorus and some harsh lyrics regarding the state of this very polarizing issue.  "Sad Songs About You" is an honest, raw look at a crumbled relationship and how the singer is going to cope with singing the songs the rest of his life.  "Under Lucky Stars" quietly closes out the collection, a truly romantic song not often heard from the band.

There's something to be said about the exquisite album artwork and enclosed CD booklet.  It includes a map of the USA and a special motel room key that unlocks more phrases and photos across the map.  It has a retro look, making the listener feel as if they're along for a ride back in time; which ties into the lyrics of this fine album.  Reckless Kelly has released another solid set of songs to cap off their 20th year in the business, go buy this album and let your ears enjoy the journey.

"Sunset Motel" was released on September 23 via Thirty Tigers.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Corey Nolen "Following The Song" EP Review

Corey Nolen's new EP Following The Song is a pleasant journey through relationships, the music business, and the trappings of the road.  The six- song collection flows nicely from traditional country into more Americana territory with Nolen possessing a tear in his voice that wraps around every song, filling it with heartbreak and longing.

The album kicks off with "Missing You Tonight," a mid-tempo song driven by prominent fiddle that segues into what's probably the best on the EP, the bittersweet title track.  The singer laments "....Now that the money's all gone, I guess I'm in it for love...'Cause I don't think they'll hear my voice on the radio..."  This gem is exactly what we need to hear on country radio.
"Not Fighting" is an achingly sad duet with Ashley Spurling, where, as the years go by, they question their relationship and they realize they're just going through the motions of everyday life.  "...It ain't the hurting we had...but it's a new kind of sad..."  Spurling's sweet vocals add a heavy dose of poignancy to the ballad.

Closing out the EP is "The Road," a lonely, pedal steel weeper that follows the singer on his way down the road and back to his "broken home."  "Lately waking up it's hard to know what town I'm in....Just moving at the mercy of whatever pays the bills..." ​ The backdrop of the steel makes the song feel even sadder than it is - true country music at its finest.

The Alabama native has released three other albums, including a live EP which was released earlier this year.  Following The Song will be available August 14.

Thank you to The Daily Country for allowing me to review this EP.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In Memoriam Of Glenn Frey: A Fan Tribute

Shock.  Disbelief.  Sadness.  Denial.  All emotions felt when I heard the news that Eagles founder Glenn Frey had passed away at the age of 67 on Monday, January 18, 2016.  As a lifetime Eagles fan, this loss of a legend has been a hard fact to swallow.  Frey had recently finished up a tour with the band in July.  How can this happen to someone so young?

Crushing sadness aside, the Eagles have been a huge influence on my musical tastes.  Their music, along with dozens of other bands in the same vein, have been riding shotgun with me as long as I can remember.  Frey's warm, smooth tenor was always right for every song, belting out country rockers and lovely ballads, he was always able to make fans feel something.  Not just a fine singer, Frey also was an incredible songwriter.  Written with band mate Don Henley, "Desperado" is the most epic, sweeping ballad of our time.  Frey also helped pen the biggest hit of the Eagles' career "Hotel California," among many other favorites, including "Lyin' Eyes," "Take It Easy," and " Tequila Sunrise."

Along with the success of the Eagles, after the split in 1980, Frey continued on with a remarkable solo career.  Tunes such as "The Heat Is On" and "You Belong To The City" were big hits in the 80's.  Frey also starred in a few films and TV shows, most notably "Miami Vice" and in his own show "South Of Sunset."  The Eagles reunited in 1994, embarking on a tour, then again dropping out of the spotlight until the release of a double album "Long Road Out Of Eden" in 2007.  Frey released his last solo album in 2012.

It was the songs Frey created and sang with the Eagles that left the biggest impression .  The country rock sound they forged has left an indelible mark on myself, along with millions of other fans around the world.  Without a doubt, there was more music left to be made.  Glenn Frey was an icon for the ages and will be greatly missed.  A legend of a generation, gone too soon.