Critics shoot down Eagles' first album for three decades

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The Independent Culture

You can take the Eagles out of the 1970s, but you can't take the 1970s out of the Eagles. That, at least, is the conclusion of US critics who have greeted the band's first album of original material in 28 years with less than open arms. "Good news, the Eagles haven't changed a bit," wrote The Christian Science Monitor. "Bad news: The Eagles haven't changed a bit."

The band that spawned such monster hits as "Hotel California", "Desperado" and "Take It To The Limit" has been promising a new album for years, to the delight and frustration of their enduring army of fans. That album, Long Road Out of Eden, finally hit the shelves yesterday, and hype alone will almost certainly generate the multiple millions of sales the group has long been used to.

Musically, though, the critics have found ample grounds for mixed feelings. "The Eagles are who they are due to their mastery of a very specific sound," the entertainment newspaper Variety wrote. "Sounding like their second-rate imitators from the 1970s – I count five tracks dripping in sappy '70s touches, especialy faux frailness – should not be an option."

The 20-song collection won praise for many of the Eagles' hallmarks – solid songwriting and spot-on musicianship. The 10-minute title track, which denounces US adventurism in Iraq and elsewhere, has generated the most excitement – and radio airplay – but still cannot exactly be described as cutting-edge. "It's still the kind of stolid, mid-tempo song the Eagles have long relied on with a guitar solo that virtually reruns Hotel California," snarled The New York Times.

The Eagles went through a famously acrimonious break-up in 1980, swearing at the time to get back together only "when hell freezes over". Hell duly froze about 14 years later, when the lure of big money from reunion tours featuring the band's hits proved too strong for Don Henley, Glenn Frey and bandmates.

The new album has raised eyebrows in the US because of an exclusive retail and marketing deal the band struck with Wal-Mart, the discount superstore chain. Henley, meanwhile, has been a little prickly about the criticism, especially given his track record of social activism against corporate behemoths just like Wal-Mart. "I am not thrilled with everything Wal-Mart has done," he told Billboard magazine.