Album: The Eagles

Long Road Out of Eden
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The Independent Culture

Almost three decades after their last studio album, The Eagles re-group with this unwieldy two-CD offering, which replaces all previous contenders as the textbook case of a double album that would be better as a single album.

Disc one is the superfluous disc, a jumble of tidy rockers and break-up songs fronted by the harmony-vocal exercise "No More Walks in the Wood" and even including, in "Fast Company", a pot-and-kettle putdown of someone "goin' nowhere fast", living life in the same fast lane they themselves once occupied. Fronted by Joe Walsh, a version of Frankie Miller's "Guilty of the Crime" gives proceedings a much-needed shot in the arm by offering a counterbalance to the rising tide of bland MOR homilies; but if I had to salvage one track from the disc, it would be Don Henley's "Waiting in the Weeds", the longest and most haunting of the break-up songs, in which the delicate, cyclical arpeggios spin a subtle magic. But otherwise, this is fairly forgettable fare.

The second disc is another world entirely, largely because it acknowledges the world outside California's gated communities. This is evident on the title track, a 10-minute epic that yokes together ecological concerns and foreign-policy misgivings into a thorough condemnation of American imperialism.

It could be argued that the song itself is just another example of bloated American self-regard, an overblown statement of the precious sensitivities of a cosseted Western elite, but Don Henley and Glenn Frey deserve credit for their angry eloquence, not least in their use of metaphors that some among The Eagles' home audience might struggle with: "Been down the road to Damascus, the road to Mandalay/ Met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian Way/ He said, 'It's hard to stop this bingeing once you get a taste/ But the road to empire is a bloody stupid waste'."

If it's hard to see that playing well in Texas, then "Frail Grasp on the Big Picture" a straight-talking, contemptuous dismissal of Bush and the rednecks, right-wing religionists and spineless media who support him – is enough to send Fox News pundits into apoplexy.

Tinted with accordion, mandolin, mariachi horns and those trademark soft harmonies, songs like "I Love to Watch a Woman Dance", "Center of the Universe" and "It's Your World Now" are estimable additions to the canon, and there are highlights in the Santana-esque elegance of Joe Walsh's "Lately (Last Good Time in Town)" and the rock strut of "Somebody". Overall, though, a prime case for selective downloading.

Download this: Long Road Out of Eden', 'Frail Grasp On the Big Picture', 'Somebody'