Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Random Music Review: Glenn Frey's Greatest Hits (Actually Called "Solo Collection")

I realize this could be seen as a random entry to start off as my first "real" post on this site. I don't fancy myself a real music reviewer or an expert on music at all. I do love music and will try to do a random album review every Thursday or so. The purpose is to review an album and probably mock/praise the artist a little bit. I prefer to review random albums without reviewing the newest album that just came out as if I know exactly what I talking about, because I don't necessarily. I always listen as a fan of music. So I am starting with Glenn Frey's Greatest Hits (or "Solo Collection" as he calls the album...just in case an Eagles fan picks up the album thinking they are going to get to hear "Take it Easy" for the 293,392 time doesn't get confused). Glenn Frey is a founder, rhythm guitarist and co-dictator of The Eagles, who are a group that is on the radio every five minutes, broke up the first time before I was born and many people seemingly hate because they are an example of corporate rock at its worst. This Solo Collection goes to 1995 and it encapsulates Frey's solo career perfectly. He did have a solo career that didn't include "Heat is On," which probably would shock some people.

I listened to the album sometimes pleasantly surprised, confused at times, cringing at times, and wondering what the hell is up with all of his saxophone use. Did he purchase a saxophone in 1981 and feel like he absolutely had to get his money out of it? For a guy who writes country-rock songs and made a shit-ton of money not using the saxophone, there is a lot of horn work going on in his solo career. You would think since he wrote/sang "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Take It Easy," and "New Kid in Town," Frey would be spending most of his solo career trying to replicate that success. But fuck that, he apparently stumbled upon Cinemax at 1am one night after the Eagles broke up and decided he would add sensitive lyrics about love to the soundtrack of "Bikini Car Wash Company II." There is definitely some of that softcore porn sounding vibe in Frey's solo career. What makes a person who has a ton of money go against what has made him successful in his solo career? All he had to do was call J.D. Souther and write some country-rock songs and then have a decent solo career. This is the guy who had the idea for the piano and guitar bridge on "Against the Wind" in 1980 and wrote "Last in Love" (a fairly obscure country song) so I know he could have had a successful career just doing what he did best in the '70's if he wanted. Seriously, why all the saxophone? I'm vexed. Onto reviewing the album track-by-track.

1. This Way to Happiness

There are three ways an artist determines the tracking list of a greatest hits album that has new songs on it.

Options #1 and #2. If the songs are in chronological order of release then the artist puts the new songs at the very end or the very beginning of the album. This way makes it easier for these tracks to be skipped as the listener can just stop the CD or start the CD where she/he wants to. This method says, "These are new tracks, do with them what you will."

Option #3. If the songs are in a random order then the artist will put the new songs in random order on the album as well. This is done so the new songs are thrown in with the old songs to create whatever ambiance the artist wants to achieve. Sometimes this can be off-putting since you can go from a classic, great song to a completely new song the listener has never heard. The quality of the song can dip noticeably and show how the newer songs aren't very good.

Glenn Frey chose Option #2. He put all four new songs at the beginning of the album. It's sort of a risk for a guy who doesn't have an incredibly well-known greatest hits collection as it is. "This Way to Happiness" starts off with a saxophone blaring with some drums in the background. The saxophone would not feel out of place in the title credits to "Full House." In fact, I can almost see Bob Saget smiling into the camera as the song starts. Whatever happened to predictability? Glenn Frey killed it with a saxophone.

This song is notable in that it has a lot of saxophone and lyrics about a road, traveling on the road, and trying to find happiness. It's pretty clear Frey didn't put a ton of time into creating this track. He needed a faster track and his attempts to growl during the chorus seems to be his declaration of super-seriousness. The saxophone covers up for the lack of a hook. But dammit, did I find myself tapping my foot at one point? Yes. That probably says more about me than anything about the song.

2. Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed

There's no question mark at the end of this track name. So Frey knows who has been sleeping in his bed or he is a big Dr. Suess fan and there are Who's that have been sleeping in his bed. At this point I wouldn't rule out either option. His wife/girlfriend is cheating on him and acting suspicious. She "smells like Old Spice and whiskey," so clearly Frey is more of a Right Guard kind of guy who drinks beer.

This is another new song by the way and it has horns, but a guitar solo, and a bluesy feel. What's disturbing about this song is at the end of the song the singer books two rooms at a hospital (apparently in Glenn Frey's world you can book hospital rooms before an injury has occured...ah, the life of a millionaire) and says they will be reunited in the hospital. So the smell of Old Spice and whiskey has apparently caused Frey to beat the shit out of his wife/girlfriend. Not very admirable, even if he does find her to be a cheating hussy. If this song is really about Who's then Frey must be the Grinch.

3. Common Ground

This a new song that is all about being "up with people." We can make it together or we can lose apart. There's water and there needs to be a decision to cross the river or not. I'm guessing a boat isn't an option. Still they have to decide to cross the river or not. It's quite a burden and I would imagine these feelings are somewhat how George Washington felt before he crossed the Potomac River. I feel inspired, but not inspired enough to write anymore about this song. I prefer the song where he beats up people for cheating on him.

4. Call on Me

This is another new song. There was once a television show called "South of Sunset" and it aired one time on CBS. I mean it literally aired one time, like once, not twice. After that one airing it got canceled. The pilot was preempted for Malibu forest fires and then after that CBS decided they would rather show re-runs of the wild fires than another episode of "South of Sunset." Somewhere someone thought it would be a good idea for Glenn Frey to star in a television show. A real television show that people could watch or even possibly enjoy while watching. I'm assuming this person has since been long fired. "Call on Me" was the theme song to this television show. Basically if you need someone you can call on him. It was a show about a private detective so I'm sure the relevance of the song is lost outside of the show.

I've never seen "South of Sunset," but I've heard "Call on Me." It's a shame the forest fires didn't get to this song before the public could hear it.

5. The One You Love

So after four new songs, Frey comes out rocking----wait, check that, he puts his slowest hit that begins with a dreary saxophone playing as the fifth track. Why wouldn't he start with a slow song where he basically whispers the lyrics over a saxophone solo that would be rejected by even the most desperate of softcore porn producers. I knock the saxophone a lot, but it's really not all bad on this song. It's just Frey has a habit of writing songs with a saxophone solo where you imagine blue lighting and a young Pamela Anderson stepping onto the screen. I'm not turning into Bill Simmons, so if you listen to the track you will know what I mean...hopefully.

This lyrics to this song are actually really good. It's an interesting set of lyrics. As opposed to attempting to murder the girl that is thinking about cheating on him, Frey empathizes with her. She has to decide to stay with him (the guy who loves her) or go back to the one she loves (but he doesn't love her). I don't hate the song as it is if I'm being honest, except when I am cringing as the saxophone starts, but it is screaming for a re-do. I can imagine a stripped-down version of the song by a person who isn't Glenn Frey would make for a very interesting track to hear.

Back to the story situation presented in the song....seriously, what the hell do you do? Go back to the one you love who hates you (or as fans of "Burning Love" would say, "It's just Blaze being Blaze) or do you stay with the boring guy who doesn't like Old Spice and whiskey? This is much more serious than the question on whether to cross a river or not. I would go with Option C probably, whatever that may be. I am sure it has less saxophone involved.

6. Sexy Girl

Frey has a very attractive girl move in next door, show him the world (which I take to mean "drank whiskey with me and didn't cheat on me, so I didn't have to put her in the hospital"), and she is a very sexy girl. He sees her and it is like hearing his favorite song. It turns out at the end of the song she doesn't want to be with him, presumably because she wants to go back to the one she loves.

7. Smuggler's Blues

This is the video for this song by the way. It makes me laugh for some reason. Most likely because it was done in the 80's and 80's music videos have a tendency to make me laugh.

This song is not coincidentally given the same title as an episode of "Miami Vice" that Glenn Frey appeared in. I love corporate synergy. This is a different kind of song for Frey because he basically cautions us that drugs and guns are bad, but he also wants us to know we don't understand because we aren't him. So it serves as a warning to the listener, but the listener wouldn't understand because they don't have the smuggler's blues. It seems there is really no point in cautioning us. This is why you shouldn't look too deep into some songs, they don't make sense at times. The guitar part on this song was re-done later and called "Somebody" on the Eagles "Long Road Out of Eden" album. Okay, it wasn't re-done, but they are very similar guitar parts in my opinion.

This song is basically "The Heat is On" except it doesn't have quite the hook of that song and seems to play as a travelogue for the 1980's drug trade. The song will get in your head though, so be wary of it. I woke up one time in college at 4:30am after a long night out unable to get the song out of my head and it drove me crazy. I finally got to bed, but the fear of the song being stuck in my head at 4:30am lives on.

8. The Heat is On

This song shows the correct use of a saxophone. It is intended to compliment the hook of a song, not to BE the hook of a song. I think everybody knows this song. I was going to write that this song holds up really well in concert, but that would reveal I had been to a concert where I heard Glenn Frey play this song and that would be embarrassing.

I feel a lot of the reason Frey went away from his country-rock roots is because "Heartache Tonight" was such a hit for him and the Eagles. I feel like he tries to re-write that song throughout his solo career and it doesn't always work out for him. Bob Seger co-wrote "Heartache Tonight" during the period of his career when he was writing hit songs like it was nobody's business, you can't expect to repeat that success without him. Of course on this song Frey did repeat the success of "Heartache Tonight," but his other songs with a "harder" edge didn't always work out as well for him.

9. You Belong to the City

Again, this is a good use of the saxophone. It sets the tone of this song. Besides the fact this song turned into a pretty decent track for Jay-Z, it also represents Frey's voice at it's best. He likes to growl, but sometimes his growling comes out of nowhere and gets grating. He's not a very good singer really, but on this song he finds a way to make it work. I always call this song, along with "Smuggler's Blue" and "The Heat is On" the Miami Vice Trilogy because they seem at home as background music on the show. You can tell the tracks on this solo collection where Frey really gave a shit because it shows in how the song turned out. Those tracks where he seems to have cared are usually the better tracks.

10. True Love

In concert this song is dedicated to Al Green and Frey says he wrote it for Al Green. He probably should have just given him a watch instead. It's not a bad song by any measure and like most songs written by Glenn Frey it has a strong chorus. It gets repetitive at the end and Frey also includes...you will never guess...a long saxophone solo. I'm telling you, it is as if Frey is writing songs and using instruments that are the exact opposite of what made him originally popular. I'm surprised he didn't just do entire albums of him playing the accordion, backed by only a synthesizer and singing songs in Spanish. He may have been better off doing that on this song. It is a half-assed song, but of course it still works in a cheesy sort of way, which is really weird to me. It contains the lyrics,

"You lift me up, you make me strong,  you give me lovin' lasting all night long."

Those are some lyrics that Taylor Swift would cringe at writing and almost nothing makes Taylor Swift cringe when it comes to song writing. If you have accidentally stepped on Taylor Swift's toe at an awards show, she is writing a song about you and this song will contain very, very simple rhymes and lyrics taken right out of the diary of a 13 year old girl.

11. Soul Searchin' 

We are now entering the part of Glenn Frey's discography where he apparently took a look at Don Henley's solo career and decided, "You know, I can be preachy about social issues too." This song is basically "Common Ground" except it is directed towards a woman and not society as a whole, plus there is a choir...because no greatest hits is complete without the use of a choir on one track. In this song, Frey begs his wife/girlfriend to be true to him so he can be true to her. Was this a common problem for Frey in the 80's and 90's, having women cheat on him or have his interest in a woman go unrequited? I feel like his breakup pattern with a woman can be seen throughout this solo collection:

Sexy Girl: She's sexy, but doesn't really love him. This is Frey's attempt to be flattering.

The One You Love: She has to make a choice on who to be with, him or the other guy. This is the attempt to be empathetic.

Soul Searchin': She is sexy and won't make a decision, so Frey encourages her to do some soul searching with him to figure it all out. "River of Dreams" probably takes place at this point, but we haven't gotten to this track yet. This is an attempt to appeal to her sense of belonging with him.

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed: She's sexy, doesn't know who she wants to be with, he lured her on his somewhat creepy river of dreams and souls have been searched. She's cheating on him and now it is time for the bitch to get roughed up a little bit. Book the hospital bed.

12. Part of Me, Part of You

This a good example of what I am talking about when I say Frey goes against what he does best. The lyrics to this song aren't anything special, but it is a country-rock song that really works for me. Sure, it was the theme to "Thelma and Louise" (which also contains violence to women...I'm sensing a pattern), he yell/growls on the chorus and there is another mention of a river, but this is what he does best. It's a mid-tempo track about two people separating for some reason but still being together in spirit. We assume one person is older and the other is younger. It's cheesy and a little bit stupid, but about the point where he says,

"We never know about tomorrow, still we have to choose which way to go,"

I'm starting to think about that line and get confused about why I am thinking about that line still.

Rather than writing about sexy girls, Frey should go for some introspection. He wrote "Tequila Sunrise," which for my money is one of the best songs to wake up to after a terrible hangover and listen to while feeling sorry for yourself over the things you don't remember you did the night before. "Tequila Sunrise" is soft and that's the key to a good hangover song, that the song doesn't make too much noise. Noise is bad for a hangover. So back to "Part of Me, Part of You... Frey then begins the last verse with more introspection that works for me also.

"Look at you, your whole life stands before you. Look at me and I am running out of time. Time has brought us here to share these moments, to look for something we may never find."

Then there is talk of a bridge to forever, which is structurally/logically impossible because you can't build a bridge across time, so dock him a few points for not being up on his science. So this is a song that works and makes me wonder why he didn't write a better song 10 years earlier similar to this one. Then I remember this entire song is supposed to be viewed in the context of "Thelma and Louise" and I start wondering why I over-think everything.

13. I Got Mine

The song starts off as a bad rip-off of "Money for Nothing" with a keyboard playing over some drums. Then when you think all is lost...guess what happens...just guess. You know the answer, so guess. You got it! A saxophone kicks in with some 90's sounding keyboards. It's back to singing about social issues. "I Got Mine" is about wealthy people who don't care about others because they "got theirs." It could very well be a song where Glenn Frey merely brags about how wealthy he is. He is the person who has "gotten his." This song wins the award for "Least Self-Conscious Song of All-Time" I almost want to re-print the pertinent non-self-conscious lyrics here and dissect them. You know what, let's do it.

Someone's sleeping on the sidewalk
As the winter sun goes down
Someone's drinking cold champagne
In another part of town


That's you, Glenn. You are drinking champagne on another side of town. Probably with a sexy girl.

Someone's wandering the streets tonight
No way to warm his hands
Someone's turning up their fireplace
Making travel plans

His mind is on some sandy beach
Where the sun is gonna shine
He thinks, "I don't have to hang around
Now that I've got mine"


That person on the sandy beach? Glenn Frey. See where this is heading? This is an entire song about how rich people don't care about others, except Frey has the balls to use the pronoun "they" in reference to these wealthy people as if he isn't shockingly and ridiculously wealthy himself. Tickets to an Eagles concert range from $125-$195 per ticket. But yes, it is other people who don't care about the little guy.

You see them in their limousines
You see the way they stare
But they don't see us looking back
Because they don't really care


"Them," "they," and "us" are the ones looking back. This has to be one of the least self-conscious songs of all-time. The only way I could see there being a less self-conscious song that displays more cognitive dissonance is if Snoop Dogg (I'm not calling him Snoop Lion) wrote an anti-marijuana song or Mick Jagger started writing songs about the dangers of premarital sex. A person who charges $195 for a ticket to see the same songs that have been played for 30-40 years now wrote a song about how "they" don't care about the little guy. He seemingly wrote this song with a straight face. And don't worry, all along the saxophone plays and all I can hear is "I'm wealthy," whenever it plays.

There's another kind of poverty
That only rich men know
A moral malnutrition
That starves their very souls

And they can't be saved by money
They're all running out of time
And all the while they're thinkin'
"It's okay 'cause I've got mine"


"A moral malnutrition," you mean like not allowing other members of the Eagles to have full ownership into the band or do you mean running the band as a co-dictator?

I'm probably being too hard on Frey. After all, he has displayed a lot of cognitive dissonance routinely throughout his career. In the 70's he forced Randy Meisner to hit the high notes on "Take It to the Limit," but now when the Eagles tour Frey sings that same song and completely forgoes hitting the higher notes. I guess its okay 'cause he got his.

14. River of Dreams

This is a slow song that starts off with a piano playing and then, yes, a saxophone kicks in. This singer is trying to convince "Linda" to come with him on a river of dreams. To be clear, Frey invited Linda on the river of dreams before Billy Joel released his own obnoxious song about walking in the river of dreams. Aging 70's artists were very, very anxious to have a river with dreams in them whenever possible during the early 90's.

So...back to the "River of Dreams" by Glenn Frey. See the world is too heavy for him and he the only solution is to leave "this place" behind. By the time he wants to make love by candlelight I'm sufficiently creeped out. Frey says "if he could," he would take his girl on the river of dreams. I hate to be "that guy" who continuously points out how wealthy someone else is, but considering the amount of money Frey has made in his career he probably could go to his river of dreams. He chose to make "South of Sunset" instead. Frey does point out in the song a lot of people want to get away, but he fails to point out if everyone chased their river of dreams then the United States economy would collapse and there would be economic and financial anarchy. I think I'm going too far down the rabbit hole in discussing this song.

15. Rising Sun

This is an instrumental track, which seems needless to me. It is the introduction to the next song, "Brave New World," but few people even know that song. Is it even necessary to include the 39 second introduction to the song? Is he afraid someone wouldn't buy his Solo Collection album if the 39 second introduction to "Brave New World" isn't directly in front of the song?

16. Brave New World

This is the second country-rockish song on the album. I'm not even entirely sure what the song is about. I think it is about the apocalypse, which is always a nice song to include directly after a song about riding on a river of dreams. I guess it turns out the river of dreams is made of blood and we are going to die immediately. Perhaps the song is about the singer convincing everyone to commit mass suicide instead of the apocalypse? He sings,

"there's no turning back,
we have to be strong,
we have to travel the road to freedom no matter how long,"

Then it goes to the chorus that says,

"Don't worry darling this will all be over soon,
just remember you will always be my girl,
these are the times we are born into, this is why we're here
to live in this brave, new world."

It certainly sounds like he is suggesting a mass suicide to escape the apocalypse. I'm guessing the plan to move to a river of dreams is over. That plan got shot pretty quickly. I'm also guessing if Glenn Frey is going to kill himself to go to a brave new world, he's going to bring his saxophone along with him.

One thing I would change about this solo collection is the addition of "Lover's Moon" from his album "The Allnighter." It's a cheesy song, but I think it is as good or better than nearly half of the tracks represented here. Overall, this really isn't a bad album and "Brave New World" has a pretty catchy chorus, even if it has a slightly more gentle Jim Jones/Waco vibe about it. What's funny is that if you like the Eagles, I'm not sure I could recommend this album to you. It's so different from what they did as a band. If you like "You Belong to the City" and "The Heat is On" and know how to tune out a saxophone then you probably would enjoy this album. I don't know how many people are dying to explore Glenn Frey's solo material, but this is a good introduction even if I'm not sure it represents all of his best work as a solo artist. It is clear Frey kind of half-assed his solo career.

2 comments:

  1. Some people like saxophones!

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    Replies
    1. I know. A saxophone feels 80's to me. Though, I am a big fan of Springsteen and love his use of the saxophone.

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