For their first album of all new material in 28 years, the four standing members of the Eagles have a pretty good memory of what made them special in the first place. A 20-song effort available only at Wal-Mart, “Long Road Out of Eden” has a sufficient dose of sweeping harmonies, an overall uplifting spirit and a country-rock vibe that’s more peaceful easy feelings than anything Messrs. Henley or Frey have done as solo acts. A few heartier rockers, which have elements that show the Eagles are not strictly working off a 30-year-old blueprint, help break up the softness. Glenn Frey’s reading of Jack Tempchin and John Brannen’s “Somebody” delivers the goods most sharply in making connection between the Eagles when we last heard from them (1979) and today.
On the other hand, at a time when country radio is full of songs that work off a polished model of the Eagles’ earliest albums, the Eagles seem ready to play along. It’s their downfall. The Eagles are who they are due to their mastery of a very specific sound; sounding like their second-rate imitators from the 1970s – I count five tracks dripping in sappy ’70s touches, especially faux frailness – should not be an option. And when the banality is evident, either in the lyrics or arrangements, one wonders if they’re working from the heart or too carefully aiming their material at a specific target. (The standard Wal-Mart customer is probably not aware of the depth of Henley and the Eagles at their best; they just like the pretty songs).
But there are easily 10 tracks of merit here, just no gems like the ones that have cropped up in Henley’s and Joe Walsh’s solo careers. Creating an enjoyable single disc edit of this album, would not be tough: start with the title track and follow with the tempered funk of “Fast Company,” the harmony rich ballad “Do Something,” Walsh’s barnburner “Guilty of the Crime,” and the Latin-tinged “Last Good Time in Town.”