This is proving to be a big year for elder statesmen of yankee 'Legacy Rock'. With the Boss and Old Neil back on form, here comes the real West Coast contingency; also fired up about war in the Middle East and reflecting on the ageing process in fine style. The difference of course is that Bruce and Shakey have been churning out work on a regular annual basis throughout the 21st century, whereas it took Henley, Frey, Schmit and Walsh a whole SIX years in the studio to get this double album on the shelves. Luckily it's all been just about worth it...
While to many the Eagles - and their reputation of a somewhat hedonistic heyday - represent all that went wrong with the Californian dream, it's also undeniable that not only were these guys players of the highest calibre, they also were not bad at critiquing their own peer group: sniping at coke-fuelled egos from the heart of the white powder maelstrom. Both strengths seem utterly undiminished. Walsh's guitar stings like a bee, and you'd be hard-pushed to date this as an album that comes a full 28 years after their last studio effort were it not for its subject matter.
The title track – a ten-minute centrepiece – is the key text here. A doomy, weary drag through Bush's Iraq, painting an impressionistic portrait of homesick soldiers lost in the desert and blind to the region's historical significance, while their commanders try to keep the spirit of the States alive with barbeques and pecan pie: 'bloated with entitlement, loaded on propaganda'. It's their "Hotel California" for the new age; a surreal nightmare of excess in foreign parts. It's also beautifully rounded off by a short guitar instrumental called "I Dreamed There Was No War". Point taken.
But Long Road... is no miserable trudge through worthy protest songs, it's also a (predictably) sleek vehicle for all the things Eagles fans love. Even without the sleevenotes you'll have fun spotting the cynical digs of Don Henley ("Frail Grasp On The Big Picture" is a brutally dark look at the ignorance of Middle America when it comes to politics and culture beyond the back yard), the gonzoid wonkiness of Joe Walsh ("Guilty Of The Crime" and the hilarious ode to growing up and staying in, "The Last Good Time In Town") and the sensitive, country-tinged tracks owned by Glenn Frey ("No More Cloudy Days" and the companion to "Tequila Sunrise" that is the mariachi-flavoured "It's Your World Now" ). "Center Of the Universe" may be one of the best things they've EVER done and for real fans there's also a bona fide treat with the J D Souther–penned "How Long" which dates from their early 70s repertoire.
Brimming with lush harmonising that still epitomises the partyed-out mellowness of the Sunshine State (cf: the opening eco-lament "No More Walks In The Wood"), Long Road... is far better than it deserves to be. Only the falsetto funk of "Fast Company" resorts to TOO many automotive metaphors. It's a pale shadow of "Life In The Fast Lane". But overall this is an album played with verve, filled with lyrical incisiveness and still retaining the warm smell of colitas, whatever they are...