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Interview:
Eagles Reunion Flight Is Smooth
 

By Gary Graff
Of The Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

It was the group that had to wait for hell to freeze over in order to reunite. But nowadays there’s nothing but a peaceful, easy feeling among the Eagles.

“I feel like the camaraderie of the band has returned in earnest,” says Glenn Frey, the Detroit native who cofounded the Eagles in 1970 with Don Henley and has seen it through nearly 40 years, one long (14 years) break-up and seven studio albums, including 2007’s “Long Road Out of Eden.”

“We got ourselves up and running again, which is always a good feeling. We’re energized. The band has more possibilities now, and I think that’s healthy.”

Those possibilities have come from “Long Road Out of Eden,” which was the Eagles’ first studio recording since “The Long Run” in 1979. And if proof is needed that absence makes the heart grow fonder, consider that the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart — even though it was only sold at Wal-Mart and its affiliates — and in 12 other countries. It’s been certified seven-times platinum in the U.S., and it’s won two Grammy Awards — Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2008 for the single “How Long” and Best Pop Instrumental Performance this year for “I Dreamed There Was No War.”

The Eagles were also the ninth topgrossing act on the concert scene in 2008, pulling in $56.6 million.

“This is a testimony to the longevity of the band, and that is very flattering,” Frey, 60, notes “I don’t think that’s something you can plan for. It’s all icing on the cake for us these days.

“We work in a funny business, where we merge art and commerce. Sometimes ... we celebrate success more than we celebrate art, so I think you have to put it in perspective. It’s exciting for us that we actually made it through the process and did something we think is pretty good and up to our standards.

“It’s a real shot in the arm for us.”

The Eagles’ contentment is the payoff for years when success and turmoil seemed to run hand in hand. The group became one of the biggest bands in the world during its initial run from 1971-80, blending rock, country, folk and R&B to sell more than 120 million albums and compile a roster of enduring hits such as “Take it Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Best of My Life,” “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane.”

No wonder, then, that the 1976 retrospective “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975” has alternated with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the top-selling album of all time.

But egos, infighting and simple wear and tear — some of which was chronicled in former guitarist Don Felder’s 2006 memoir “Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001)” — took its toll, and the Eagles were apart for 14 years. The group members made caustic remarks about each other as they pursued their solo careers; Henley even remarked that the band would reunite “when hell freezes over,” giving a name to the group’s 1994 reunion album and tour.

Though the “Hell Freezes Over” album sported four new songs, the Eagles spent more time on the road than in the studio. “It was a place that was hard to get to, and it was a bit of a journey,” Frey acknowledges. Touring, he notes, had become a distracting pleasure. “It was fun to go to sound check. It was fun playing. It was fun on the plane. We had opportunities to go out to dinner together and do some other things besides just show up to work and play shows.

“The Eagles sort of has a life of its own; everything’s got to be just right for things to happen for us. So I think from that place we were able to say, ‘Let’s try to make a record now.’ ”

While making “Eden,” Frey says the group wrung its hands a b it about what the Eagles should sound like in the 21st century — ultimately coming to the conclusion that “ ‘Hey, people want to hear us sing together, so let’s do songs where there’s a lot of singing,’ and it didn’t really matter what style the song was.”

Ironically, of course, one of the Eagles’ two Grammys for the album came for “I Dreamed There Was No War,” an instrumental that Frey wrote to provide some relief after “Eden’s” title track, a 10-minute “magnum opus” of political thought composed by Henley.

“I thought, ‘Maybe we need to just take a couple of deep breaths and relax and just let that sink in and not try to start somebody on another trip right away,’ ” Frey explains. “So I came up with this instrumental; it gives everyone a bit of time to kind of collect themselves and think about what they just listened to.”

With two discs and 20 songs, Frey and his group mates think there’s still plenty of life left in “Eden” — and therefore won’t hazard a guess about a next album, except a hope that it won’t take another 28 years. But the Eagles, he says, are still enjoying the opportunity to play new music for their audiences.

“I’m in no hurry to sing “Take it Easy” again,” he s ays. “I’ll certainly do it, but we want to be able to do the new songs.

“It’s exciting times; I really don’t think our fans or anyone else would be hearing much from the Eagles in the future had we not made this record.”





The Eagles perform at 8 p.m. Saturday (March 21) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Some tickets remain priced $60-$195. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.



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