The Eagles planned to begin recording their new album on a Tuesday — Sept. 11, 2001.
“We loaded our gear in on Monday,” recalls Glenn Frey, the Royal Oak native who founded 1971 with songwriting partner n Henley after both played in Ronstadt’s backing band.
“On Tuesday morning, Don called me and said, ‘Are you watching television?’ I said, ‘Yes I am.’ He says, ‘Well, I don’t think there’s any point in going to the studio.’ I said, ‘Nope.’ “So we didn’t go. But a few days after that, we did.”
It was just one of many speed bumps on the “Long Road Out of Eden.”
“ ... Eden,” the Eagles’ first album of all-new material in 28 years, finally comes out Tuesday — exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Clubs stores or via www.eaglesband. com. The two-disc, 23-song set’s long gestation gives new meaning to the term “The Long Run,” which was the band’s last album, in 1979. But Frey says it’s simply a matter of all good things coming to those who wait.
“It was a bit of a journey,” acknowledges Frey, 58, who moved to Los Angeles in the late ’60s, after singing backup on the Bob Seger hit “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” He still lives there with his wife and three children.
“It was a place that was hard to get to. The Eagles has sort of a life of its own; everything’s got to be just right for things to happen for us.”
There was a time, of course, when nothing was happening at all for the Eagles. After a wildly successful run from 1971-1980 — when the group’s Southern California blend of rock, country, folk and R&B sold 120 million albums, notched five No. 1 titles and won four Grammy Awards — the band was apart for 14 years, broken up by egos, infighting and the wear and tear of its career to that point.
Its members made solo albums and caustic remarks about each other in the media. Henley’s comment that the Eagles would reunite when “hell freezes over” became the name of the group’s 1994 reunion tour and companion album. But despite a few new songs that appeared on that release and on 2003’s “The Very Best of the Eagles” collection, the Eagles were more of a touring than a recording entity.
“The problem,” Frey explains, “was finding enough time to really do the record right.” And although in 2001, he felt that “the camaraderie of the band returned in earnest,” it would be more than four years before Frey, Henley, bassist Timothy B. Schmit and guitarist Joe Walsh, who form the fifth edition of the Eagles, began to work on “ ... Eden” in a serious fashion.
“I think we started to understand it wasn’t something we were gonna be able to do piecemeal,” Frey says. “We were trying to do it in bits and pieces and let people work independently sometimes ... and it didn’t really work.
“So it was really January of 2006, when everybody, meaning the four Eagles, rededicated ourselves to the amount of time it was gonna take to do the record.”
Henley, who lives with his family in Texas, began spending more time in California, working at a studio he keeps in Malibu, while Frey also held sessions at his own studio 18 miles away. Bringing musicians in and out and bouncing files to each other through the Internet, they were able to “maximize people’s time” and fall into a productive creative routine that only made the group even more creative.
“As we started to really gain some momentum in the studio, a lot more material started coming, and the album got bigger and bigger and bigger,” Frey says. “You start to feel like, ‘Gosh, since we haven’t made a record in so long, wouldn’t it be nice if we could give people more than 12 songs?’
“So now we’ve got this double record.”
And, Frey adds, an album that, despite the passage of time, still sounds very much like the Eagles of the ’70s.
“I think there was a point early on,” he acknowledges, “where we wondered ... What’s this record supposed to sound like? Are we supposed to, like, modernize? Are we supposed to do a hip-hop track? Is there supposed to be a track that’s, like, a Justin Timberlake song?”
The answer proved to be a wide range of material — from the ringing country-rock of the first single, “How Long,” to the funk of “Fast Company,” a selection of ballads and the earnest political commentary of the 10-minute title track.
“We’ve always sort of been resistant to categories,” Frey says. “So we figured out, what do people like about the Eagles? They like us singing together. So we just said, ‘Hey, people want to hear us sing, so let’s do songs where there’s a lot of singing, and it doesn’t really matter what the style is.
“The other thing is it just sounds better. I think the writing is right there, but you just get better sounds in the studio in 2006 than you did in 1976.”
The Eagles plan to be taking those sounds on the road — but not immediately. The group just finished a six-show run with the Dixie Chicks at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre. They’ll play a private show in London on Wednesday and perform at the 41st Annual Country Music Awards on Nov. 7, and they’re rumored to be the halftime act for Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3.
But Frey says the Eagles are taking “a kind of wait-and-see attitude” about a full-scale tour.
“I like the idea of waiting and not going right on the road to promote this record,” he says. “I’m in no hurry to sing ‘Take it Easy’ again. I’ll certainly do it, but we want to be able to do the new songs, and the longer we wait to go on the road, I think, the more time this album will have to seed and let people live with it and get to know (the songs).
“We’re definitely excited and energized right now — that’s what comes from having new material. The band has a lot more possibilities now, and I think that’s healthy.”
The Eagles’ and Wal-Mart seem like an odd fit.
The group members are staunch environmentalists, and Don Henley even bemoaned the growing preponderance of such faceless, corporate chains around America in his 1985 hit “Sunset Grill.” But Wal-Mart proved a lucrative partner for the 2005 DVD “Eagles Farewell I Tour — Live From Melbourne,” which has sold more than 800,000 copies, and it’s the exclusive retail home for “Long Road Out of Eden,” the band’s first new album in 28 years.
“They gave us the best chance to sell the most records, and they’re also gonna pay us more than anybody else would pay us — that’s two pretty good factors,” says the group’s Glenn Frey, a Royal Oak native. “I feel like my job as a leader of the Eagles is to give us the best chance to sell the most records.”
Frey says the group had discussions with other outlets, including Best Buy, Target and Apple’s iTunes, but felt Wal-Mart was the best fit. But he also holds out hope that the band can have a positive effect on the chain besides just revenue from CD sales.
“Sometimes it’s real easy to stand on the outside and point the finger at all the bad guys around the world,” he notes. “Sometimes, you have to get inside and work with other people the way Democrats work with Republicans — or should work.
“Wal-Mart’s got some interesting ideas about what they need to do to be a better corporate citizen, and we’ll see how that goes.”
“Long Road Out of Eden” is also available at www.eaglesband.com.
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