Hell Freezes Over


Geffen Records, 1994


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You can harbor any opinion you want about the Eagles' big-buck reunion tour of a few years ago. But I think that Glenn Frey and company blew it big time when it came to Hell Freezes Over, the combination live package and new studio track offering from 1994. They blew it in that they could have easily picked up their career as a band and kept going, based on the strength of this material.

After what the band called a "14-year vacation," they came back strong with four studio tracks, covering all bases from rock to ballad to country-folk. "Get Over It," the first single, is a rollicking little number that dares to call those mutants who go on Jerry Springer to accept their faults as their own, and to get past them. (Best line from the song: "I'd like to find your inner child / and kick its little ass.") But the true beauty of the reunion comes forth in the two ballads, "Love Will Keep Us Alive" and "Learn To Be Still," songs that showed so much promise of what could be had the band continued to record together.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Then, there is the live portion of the show. While a few moments of this set do drag a bit, there is enough new life injected into some of these songs to make them sound brand new. Case in point: "Hotel California," now done in a flamenco guitar style. Personally, I think this version blows the 1976 electric guitar version away. To hear Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Frey playing with such zest on a style of guitar we're not used to hearing from this band is jaw-dropping.

While you'll probably think of some favorite from the past that didn't make the cut for Hell Freezes Over, there are enough chestnuts from the Eagles' archives to put a smile on your face. Whether it's the excitement of hearing "Take It Easy" again, or Walsh's wonderfully nasal rendition of "In The City," even to the mournful finale of "Desperado," this is a live album par excellence. (The only change I'd make would have been to leave off "New York Minute," a snippet from Henley's solo career, and put "Best Of My Love" on in its place. Then again, they did let Walsh do "Pretty Maids All In A Row," so maybe this is justice being done.)

I guess my one complaint with this album is that it's too short. After people waited 14 years to hear one of America's best-loved groups perform again, they could have at least put out a package as grand as the tour that hawked it. As much as I'm not a big fan of double live albums (mainly because they always seem to be overkill), this is a show that begged for the big-package treatment. Or, I would have been happy with one disc live and a full studio album to balance it out. The talent was there, and it hadn't been diminished. (Then again, maybe someone in the Eagles camp will read this and decide to give the studio another shot.)

Hell Freezes Over is one of those rare live albums that captures the mood and the moment well. The studio tracks serve as a cruel teaser, seeing that the band apparently is on cold storage once again. But if these performances tell anything about the Eagles, it is that they took their vacations way too soon. Here's hoping they're stamping their return tickets home right now.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.