So here I am, Bluegrass Radio presenter, eZine contributor, and eternal “Eagles” fan sitting, waiting for the phone to ring from Glenn Frey to chat about his upcoming solo album release. With “Desperado” on my mind and every “Eagles” CD on my shelves how do I approach an album called “After Hours “, which includes 14 late night piano songs that would do any of the white shirt and tux, boys proud.
It was very simple, I just listened to all the tracks, settled down on a very comfortable cloud nine and said “Tell me how this magic project came about”, when a very relaxed and wildly enthusiastic Country Rock Legend started chatting as though we had been pals since “Take It Easy” totally altered my musical direction in 1972. He loves to come to Ireland to play Eagle Concerts and even sneaks back to take low level helicopter rides to admire the wonderful Irish countryside, grab a game or two of golf and catch up on whatever Irish Trad he can get to listen to.
And then the bonanza. “After Hours” is the reward for two and a half years of dedicated fun, recording and nourishing the type of music that he listened to on the radio while helping his Mom with the ironing at home in his Grandma’s kitchen. He has dedicated this album to his folks who brought him up on a musical diet of Ella Fitzgerald, Teresa Brewer , Dinah Washington and all the white shirt and tux boys that I mentioned earlier. With fellow Eagles touring band mates Richard F.W. Davis and Michael Thompson he has put together an album that is going to win him a lot of new fans and surprise all of his dedicated Eagles legions of die hards.
It started with providing a pal with eight hours of background music for a cool restaurant hangout in Aspen Colorado called “Andiamo” and then ten years later getting a request from none other than Clint Eastwood who was music organiser for the Wednesday nights at the AT&T ProAm Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach to sing one of his own songs and something from the 40’s for the volunteer party at the club. He remembered all his research CDs for the Andiamo project, discovered that he could sing Tony Bennett songs in Tony’s key and that lead to a regular gig every February with Jack Shelton’s band at Pebble Beach singing Tony Bennett classics. Apart from blowing the audiences away he found himself getting more comfortable and really enjoying this newfound musical outlet.
A few nights after one of these gigs his long time buddy Michael Bolton came over to him and said “Hey Glenn you sounded great doing that type of music. Have you ever thought of doing a record. “ So emboldened by this compliment and having already had the germ of an idea, when he got back to LA he hooked up with Richard and Michael as co-producers and did some trial recordings of “The Good Life”, I Wanna Be Around “ and “The Look of Love”. He says “It sounded good and we would know, if it was good. So we went on and on and cut the records for real and two and a half years later with 14 track in the bag “After Hours “was born. And “It was fun doing it”.
When I remarked that I was impressed by the feeling that each track had an individual treatment, he responded that putting the project together was like doing a thousand piece jig saw puzzle. You don’t do it in one sitting. You need to work on it for a while and then step away. And because they were all working with the Eagles, they would do a few weeks in studio, tour for three or four weeks and come back with fresh ears. There was something nice about working on it over time, because “Distance brings clarity” “We worked on it very carefully and something that I learned from working with the Eagles and from the Beatles was that each one of these songs is like one of your kids. They need to be treated like an individual. Because I didn’t write any of the songs we were just caretakers and interpreters so we had to get it right and not do anything that is disrespectful to the material. It was so much fun working and finalising the record but in fact the “Journey was the reward”. This is a piano song album , it’s not a guitar song album so with musical arrangements from acclaimed New Zealander Alan Broadbent we’ve done a piano and voice album that has style, real style. And we’re really proud of it and looking forward to touring it.”
He hopes to play Ireland and other European countries in late June so it will be a pleasure to catch the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer in mellow mode with an album that I reckon will do for Glenn Frey what “Stardust” did for Willie Nelson.
Stand out tracks for me are the steel and guitar tinged “Route 66” and the very country flavoured “Worried Mind” but I think I’m going to have to battle with a certain red headed lady at home here for who gets ownership rights on this one. And there will be many late night, head phones on , lights out and totally chillin’ sessions for a long time to come. This album came to me out of the blue and I have no problem shifting loyalty from some of the finest new Bluegrass bands that are filling my airtime these days to listen to a potential classic from an Eagle who is really soaring to surprising new heights in this well chosen new direction.
Move over Vince Gill, there’s a new “Voice” in town.