Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Look Back at the "History of The Eagles"

With the sad passing of rocker Glenn Frey on January 18, I thought I’d re-post a previous review (with some minor updates) of the excellent documentary, History of The Eagles, which was originally released in 2013. RIP, Glenn, and thanks for the music.

The Eagles flew out from the shadows of serving as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, and soared into the spotlight to become rock superstars. They had a string of hits, including “Take It Easy, One of These Nights, and Take It To The Limit.” While never a critic's favorite, the band had a legion of fans who loved their music. They hit their peak with 1976’s Hotel California, one of the most successful rock albums of all time. Then the cracks started to show, as internal conflicts, too much partying & the pressures of fame began to unravel the band. The group broke up in 1980, but resurfaced in 1994 with an MTV special, album & eventual tour called Hell Freezes Over. They’ve reunited on and off ever since. The two part documentary History of the Eagles charts their meteoric rise, fall & eventual reunion.

The film is filled with excellent behind the scenes footage, photos & performance clips from throughout the group’s career. In addition to interviews with current & former band members, there are also appearances by Ronstadt, Jackson Browne & Bob Seger. Part One traces the band’s beginnings through their split in 1980, and Part Two charts the road to their reunion and comeback. The band (including Don Henley, Glenn Frey & Joe Walsh) is remarkably candid about the good times & the bad times that occurred during the group’s heyday. The guys are open (and quite emotional) about their opinions, and sometimes they don’t always come off in a positive light. But Frey reportedly wanted the full story to be told, warts & all, and encouraged the filmmakers to not shy away from the tougher parts of the band’s history. It’s also interesting to see what former members like Bernie Leadon & Don Felder (who wrote a tell-all memoir about his tenure in the band) have to say about their time in the group. Because of Frey's recent passing, the his comments, this of his bandmates (and the entire film) take on an additional level of poignacy.

The band, whose Greatest Hits, Vol 1., 1971-1975 was named the best selling album of the 20th Century by the Recording Industry Association of America, have an amazing body of work and History of the Eagles reminds us of their enduring catalog of classic songs. It also gives us a glimpse of the band’s then current lineup, which now includes Felder’s replacement, guitarist Stueart Smith. There's also footage of the group working on their most recent (and now possibly final) disc of original music, 2007’s Long Road Out of Eden. I wish there were some complete vintage performance clips featured as extras, but there is a bonus disc included (on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions) with an hour’s worth of performances from a 1977 concert at the Capital Centre, though it’s not the complete show.

 Director Alison Ellwood has done a remarkable job with this film; the three-hour plus running time of the documentary gives her ample time to really tell the band’s story, though Part One is a good deal longer than Part Two. This is a fascinating chronicle of the rise, fall (and return) of one of rock’s most memorable groups, and if you’re a fan of the band, and enjoy ‘70s rock or the country rock genre, the film is essential viewing. The movie originally aired on Showtime, but is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. Here’s a link to the film's trailer: and a vintage performance of “Take It Easy” : Aside from listening to their music, watching this fine film is a fitting tribute to Glenn Frey’s (and the band’s) legacy.

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