Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eagles Doc Shows The Business of Music

History of The Eagles
The Story of An American Band
Directed by Allison Ellwood
Showtime DVD
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

One of the ironies of the legendary Rock Group Eagles, is how for a band that sung about "peaceful, easy feelings" and "Taking it Easy" there certainly has been a tremendous amount of turmoil and bad feelings in the over forty year history of the group.

All that and more is put out there in Allison Ellwood's film The History of The Eagles: The Story of An American Band

But we, who are fans of the Eagles, already knew all of that and much of this is a rehash of ancient history.

The film, which was originally put out as a two part series on the Showtime network was released on DVD and Blue Ray last month along with an added bonus of a 1977 concert when the band was at the height of it's popularity.

One of the things that is most fascinating about this documentary, with visuals from home movies and rare and not so rare concert footage,  is how it shows where the influences of the band came from and how they came together.

Glen Frey, from Detroit, was heavily influenced by the Motown sound and Bob Seeger.

Don Henley, had influences from the Country Swing Music of North Texas to the jazz of New Orleans where he also could listen to rock and country radio stations from around the south.

And the songwriting of Frey and Henley was heavily influenced by Jackson Browne (who penned Take It Easy), who they roomed with when they came to Southern California.

In one memorable scene of the documentary, both Frey and Henley recount how Browne who lived downstairs was almost business like in his approach to songwriting. Up early in the morning, playing notes to songs, over and over again, until he got it right.  Take a break for tea. And start the process over.

One thing that I could never figure out about the Eagles is why Frey and Henley who were and still are clearly the driving force of the band, didn't go the way of another iconic 70's band, Steely Dan.  Donald Fagen and Walter Becker disbanded Steely Dan as a band and would hire the best musicians for each of the roles on their albums.

Think about it.  They basically did that except it was more like a baseball team.  When high-pitched Randy Meisner (featured on Take It To The Limit) and originally from Poco leaves, Frey and Henley replace him with another high-pitched voice from Poco, Timothy B. Schmidt.  When guitarist Don Felder is forced out, they replace him with Steuart Smith on tours.

And they almost followed the same business model as Steely Dan.  Like Steely Dan, the Eagles broke up in the Early 80's and the two founding members went on to making successful Solo Albums in the 80's. Then came back together to do concerts and make new albums in the 1990's and 21st Century.

This documentary also features some wonderful concert footage of members of the Southern California Rock Scene in the 1970's who all had influences on the Eagles.  People like Linda Ronstadt, Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, and the aforementioned Jackson Browne.

Part 1 Dwells on the early history of the band until the first break up in 1980 while the second part deals with the solo careers of Henley and Frey in the MTV era through the first Eagles Reunion of 1994 until the present.

If anything, it's a wonderful excuse to re-listen to the music of one of the most successful bands in the history of Rock and the music of the Southern California Sound of the 1970's.

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