Thursday, August 5, 2010

389- The End of the Innocence. Not that Rock Stars know much about Innocence.

Album: The End of the Innocence.

Artist: Don Henley

Year: 1989

Genre: Rock


  1. The End of the Innocence
  2. How Bad Do You Want It?
  3. I Will Not Go Quietly
  4. The Last Worthless Evening
  5. New York Minute
  6. Shangri-La
  7. Little Tin God
  8. Gimme What You Got
  9. If Dirt Were Dollars
  10. The Heart of the Matter

It must feel fantastic to have a megasmash hit on your hands. Not just a big song but one of those massive million sellers that everybody knows. A song that moves out beyond radio and into the national subconscious so much that there are creatures on other planets who hum it while they eat breakfast. Of course the obvious downside is that nothing you ever do will ever come close to it and your great moment in the sun will cast a shadow over the rest of your career. At every concert Robert Plant plays there is a section of the audience desperately hoping he’ll play Stairway to Heaven and if Lynyrd Skynyrd opened with Freebird half the audience would go home knowing they’d seen what they came to see. Don Henly suffers from similar baggage. The millstone around his neck is called Hotel California. Throughout his solo career every song he’s ever done has suffered from the comparison.

Make no mistake about it, every song on this album is no Hotel California. Some get closer than others but there’s nothing that’s in even the same state (no Hotel San Diego or Hotel San Francisco). There are a few that are at least in the same country, even if they’re on the other seaboard.The problem with End of the Innocence are the songs which are so far from Hotel California they’re not even on the same continent. A collection of slower songs in the middle of the album might as well be renamed Hotel Brussells, Hotel Leningrad and Hotel Yackandandah. They’re genuinely awful songs and you actually get the sense that Henly knows it. He sings Shangri la in a style that I could only describe as apologetic.

But there are some good moments on this album, most notably the title track which benefits from what I can only describe as “the Bruce touch.” If I was going to put together a top 500 album list then Bruce Hornsby would be appearing a lot more often, and not just supporting someone else but as an artist in his own right. You probably know Bruce from The way it is which still gets radio play and I even heard recently as backing muzac in a Japanese drug store. Hornsby cowrote the end of innocence and recorded a version himself. While I’ve got nothing against Henly’s voice I’d take Bruce’s version any day of the week. I’m not someone who normally gets excited by vocalists but Hornsby is a singer that I really admire and a pianist who has few equals. The best rendition of this track I’ve ever heard is done by Hornsby alone at a grand piano with an audience hanging on his every word. I’ve got lots of live Bruce and every version he does is different.

Overall the album suffers from a lot of common mistakes that people were making in the eighties: Heavily processed drums, over use of synthesisers and guest appearances by Axl Rose. It's an attempt to stretch out a bit without going too far from the template that made The Eagles one of the biggest bands in the world. If you love the Eagles you're probably going to enjoy this one a lot. If you've never understood the attraction then The End of the Innocence is a Hotel you're best advised to drive straight by.

Highlight: The End of the Innocence.

Lowlight: Shangri La

Influenced by: The Eagles.

Influenced: Sheryl Crow (who makes a guest appearance)

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "If you want to encounter a textbook example of the "Hollywood Left" in all its absurd contradictions and vanity, go no further than this album. On the one hand Henley rails against corporate greed, Reagan, and America's sins, while on the other, he strikes a careful fashion pose on the record jacket, cigarette in hand! The entire record preens and struts this multi-millionaire's moral superiority without a shred of irony concerning exactly who it is who's lecturing us. Undeniably, Henley has his share of talent, particularly as a singer. He chooses good collaborators to give his more popular songs a distinct sound, i.e. the Bruce Hornsby piano chord pattern echoing thru End of the Innocence. But it is ultimately shallow and uninspired. Henley wants to be Bob Dylan, but in the end he's closer to Barry "Eve of Destruction" McGuire. "

-Interesting. Not quite sure how holding a cigarette discredits anything he has to say. Unless there's a tirade against smoking somewhere that I missed.

So is this just down the highway from Hotel California or across the other side of the planet? Let me know below.

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