Thursday, 14 February 2019
Don Henley - The End Of The Innocence (1989)
Released June 1989
This was ex-Eagle Don Henley's third solo album. I remember getting it back in 1989 and being relieved that, for an eighties album, it was decidedly synthesiser-free, and was a proper rock album in that guitar, drum, piano West Coast way that it had. It was a pleasant mix of hard rockers and moving, melodic, romantic rock ballads. I much prefer the love songs, and some of the rockers are a bit run of the mill. For some reason though, I find it a bit dated these days, which is possibly a little harsh as it still has its good points. Possibly the slightly muffled, unremastered sound and those accursed programmed drums. What was with that strange hairstyle on the front cover, though, Don?
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
7. Little Tin God
8. Gimme What You Got
9. If Dirt Were Dollars
10. The Heart Of The Matter
The opening title track will always be a delight. Featuring the instantly recognisable piano sound of Bruce Hornsby, it is a perfect piece of summer's day, easy West Coast rock. The piano refrain is thoroughly irresistible, as too is the chorus and the lyrics are crammed full of wonderful bits of imagery - "they're beating ploughshares into swords for this tired old man that we elected king...". Quite what it referred to is unclear, but the whole song is perplexingly appealing. It has a timeless ambience to it that ensures one never tires of it. The moment you hear those piano notes it gets you. Simply beautiful and uplifting. Henley's vocal is superb too. Evocative and gravelly-soulful. Check out Wayne Shorter's haunting soprano saxophone too.
"How Bad Do You Want It?" is an Eagles-sounding chunky rocker(at their heaviest), with added saxophone. It is very much of its time, with its eighties drum sound. However, it sounds better than I remember it. Henley's voice is a sort of Rod Stewart meets Southside Johnny mix. "I Will Not Go Quietly" is another solid rocker and features Axl Rose from Guns 'N' Roses. It has a thump to it, but again is marred by its very late eighties production, which has left it with a certain indistinctness, despite its power. This is one of those tracks on the album that I find a little superfluous.
"The Last Worthless Evening" gets things back on track - it is a marvellous slice of emotive romantic rock, with another captivating hook. It is one of my favourites. The atmospheric, vibrant, Billy Joel-esque "New York Minute" is one of the album's definite highlights. It has a sense of drama to it and a great, deep bass line, but is another one that suffers from its production. I do feel that all these songs would sound much better with a more traditional rock backing - "proper drums" for a start. "Shangri-La" has a soulful funkiness to it. Henley also sounds a bit like Sting in places on this one. "Little Tin God" has some excellent riffage and a vague reggae lilt to its melody. It has an infectious chorus. It is the best of "the others" on the album.
"Gimme What You Got" has a grinding, industrial, slightly mysterious riff. It sounds like a John Mellencamp song. I tended to overlook it at the time, and, although nothing special, it is better than I remembered it. Some killer guitar in the middle. At over six minutes, however, it probably is a couple of minutes too long. "If Dirt Were Dollars" is the heaviest cut on the album. Again, it is solid, but nothing to stick in the mind for long.
"The Heart Of The Matter" is a classic epic heartbreaker to end on - another solid, lengthy lovelorn number with a great driving but dignified rock feel. As I said earlier, I find the album slightly dated now and don't dig it out too often. When I do, though, I always find it tremendously nostalgic. "Offer up your best defence - this is the end of the innocence...".