Glenn Frey Proves He's Got the Vocal Chops For A Standards Album
McCartney had more of a pre-WWII concept album in mind while Frey was aiming for greater eclecticism and less jazz, with more of a late night lounge scene as the album title suggests. While it wasn't much of a jump to hear the guy who sang on Meet The Beatles "'Til There Was You" from the Broadway musical "The Music Man," who would have expected the lead singer on Eagles hits like "Tequila Sunrise," "Lyin' Eyes" and "New Kid in Town" to one day be singing "The Shadow of Your Smile?" backed by a lush string section?
Actually, while the Johnny Mandel great from the movie "The Sandpiper" was a challenging stretch Frey perfectly executes, tackling Bobby Troup's "Route 66" as a jazz number—a rendering Nat "King" Cole owns was perhaps an even bigger challenge as was Frey's choice of "The Look of Love."
Here's the thing: had you never heard of The Eagles and sat down to listen to this record you'd not think twice about any of this and just enjoy the listen because even if his voice does not have the depth of character or tonal richness of some of the truly great standard bearers, Frey's phrasing has the assurance of a veteran and his range extends further up than his rock performances might suggest.
His upper range vibrato is perfectly controlled and from wherever he's singing or sometimes crooning, he sounds 100% in command. But more than the some might say surprising technical expertise he exhibits, Frey's ability to inhabit the songs and render them suavely from within is impressive. If his vocalizing resembles anyone with whom you might be familiar it would be Lyle Lovett, but with a tone that's more buttery and less creaky.
Listen to how Frey wraps himself completely in Randy Newman's melancholic "Same Girl" and you'll know this is anything but an exploitive album of "covers." Actually you won't need to get midway through side two to reach that conclusion but if you remained skeptical, "Same Girl" would be the breaking point. It also took a modicum of guts to cover "Here's to Life" as anyone familiar with the great Shirley Horn's version would attest but Frey manages it exceedingly well.
The album ends with the title track that Frey had written in the 1980s with Jack Tempchin but never recorded. It didn't need re-defining as a classic, it clearly was one though it had to wait until the time was right.
The small ensemble arrangements are soothingly embellished with a lush string overlay orchestrated by Alan Broadbent, who has performed with Charlie Haden among many others and arranged for both Natalie Cole and Shirley Horn. His string parts are reminiscent of the lush overlays found on many moody 1960's albums. Frey called upon Eagles' touring drummer Scott Crago and he does a deft job in a decidedly non-rock setting, anchored by bassist Reggie McBride. The small ensemble arrangements and the playing set the dreamy 'after hours' mood that the lush strings cushion and perfectly augment.
Speaking of perfect augmentation, the analog recording is superb and Elliot Scheiner's mix is seamless. The entire production harkens back to the era of great recordings, though between this, McCartney's and some others I can think of, it can be argued that we are returning to an era of great recordings! Slowly, that's for sure, but I'm certain we'll get there.
An analog recording and mix, mastered from the original analog master tape, pressed at RTI on 180g vinyl and beautifully packaged, the vinyl edition is more than just an afterthought. I'd say it's how Glenn Frey wants his album to be heard. If you're not a fan of this kind of thing, this will not change your mind but if you are, the first play through will convince you that Glenn Frey is no poseur and that he's poured his heart and soul into this project and more importantly gotten the desired results. A very enjoyable listen for every possible reason!