Glenn Frey Proves He's Got the Vocal Chops For A Standards Album

(In case you missed this one reviewed in 2012, in honor of Mr. Frey, I've moved it to the top of the current page) -ed.

Like Paul McCartney's Kisses on the Bottom, The Eagles' Glenn Frey's standards album was produced with requisite class, though Frey's song choices range wider, covering everything from the 1922 Al Jolson classic "My Buddy" to Brian Wilson's soothing Pet Sounds solo turn "Caroline No" written with Tony Asher.

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!

Music Direct Buy It Now

alan james's picture

I still have some resentment about what he and his cohorts did to boot Don Felder out of the Eagles. Egos in the biz are amazing. The Eagles were important musically to me and I had great hopes after  Hell Freezes Over. Maybe I should Get Over It? Or not. 

deckeda's picture

Frey was a major reason the Eagles were a greating vocal backing group in addition to what they released on their own. His confidence with the upper register doesn't strike me as surprising here, even at 63.

I watched the couple of videos available on his site. The arrangements I heard have an easy, relaxed nature. His trademark, unembellished SoCal vocals work better on this materal than you might think. And he comes across as sincere as Bublé is often ineffectual. I predict my wife will appreciate it in a sort up upbeat Michael Franks way.

dakmart's picture

As far as Don Felder goes, all indications are that by the time he was fired from the Eagles in 2001, everyone in the group was happy to see him go. I look at it this way -- better a Felder-less Eagles than no Eagles at all.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

Personally, I don't bother with all the stuff that is written about The Eagles, the music is too important to me for that. Same with John Fogerty, it is about the music.

James, Dublin, Ireland

mraudioguru's picture

...Eagles LPs and solo LPs this evening in tribute. Love you man.

rscotts's picture

Although Felder was booted out, they hired Steuart Smith to replace him and he is a fabulous guitar player who fit in perfectly. They sounded even better to my ears.
I'll miss you Glenn. RIP

Anton D's picture

This thread needs Robert Baird to come put Frey in the proper perspective.


Michael Fremer's picture
to write anything about it but I doubt Robert will "stop by" here....
Anton D's picture

I hope it's not like The Eagles back stage between Sterophile and Analog Planet!

In fairness to both, AP has influenced more of my shopping this past year!

Michael Fremer's picture
to write anything about it but I doubt Robert will "stop by" here....
bobpierson's picture

Michael, have you had a moment to listen to the HD Track 96/24 version? Similar price but...

Michael Fremer's picture
Since i have the Analog LP I can't see buying the digital download
Fozzie's picture

Let this be a lesson to Robert Baird on how this sort of thing should be done. A classy, respectful review.

BTW - I finally got back into vinyl a month ago with the purchase of a slightly upgraded U-Turn Orbit. Why did I wait so long? Really enjoying my vinyl and Analog Planet. Great work.

Miner42's picture

As good and accomplished guitar player that Don Felder was, his writing and vocal contribution to The Eagles was not equal to the other members. To fight for an equal share was fed by his ego. To solely be a member of one of rocks greatest bands should have been enough and I am sure his true share was more than most of us earn per year. Greed can be a fuel for egotistical revelations. That being said I would have liked to have seen him be part of the History of The Eagles tour.