Posted by: nickgerlich | November 1, 2007

In The Short Run

It was the spring of 1972. I was 13 and in the 7th grade. I was a rock-and-roll junkie, listening to emerging artists like Jimmy Buffett and Lynyrd Skynyrd on renegade FM stations in Chicago, as well as mainstream hit radio at WLS and WCFL on the AM dial. Music was great, and my album collection was growing.

But then one band through me a curve, blending rock and country in ways I had not embraced before. Sure, bands like Poco and Buffalo Springfield had tried it before, but they never could get it off the ground.

But a band called the Eagles did just that, instantly soaring to the top of the charts with Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and Witchy Woman on their first album.

And I have been a fan ever since.

EaglesSo it is no surprise that I was elated to see their latest release, Long Road Out Of Eden, available last week. But there’s a catch. You can only buy it at Wal-Mart, or online at eaglesband.com.

It has been 28 years since their last new album. They broke up in 1980, but got back together in 1994 for the first of several reunion tours (and retirement-supporting endeavors). But the band felt the urge to write some new material so they don’t have to play the same material forever.

It is that distribution arrangement, though, that has everyone’s heads turned. Wal-Mart gets the exclusive for one year, selling the 2-disc, 20-song set for $11.88 Critics say the band has sold out to the retailing giant. But in an era of music piracy, iTunes, and sagging CD sales, I think this may have actually been a shrewd business decision. Wal-Mart purchased a fixed amount with no returns allowed, so the band has already gotten their due. And if it sells like their previous albums (120 million albums sold worldwide, with their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album being the all-time best seller in the US with 29 million units sold), the Eagles will not have to worry if Social Security ever runs out of money.

Founding members Don Henley and Glenn Frey, along with latecomers Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, are masterful in both crafts, packaging a tasty blend of original music in a savvy business deal that guarantees plenty of promo support at retail. Wal-Mart has incentive to sell all those CDs, and you can bet your CD player they will have the Eagles slotted prominently in every one of their stores.

Is the album any good? You bet. Those same tight vocal harmonies from the 70s are still present. And I think this time around we will appreciate them more, when you consider that those vocal cords are all approaching 60 years of age.

The only downside is that I ran into Wal-Mart yesterday to grab this disc, and I beat the odds. I came in for one thing, and left with one thing. No impulse purchases. No other CDs or movies. No sir, just a long walk out of retail Eden and back to my vehicle so I could enjoy the sounds of my youth.

Dr “Life In The Express Lane” Gerlich

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