Road To Forever
(Rocket Science Ventures)
Rating: 3.5 ut of 5 stars
The smartest move The Eagles ever made was bringing rock guitarists Don Felder and then Joe Walsh into the band. This helped them capture the rock as well as the country-rock crowd, and leap-frogged the outfit over contemporarieslike Poco, Firefall and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Written primarily by Felder with lyrics by Don Henley, the “Hotel California” track had Felder and Walsh guitar-sparring off each other and helped confirm The Eagles as one of the world’s biggest bands, with the duel repeatedly voted one of rock’s greatest guitar solos-despite it being played by two people.
Felder was ousted from The Eagles in 2001. The legal and financial wrangles of his exit and writing one of the best (and best selling) insider rock books (Heaven And Hell; My Life In The Eagles) kept the guitarist away from music for several years. Gradually returning to live work with his own band, Road To Forever is only Don Felder’s second solo album. The first, Airborne, was released in 1983 during The Eagles’ long hiatus.
Described by Felder as “a personal journey of introspection” Road To Forever is co-produced by the guitarist and Robin DiMaggio. With all the songs written or co-written by Felder the album has a stellar cast of musicians with his old buddies Crosby, Stills and Nash providing backing vocals on “Fall From The Grace Of Love,” the album’s Jackson Browne-esque opener and first single.
The album uses harmony and backing vocals extensively and effectively as you’d expect from a former member of The Eagles, although as a lead singer Felder can be sometimes be fairly unmemorable. His comprehensive studio experience working alongside perfectionist Don Henley painstakingly crafting some of rock’s most radio friendly records, though, is very apparent. The production is crisp, clear and precise and brings out the best in the songs, as do the players assembled for the album, including Randy Jackson, Steve Lukather,
Leland Sklar, David Paich and Steve Porcaro.
“You Don’t Have Me” and “Girls In Black” (which brings to mind Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” slightly) are run of the mill rockers which probably work better in the live show. Much more interesting is “Wash Away”, co-written by Felder with Styx’s Tommy Shaw alongside Timothy Drury and Matt Bissonette. Shaw sings on the track, and also on “Heal Me,” which he co-wrote with Felder.
These are emotive and melodic harmony ballads, and like some of the other tracks on Road to Forever have lyrics routed in pain and loss. The break-up of Felder’s 27 year marriage to wife Susan and his expulsion from The Eagles clearly took a heavy emotional toll.
“Heal Me” also brings us some nice Felder guitar work and the soaring female vocal of Bahkiti Kamato that sneaks in as the track is heading towards the fade. Just as the song seems to be taking its leave back it comes as an African tribal chant with West Coast harmonies layered over the top. It shouldn’t work but does. “Heal Me” is probably the best song on the album and certainly one of the most interesting arrangements you’re going to hear this year.
“Over You” is lyrically very to the point. “I’m sitting outside your window tonight/ having a drink with the moon” are lines written from the point of view of a man in despair as to what to do next. The song’s concluding line, “I’ll never quite get over you”, leaves the “you” in question in no doubt as to the singer’s feelings.
Felder began writing the title track of the album back in the ’70s and had it turned down for Hell Freezes Over in the ‘9os. As a song “Road To Forever” tricks us into thinking it’s another ballad. Acoustic guitar and Beach Boys-type backing vocals by Felder, his daughter Leah and Shane August are shaken up by Don with his rock guitarist hat on before dropping down and then up again for a rocking climax.
Although Felder probably wouldn’t want it promoted like this, Road To Forever is a worthy addition to anyone’s “Solo Eagles” collection.