Eleven years have passed since Don Henley's most recent solo album, the multiplatinum hit, "The End of the Innocence." But Henley will tell you it's been anything but a quiet time. For one thing, he got married and has had three children with his wife, the former Sharon Summerall. He also saw his custom-built Los Angeles home destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Faced with no home in Los Angeles, Henley chose to move to his native Texas (he was born in 1947 in Gilmer), settling with his wife in Dallas. Henley has also spent considerable time assisting in a variety of environmental and humanitarian causes. The best known of the environmental efforts, the Walden Woods Project, was launched in 1990 to purchase and preserve a section of the Massachusetts forest that had inspired Henry David Thoreau's back-to-nature classic, "Walden." Henley has also kept a keen eye on a world that has seen corporate merger after corporate merger. This, Henley feels, has created a monopolistic environment that threatens the way of life Americans have known for more than two centuries. All of these issues find their way into Henley's latest solo CD, "Inside Job." In an expansive 75-minute interview preceding his Feb. 22 performance at the Landmark Theatre, Henley offers plenty of food for thought on the issues that fuel his new songs. He also touches on another project that occurred between his two most recent solo CDs the reunion of his longtime band, the Eagles. Henley's new CD can be divided into two halves topical/political songs such as "Workin' It," "Goodbye To A River" and "Inside Job," and personal songs such as "Everything Is Different Now," "Taking You Home" and "For My Wedding." Many of the topical themes of the "Inside Job" CD revolve around greed especially as it relates to the corporate world and its effect on individuals, small businesses, and the culture and values of everyday people. The title song takes lawmakers to task for their willingness to allow merger-mania to go unchecked. "This merger-mania, this conglomeration, this big fish eating little fish, this thing that's happening right now worries me a great deal," Henley says, "particularly as it affects the business I'm in. I wake up every morning, I don't know who I work for. ... What's happening right now is a lot of the things that are the foundation of our culture, which includes our news-gathering agencies, our literature, our music basically all the art and information that go into making up a culture [are] falling into fewer and fewer hands. "It worries me," he says. "I don't think it's good for art. I don't think it's good for culture. I don't think it's good for people." All the ranting about the state of the world would drag down "Inside Job" if it weren't for the humor that populates many songs. "They're Not Here, They're Not Coming" uses the notion of aliens visiting earth as a symbol for people who put their faith in outside forces be it aliens or false gods. Another redeeming virtue of the CD is the music itself. The fourth solo CD of Henley's career, "Inside Job" matches the high quality of his previous efforts "I Can't Stand Still" (1982), "Building The Perfect Beast" (1984) and "The End Of the Innocence." Like those CDs, "Inside Job" offers plenty of engaging melodies and stylistic variety. There are grooving tracks like "Workin' It" and "Nobody Else In The World But You" (the latter song especially recalls his hit "All She Wants To Do Is Dance"). There are tender ballads such as "Taking You Home" and "For My Wedding." The title track, which sounds a bit like a more ominous variation on "Sunset Grill," is a tangy, cinematic midtempo song that is the CD's high point. Henley also leavens "Inside Job" with personal material that reflects on his newfound fulfillment as a happily married family man. "I had done without that part of my life for a long time, sacrificed everything to my career," Henley says of decision to pursue marriage and fatherhood. "It was a big hole in my life, a big void that all of my success could not fill. Finally the planets and the stars lined up just right. I met a wonderful woman and started this family." One subject that is not addressed on "Inside Job" is the Eagles, the band Henley helped found in 1971 and led with Glenn Frey until 1981. The group, which endured a bitter split after hitting a commercial and artistic apex with the albums "Hotel California" (1976) and "The Long Run" (1979), reunited in 1994 for a sold-out tour. The band also recorded a CD, "Hell Freezes Over," which included performances of the band's classic songs and four new studio tracks. At the time, the band members called the Eagles' return a "resumption" more than a "reunion," hinting that the band might return to the studio to attempt a full-length CD of new material. That hasn't happened yet, but Henley says the thinking has not necessarily changed. "We have made some efforts in that direction, in regard to a full-blown studio album," he says. "[In 1999] we went in the studio and tried to cut a few things. But they really didn't get finished. I was working on my solo album at that time, and I was under contractual obligation to Warner Bros. I thought that I could do both projects at the same time, but in reality I just couldn't do it. So I had to beg off until I finished this album. I've got to tour to support this album because I owe it to this album, to this work that I've put into it, to do that. So we may reconvene the Eagles thing [this year]."
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.