Man, I wanted to like this album…

Glenn Frey has been one of my favorite artists for longer than some of you younger readers have been on the planet. His blend of vocal style and musical talent has rendered a slew of solo pop and rock hits, and of course he was/is a cornerstone of the Eagles — a pivotal player in their decades spanning massive popularity.

However, none of that amazing talent and tenure seems to have impassioned Glenn to deliver a defining work with After Hours — his sojourn through the American Songbook.

The production quality of this Universal Music release is wonderfully resonant — a beautiful soundstage. Sadly that production value is wasted on an array of mostly two dimensional numbers with uninspired arrangements that underpin unexpectedly dispassionate vocals from Frey.

Unexpected but not unusual…

My GF expectations were high… I figured the distillation of Frey’s musical/singing talent; his success turning out high quality solo albums (The Allnighter has been a staple in my “Summer Rock” playlist for decades); and his inspiration by Linda Rondstadt’s great work with Nelson Riddle back in the early ’80s would make After Hours something special.

But that is sadly not the outcome I hear when listening to this album.

I seem to to be especially hard on Rock genre stars. It’s partly due to growing up listening to these folks bring the rock for so many years … I find it hard to “hear them” as standards artists.

But I also think it’s because much the standards work they turn out is just not that good. I’m a huge fan of Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Robert Palmer and Paul McCartney as pop/rock artists … as standards practitioners, not so much.

I’m likewise a big fan of Rod Stewart singing songs from the era of his Every Picture Tells A Story LP, but don’t really take to his American Songbook renderings. Rod’s a special case though … I respect Rod’s massive success with his second “Standards” career and can appreciate the contribution he’s made and the new audience he brings to the genre.

The rock crossover quality blight is not without exceptions. There are guys like Sting, that are actually turning out nice work and as much as it pains me to admit (again) Sheryl Crow and even Lady Gaga have occasioned some nice duets with Tony Bennett.

After Hours…

There are not many numbers from this album that I can really get excited about. I read that Glenn did not set out to make a period piece  (like Linda and Nelson) with this album — which is absolutely fine. Well done “re-envisioning” can be a beautiful thing.

Not so beautiful in this case, the “interpretations” that Frey delivers just fall flat — emotionally and musically (for the most part).

His vocals are technically awesome — this guy sounds as good today as he did back in the ’70s & ’80s — but his delivery sounds … uninspired … is the most accurate term I can come up with. Devoid of passion, most of the songs on this 14 song album (track list below) come across as “going through the motions” renditions rather than anything approaching heartfelt re-interpretations.

Similarly the instrumental play is tight and clean with again, exceptional production value. However, beyond the occasional solid sax, guitar, clarinet, piano and other soli, I found the bulk of the song arrangements unexpectedly vanilla and the string charts particularly lacking.

Geez, writing this kills me more than I expected … I really am a big GF fan.

The good stuff…

Enough Glenn-bashing …there are a couple of numbers that do stand out on After Hours. I think Glenn achieves his reinterpretation goal with a very nice rendition of Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow Of Your Smile”. Here there IS emotion and Frey’s version stands up nicely to the many iterations that have preceded him. With “Shadow” Glenn strikes a wonderful “nightclub trio” ambiance with sweet string charts backing nicely. A cool, sultry sax solo bridges to the best finish on the album. On this number we find the emotion and re-envisioning that I expected throughout the album.

Nearly as impressive, GF does a great job with Hal David/Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love”. As with “Shadow”  Frey’s vocals seem to find his muse and passion and the arrangements reflect a GF spin while still echoing their Bacharachian heritage.

The country blues song — “Worried Love” — also lays well for Glenn … he delivers it very much like an Eagles number but it’s pretty well done. Beyond that, see the VS ratings below for a track-by-track blow on this, sadly not to be recommended album release.

After Hours – Glenn Frey

(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

1. For Sentimental Reasons 3:03 “+” typical of the LP… well done but uninspired
2. My Buddy 3:45  “~”  clean but flat
3. The Good Life 2:25 “+” technically fine vocals but emotionally vapid arrangements don’t help
4. Route 66 2:57 “+” slide guitar, piano and vocals ape Asleep At The Wheel
5. The Shadow Of Your Smile 4:28 “+++” Best of breed for this LP … real emotion and excellent string charts and sultry sax
6. Here’s To Life 5:32 ” – ” A favorite soulful Shirley Horn number …sans the soul
7. It’s Too Soon To Know 2:42 “~”
8. Caroline, No 4:00  “+” nice vocal job on Brian Wilson number that lays well for GF style …strange timpani drums
9. The Look Of Love 3:33 “++” synth enhanced refrain vocals cost it a “+”… otherwise a very nice interpretation
10. I’m Getting Old Before My Time 3:43 “+” OK but (again) lacking the passion/emotion Dinah brought to this song
11. Worried Mind 2:48 “++” Not even in the ‘hood with Ray Charles but this country-blues number lays nicely for GF
12. I Wanna Be Around 2:19 “+” Starts pretty strong … the emotion leaks out to a “by the numbers” rendering
13. Same Girl 3:05 “~” A ponderous Randy Newman number done well … more “meh”
14. After Hours 3:58 “++” reminiscent of an Eagles number … well done; nice arrangements … elegant clarinet

  • Heatmisero3

    So this guy’s problem seems to be that Glenn did standards not Eagle style rock.Uhm..Glenn has earned the right to do whatever he bloody well wants.Standards not to your taste?Don’t buy it.I intend to.If he chose to do an album of Polkas I wouldn’t but I would still say he’s earned that right.The reviewer seems to be hammering the fact that these are not Eagles songs.Not to HIS personal tastes and therefore,no good.I look forward to getting my copy.To the reviewer,pearls before swine, buddy.

    • vs_guy

      Thanks for stopping by Heatmisero. Man, given your comments, It appears that I didn’t do a good job making my points on this review.

      I am a solid GF fan and agree completely that Glenn has earned the right to make “his music” in whatever genre he wants to ply. In fact, I was excited to see him bring an American Songbook standards LP to market and had high hopes and expectations for the album.

      I’m not disenchanted with this release because it’s not Eagles style rock — I love the standards. It is my opinion that many/most of the standards numbers on this album are delivered in a “by the numbers”, uninspired fashion. That’s what I found disappointing.

      Being a big fan of both Glenn Frey and the standards genre, I am sad that the intersection of the two did not render the highly anticipated, expected result …in my opinion. Any review is just an opinion and our differences in opinion are what make the world go ’round.

      I truly value hearing counter-points to my perspective and appreciate you taking the time to weigh in. Take care.

  • eagleschic

    OMG! Uninspired? Vapid? Were you not listening to the same CD I listened to? Maybe it’s a defective copy? I feel the emotion and passion he sings with in every song! Here’s To Life is my favorite on the CD and the way he sings it sends chills up and down my spine.

    I am a regular listener on satellite radio to this genre and perhaps that’s the difference? I’m shocked and amazed at how passionless some highly rated performers are. Many sing the songs like they are someone else’s story and not theirs. In my opinion, Glenn owns the songs he sings and they’re his. I can feel it in his vocals, and I could before I heard him sing them live (no one could watch him perform these songs and say he’s uninspired, so remembering my thoughts on the CD before the first show is key).

    You say you’re a real fan of his and you mention The Allnighter. So I’m not surprised you give the song After Hours the highest rating. It was written by Frey/Tempchin for The Allnighter and got left off.

    • vs_guy

      Hey eagleschic, thanks for the visit and the comments. There’s no doubt catching an artist performing live adds another dimension and greater depth to the listening experience (why I travel regularly to intercept as many standards gigs as possible).

      I too listen to a bunch of internet and sat radio … and I agree with you that sadly, there are some big name folks pushing pablum out there.

      As a long term Frey fan, I have no doubt that he vested ‘After Hours’ with his energy and spirit fully intending this album to represent his interpretation. I don’t mean to suggest Glenn is not emotionally invested in this material as much as — in my opinion — many of these reinterpretations fall flat.

      Thanks for the back story on “After Hours” … that song lays great for Glenn so the history on the number makes sense.

      I actually gave “The Shadow of Your Smile” top billing; that song and “The Look of Love” I found to be superior numbers … the likes of which I didn’t find throughout the rest of the LP for the most part (“Worried Mind” was in the mix for me as well).

      An opinion clearly we don’t share, but believe it or not, I am really glad you came by to smack me around a bit … life’s too short not to air opinions on the important stuff!

      • eagleschic

        I’d only had one cup of coffee and was still stunned at your ‘vapid’ comment. I see now where The Shadow of Your Smile did get one more + than After Hours. I believe from what Glenn has said that he went into this wanting to do the songs like the originals, and not putting his own interpretations on them. I believe he was trying to avoid doing what the Rolling Stones did to Rt. 66. The point I was trying to make is that in some of these songs, the original lacks emotion and passion and I feel Glenn put more into it than the original. In some cases (Like I Wanna Be Around and The Good Life), I think sticking as close to the original as possible tied his hands somewhat.

        The Look of Love is a big favorite of mine and knowing this would be on the CD had me thinking it would be my favorite. While I love it, Here’s To Life just knocks me flat every time I hear it. I belong to a message board and quite a few felt the same as you after hearing it and there were many who felt like I did, that it’s the best song on the CD. Obviously a wide range of opinions!

        For me, the true highlight was hearing one of my favorite voices of all time sing some of my favorite songs. If your readers are interested, the album is on Spotify, so for the price of a commercial or two, you can listen to the songs before buying and draw your own conclusions.

        • vs_guy

          Great idea! I always recommend trying before buying and Spotify is indeed a nice “taste test” option … well worth the ads to get free listens to the complete songs.

          Might be Universal Music’s doing but I noticed iTunes fell back to just 30 sec clips on the ‘After Hours’ LP … it’s too bad the labels don’t understand how being stingy only hurts them in the long run.

          Thanks again for stopping by eagleschic.