UPDATE: On January 18, 2016, Glen Frey has passed away at the age of 67 in New York City, New York of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia while recovering from intestinal surgery.
Anytime I hear that a legendary music star decides to make a major departure away from their best known style of music and venture into swing, big band or lounge' I have concerns. Not really concerned if they can affect a certain style, but, can they deliver it as genuine and "real" as they are known to perform their rock or pop or country hits? When done right credibility remains intact. You get to see a new facet to a familiar talent and you gain greater respect for that talent. When not done well'you have the Scott Weiland holiday album (oy!) A handful of stars have done it well, most recently Paul McCartney with his 40's and 50's standards, Willie Nelson years ago when he recorded his Stardust album, Rod Stewart's Great American Songbook and Christina Aguilera with her Back to Basics throwback album.
Now you can add to this short list Glenn Frey and his brilliant After Hours Album of 60's 70's standards with a swing vibe and some surprises. After Hours, Frey's first solo project in 17 years is co-produced by Michael Thompson and Richard F.W. Davis who are on the After Hours tour as his keyboardists and have both played with The Eagles in the same positions.
Frey shared the origin of the Album Title After Hour's on May 14th when he kicked of his U.S. tour at The Warner Theatre in DC. The album title comes from the song After Hours which, even though it has the feel of something that could have been a sixties standard, was actually written in 1983 by Frey and his longtime writing mate Jack Tempchin (The One You Love, Smuggler's Blues..) Tempchin also penned Peaceful Easy Feelin' which was sung by Frey as part of the Eagles. After Hours was intended for inclusion on Frey's massive 80's album "The Allnighter." Frey recalled that he called Tempchin and suggested writing a cool lounge ballad for the album and Tempchin reminded him of their collaboration with After Hours.
Through all the tracks on After Hours Frey's voice comes across on stage and in the recording as crisp, clean and aged like a fine American Bourbon. Accompanied by spectacular arrangements that provide an audioscape that is as rich on the CD as it is filling concert halls during his performances. Two song's in particular speak to the genuine performance Frey delivers on stage and on the album, Randy Newman's Same Girl and Brian Wilson's Caroline No are sung by Frey so real and so sincerely that even though the words were penned by other lyricists, it's as if Frey lived every syllable and you can picture the heartache, sadness or regret playing out in your mind.
During his live show, and in his Route 66 video, you can sense a "cool" heat coming off the artist especially in his on-stage lounge interpretation of his mid '80s global anthem "The Heat is On," which is redefined with a cool/swing tempo. You can imagine this version of "The Heat is On" accompanying a Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn smooth sliding dance routine set in some Parisian Beatnik Bistro.
So why did the album After Hours spur the conversation "Is Glenn Frey more talented than Frank Sinatra?" Let's look at the stats:
Frey: Composer, Song writer, lead vocalist, lyricist, responsible for 70's Anthems by the Eagles and his global solo hits in the 80's
Sinatra: Crooner w/blue eyes
Frey: Multi faceted musician, pianist, guitar, producer, arranger
Sinatra: Crooner w/blue eyes
Frey: Six Time Grammy Award Winner
Sinatra: 13 Time Grammy Award Winner
Frey- Style ' Able to morph from blue jean country rock, to 80's pastel pushed up jacket sleeves to his current incarnation in a sharkskin suit, white shirt and black tie (ala Michael Corleone on Lake Tahoe)
Sinatra- Style- suit and tuxedo
So who is more talented? Both stars shine in their own way for their own fans. It's probably a generational thing, too. Sinatra was Bono and Elvis wrapped in one to his generation. I saw Sinatra toward the end of his career with bigscreen size teleprompters reminding him of the lyrics he didn't write, performing his hits and attempting Beatles covers which were at best uncomfortable, but still he was able to engage and entertain cause he was Sinatra. Now we applaud the multi-tasker. Frey does it all with perfection.
I met Frey in 1985 at the height of his solo career. We were backstage chatting for awhile before I went out to introduce him to a 30,000+ crowd for a radio station in Pennsylvania. During our conversation we both realized we shared the same birthday and I remember him being humorous, engaging and most of all naturally cool'not trying to be cool, just genuine and cool. He hit the stage and was technically perfect while being able to engage personally with each audience member through his banter and conversation.
Flash forward to mid-May 2012' Just prior to seeing Frey, I learned that Cameron Crowe once said that the lead guitarist character in Almost Famous, was built upon Crowe's interaction and memory of Glenn Frey. The story goes: when Cameron was a teenager, one of his assignments for Rolling Stone Magazine was to interview the Eagles and it is said that Frey directed Crowe to "just make us look cool" in the article. That exact line was used by the lead guitarist character in the movie.
Twenty 'seven years since my last interaction with Glenn Frey, he remains exactly that: cool. Not a fabricated, hyped or contrived cool, just cool. It was nice to see that, as much as he has changed and evolved, his "cool" still remains. Make sure you don't miss the After Hours Tour, www.glennfreyafterhours.com
and pick up the deluxe edition CD with three additional track. Feel free to share your thoughts on the After Hours CD here.