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The Long Run

Asylum 508
Released: September 1979
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 57
Certified Platinum: 2/1/80

Timothy B. SchmitJoe WalshDon FelderGlenn FreyDon HenleyBy day, the stardom-obsessed City of Angels depicted on the Eagles' The Long Run is a dreary land of blank vistas and empty promises, baking slowly under an unsentimental sun. But when the night comes, the landscape is suddenly infested with mad shadows: inky, menacing configurations that provide an ominous depth. Unbridled by reality, this is the time when desperate dreams emerge from their lairs. Such dreams stalk the back streets, bistros, board rooms and bedrooms where the deals for success are struck -- and then metamorphose into nightmares.

The Long Run, the Eagles first album in three years, is a chilling and altogether brilliant evocation of Hollywood's nightly Witching Hour, that nocturnal feeding frenzy where the desperado and the ghoul are employed as antiromantic symbols of the star caught in the devil's bargain. And both eventually come to realize that they have to give up the guise of observers and confess their roles as participants.

Eagles - The Long Run
Original album advertising art.
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On first listening, The Long Run seems a modest, flawed project that's virtually devoid of gloss, catchy hooks and flashy invention that typified earlier Eagles records. The title tune sets an unambitious tone: the group lopes along in a familiar country-rock framework, singing about youthful hopes and the virtues of tenacity. But it slowly comes apparent that the "long run" is a metaphor for a host of secret concerns and passions that are either career- or relationship- oriented. The cards have all been dealt and played, and all that remains is to tally the terrible cost: "Who is gonna make it/We'll find out in the long run."

Overall, The Long Run is a synthesis of previous macabre Eagles motifs, with cynical new insights that are underlined by slashing rock & roll. There's a stark simplicity to the album, especially when compared with the hyperslick Hotel California. Not a collection of hot car-radio singles, The Long Run is easily the band's most un commercial effort. Vocally, instrumentally and lyrically, the Eagles' trademark of coy cleverness has largely been replaced by a raw, direct approach. The songs are of a piece, each one complementing and building on the other with a total effect that's shattering.

The Long Run closes with "The Sad Cafe," a dirgelike hymn to the Troubadour, the legendary Los Angeles saloon that sheltered the Eagles and so many of their cohorts in their scuffling days, providing a stage on which they could express themselves, and a bar at which they could forget about themselves. Clustered around the bar, the Eagles admit that the long run was never a roll of the dice as much as a conscious attempt to outrace their demons. It seems that the drive for success is a kind of black hole in the center of the soul -- a black hole that sucks in and devours most of the feelings, lovers or oneself.

The Long Run is a bitter, wrathing, difficult record, full of piss and vinegar and poisoned expectations. Because it's steeped in fresh, risky material and unflinching self-examination, it's also the Eagles' best work in many, many years.

- Timothy White, Rolling Stone, 11-15-79.

Bonus Reviews!

I really don't believe this record. Yes, against all expectations (for this they labored three years?), here is still more monied Angst, lame social comment, and overproduction from the Eagles, who apparently believe that what the world needs now is a tuneless, turtle-tempo essay on the human condition as seen from the perspective of five very rich, very bored Angelenos.

Here, for example, is a potentially good idea for a song about a mass murderer at Studio 54 ("The Disco Strangler") that makes the most obvious points imaginable about loneliness and alienation. Here's an unbearably smug attempted dissection of the casting-couch mentality ("King of Hollywood") rendered in a manner so laid-back it approaches the catatonic. Here's a song about the good old days of hanging out at the Troubadour Bar ("Sad Café") that is guaranteed to be of absolutely no interest to anyone outside the Eagles' immediate circle of friends. Here's a lame love song pasted together from snippets of old George Benson records ("I Can't Tell You Why") and the most tired-sounding bit of blues-based rock ("Heartache Tonight") they have yet essayed. Here's a vaguely funny evocation of mid-Sixties frat-house partying ("The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks") that is supposed to be a throwaway yet ironically has more life than anything else in the package. Here are tedium, a total waste of the not inconsiderable talents of Joe Walsh, and the sound of a band with nothing to say saying it at incredible length ("King of Hollywood" runs more than six minutes).

In sum, the Eagles' The Long Run is the most pointless vinyl extrusion of 1979, with the possible exception of The Georgie Jessel Disco Album, which I understand A&M is readying in the wake of their success with a similar venture by Ethel Merman. Like I said, I really don't believe this record.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 12/79.

The first Eagles' album since Hotel California was issued in December 1976 is a perfectly balanced set of midtempo ballads and raw, urgent rockers. There's even one oddball number thrown in for comic relief: "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks," with its weird background vocals by the Monstertones featuring Jimmy Buffett. Two of the best cuts are "Those Shoes," featuring a talk box guitar gimmick that seems to say "butt out" and "The Sad Cafe," a midtempo ballad featuring a striking alto saxophone solo by David Sanborn. Outside writers here include Barry DeVorzon, who cowrote "In The City" from the film The Warriors, and Bob Seger and J.D. Souther, who cowrote "Heartache Tonight," the vital, dynamic rocker that is the first single from the set. Best cuts: "Heartache Tonight," "In The City," "The Disco Strangler," "King Of Hollywood," "The Sad Cafe."

- Billboard, 1979.

This isn't as country-rock as you might expect -- these are pros who adapt to the times, and they make the music tough. I actually enjoy maybe half of these songs until I come into contact with the smug, sentimental women-haters who are doing the singing. I mean, these guys think punks are cynical and anti-life? Guys who put down "the king of Hollywood" because his dick isn't as long as John David Souther's? C+

- Robert Christgau, Creem, 3/80.

At first listen, the new Eagles album, The Long Run, sounds like a press release from the ontology department of the California Institute for the Mellow. Cuts such as "In the City," "The Disco Strangler" and "King of Hollywood" describe that vapid kind of angst, that vague existential discomfort Southern Californians are prone to contract. Bimbo starlets, power-crazed moguls, urban cowboys all dressed up with nowhere to go -- haven't we had enough of that already? Evidently not. But be forewarned: One man's plaintive melody is another man's whine. It's not that the album is terrible -- some of it is very good ("I Can't Tell You Why," "The Sad Café") -- but after three years, one hoped for better things to come from so stellar a group as the Eagles. The Long Run caused them to get out of breadth.

- Playboy, 3/80.

The long-awaited follow-up to Hotel California and the Eagles' last studio album proved a considerable disappointment, although it sold in the expected multimillions and included the hits "Heartache Tonight," "The Long Run," and "I Can't Tell You Why." * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The Long Run is another sharp, skillful work marked by the title track and Timothy Schmit's aching love song "I Can't Tell You Why." * * * *

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The disjointed but catchy batch of tunes that presaged the breakup of LA's famous band on this cynical follow-up to Hotel California is even darker, but a great swansong. Fans feel it has some wonderful moments and newcomer Timothy B. Schmit's high-range vocals on "I Can't Tell You Why" are excellent, yet critics carp that "Joe Walsh is the album's only saving grace -- it's bloated '70s indulgence at its worse," so let's make it a short run! * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Follow up to the hugely successful Hotel California, The Long Run took a reported three years to complete, but despite the amount of time expended on putting it together it was never in with a chance of matching its illustrious and mega-selling predecessor. Although the album sold millions and spawned hit singles in "Heartache Tonight," the title track and the soft rock ballad "I Can't Tell You Why," it had considerably less of the creative spark of Hotel California, and for those prepared to look for them the signs were starting to appear that all was not heading in the right direction for the band. Don Henley's ubiquitous artistic stamp was not in much evidence, unlike on Hotel California, with the exception of the title track and the album's closer, "The Sad Cafe." Long-time bassist Randy Meisner had left to pursue a solo career and was replaced by ex-Poco Tim Schmit. Joe Walsh's "In The City" might not even have been a song destined for an Eagles record, having appeared on the soundtrack to The Warriors as a Walsh-penned song.

Still, all of this didn't prevent the album from topping the US charts, spending 57 weeks in the charts and reaching Number Four in the UK. The Long Run was certified platinum in January 1980, less than four months after its release.

As of 2004, The Long Run was the #18 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

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