The Eagles may have taken a 14-year vacation, but when they returned to the stage, one of their greatest releases would ensue. Predominately a live recording, for the 1994 MTV special, Hell Freezes Over also contained four new songs that nicely fill Side A of the double LP. While some may lament Hell Freezes Over not being presented as a complete album, I actually feel the EP-sized approach to the new recordings was ideal and as much as I adore the Eagles, their 2007 studio effort, Long Road Out Of Eden, was less than stellar when compared to their incredible back catalogue. Nevertheless, more Eagles is always a good thing and if you haven’t checked out Hell Freezes Over, join me as I take a look at the music, performance, and the 25th Anniversary vinyl re-issue.
For years, Hell Freezes Over was a missing holy grail; my collection just wasn’t the same without it. Yes, I could have picked up the CD release, or the accompanying DVD, but I always felt that I wanted to own it in its purest form. I considered the K2HD CD, the XRCD CD, and the near impossible to get at a decent price, and certainly not brand new, DTS 5.1 surround sound CD. Reviews were mixed and the prices that some of these audiophile releases go for is simply too high when reviews aren’t universally glowing, although the DTS CD is generally well regarded. Subsequently, I was eager to get hold of a copy on vinyl but it had been out of print for years and while I acknowledge that I could have gotten a secondhand copy, I prefer brand new copies as I want to make them my own and ultimately pass them down to my son. I almost purchased the massive career-perspective 2018 vinyl box set, Legacy, just to get Hell Freezes Over, but that is one of the ugliest releases I’ve ever come across; the box artwork in particular. Hence, when in 2019 Hell Freezes Over was reissued separately, with the original artwork, it immediately went on my Wishlist and I’m incredibly grateful to my family for gifting this masterpiece to me for Father’s Day.
The quality of the vinyl re-issue has blown my mind. It is amongst the very best sounding records in my collection and is lovely to hold in the hand. The artwork is meticulous in quality and presentation. You’ll most certainly be holding this record as you listen intently. Both records are presented in high quality printed inner sleeves and rather than a gatefold, the album is a slipcover design. Yes, I love gatefolds, but the slipcase design is far easier when getting records in and out of the sleeves. I know some collectors who remove the record from the sleeve, placing the inner sleeve and record on the outside of the album cover. It certainly makes it easier to access the album in question, but I worry that it will ultimately damage the sleeve with the pressure of the other albums on the shelf. Hence, it isn’t something I do, but I can certainly see the benefit.
The pressing itself is flawless. The records are about as silent as vinyl can be and the dynamics are full, thereby presenting a soundstage that will completely envelop you. Yes, this record was recorded, mixed, and mastered with kid gloves, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the vinyl pressing is going to be of equal quality. You’ll also get that warm analog sound that is often associated with vinyl. The bottom line is that it just sounds right.
Get Over It has a killer guitar intro and while the song is a little campy, I love it! You’ll be head-bopping and toe-tapping throughout.
Love Will Keep Us Alive is the ballad-styled song that we’ve all come to adore from the Eagles. Timothy B. Schmit yet again proves just how masterful he is as a vocalist. I could quite happily listen to all his vocal recordings for an eternity. Yes, dear reader, I may have a man-crush for Schmit, but can you blame me. Interestingly, Love Will Keep Us Alive wasn’t written by the Eagles but the writers, Pete Vale, Jim Capaldi, and Paul Carrack, wrote a song that suited the Eagles perfectly and is, in my opinion, one of their best vocal ballads.
The Girl From Yesterday is a lovely country-styled tune that is a welcome addition to the album but isn’t anything to write home about.
Learn To Be Still is a thoroughly enjoyable song and the more I hear it, the more I appreciate it. It is as though there are layers of musicality that ensure that I never tire of this song.
Tequila Sunrise is the first live song on the album and Frey’s introduction is great. It is, as I’ve mentioned before, a beautiful song that is thoroughly relaxing and this is a stunning live performance.
Hotel California has never sounded better. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I class this rendition to be the greatest I’ve ever heard. Because the vinyl edition is so smooth, there is absolutely no audible distortion and every musical element is present in the soundstage. I dare you to find a better live recording, by any artist. Sensational!
Wasted Time was the perfect choice to follow Hotel California as they are musically similar. It is, as I’ve mentioned before, one of my all-time favourite Eagles’ songs and while the composition of the song is very similar to the album version, that doesn’t matter for it is simply incredible. It is also Don Henley at his very best.
Pretty Maids In A Row is a lovely song to close out Side B of this vinyl release. The backing harmonious vocal is thoroughly enjoyable and while I have a love/hate relationship with Joe Walsh’s vocal, he nails this performance. That isn’t to say that I dislike Walsh’s vocal style, just that I sometimes find it to be a little too jarring.
I Can’t Tell You Why is an incredibly smooth tune and Schmit’s vocal delivery is simply magical, as is the musicality of this entire record. You’ll likely want to turn this song up because, again, you’ll hear absolutely no distortion as you toe-tap and head-bop rhythmically throughout the song. I Can’t Tell You Why is most certainly one of the Eagles’ greatest hits and it is also one of the best songs on Hell Freezes Over.
New York Minute was originally a Don Henley solo effort, being first released on The End Of Innocence. It’s a great tune and works incredibly well for the Eagles, making me wonder how the song would have sounded had it been an original Eagles composition. Nevertheless, it is a welcome addition to Hell Freezes Over as it’s one of Henley’s best solo recordings.
The Last Resort is a solid song from Hotel California but I’ve always had mixed emotions when listening to The Last Resort. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great, but something is missing. I’ve often wondered if it is simply too long, but I thoroughly enjoy the musicality. Perhaps it is Henley’s somewhat dry vocal on this particular tune that leaves me feeling a little disjointed. Either way, this performance is solid and doesn’t detract from the album but given their extensive catalogue of music, I may have selected a different song to perform on this occasion.
Take It Easy is a little jarring, as a result of the guitar tuning, on Hell Freezes Over. Unfortunately, I have to turn the volume down to enjoy it; a shame considering just how good it is.
In The City is bloody brilliant and is one of my all-time favourite Walsh-sung songs.
Life In The Fast Lane will get you moving; I know I can’t sit still when listening to it, it is that good!
Desperado is beautiful and is arguably a perfect closer for Hell Freezes Over, encouraging me to listen to the album again and remain within the Eagle’s catalog of music.
Overall, Hell Freezes Over is one of the greatest Eagles releases. I consider it my go-to album as it’s not only a live album with four new tracks but a compilation that doesn’t feature a bad song. It has a little of everything and the 25th Anniversary vinyl re-issue is nothing short of pure perfection; you won’t be disappointed. Let’s just hope that they keep this edition in print, I’m going to eventually need to get another copy as I play this album frequently.
Click here to read other Eagles reviews by Subjective Sounds.