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Actual Miles: Henley’s Greatest Hits – Don Henley

Actual Miles: Henley’s Greatest Hits

1995, 8/10

Against the science of probability, one of the Eagles actually managed a perfectly respectable solo career. Don Henley’s solo work is adult contemporary, but it’s underpinned by a greater intelligence. Most of Henley’s material is actually purposeful and thoughtful, whether he’s continuing the attack on celebrity indulgence of the later period Eagles or writing personal and heartfelt relationship songs. He’s also adept at harnessing guest cameos to add personality, and Axl Rose, Sheryl Crow and Bruce Hornsby all make important contributions, while Heartbreaker Mike Campbell is a frequent musical collaborator. In fact, I’d take this compilation over any Eagles’ studio recording; drawn from three eighties studio albums and three new tracks, it’s more consistent, and although most of these tracks could do with a trim, few of these songs are completely disposable.

Top tier songs include the 1984 hit ‘The Boys of Summer’, with a haunting Mike Campbell guitar figure, and the Bruce Hornsby collaboration ‘The End of the Innocence’, which is an extremely eloquent social critique (“They’re beating plowshares into swords/For this tired old man that we elected king”) underpinned by Hornsby’s gorgeous piano work. New song ‘The Garden of Allah’ is a little awkward, but interesting; based around the scenario of the devil visiting a city and finding that modern life and materialism has made him redundant. ‘Dirty Laundry’ is an effective indictment of celebrity muck-raking, although admittedly it’s dated less gracefully than everything else here, while ‘The Last Worthless Evening’ and ‘Heart of the Matter’ are sappy but effective ballads. The other two new songs, the vitriolic ‘You Don’t Know Me At All’ and the Leonard Cohen cover ‘Everybody Knows’, are among the lesser songs but they still fit in fine.

If 1980s’ adult contemporary doesn’t send you straight to the sick bay, most of Actual Miles is worthwhile.

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