In the heart of the MTV era, former Eagle Don Henley came out swinging in 1984 with Building The Perfect Beast, embracing videos and synthesizers and assembling an all-star cast to produce one of the most indelible albums of the decade and the peak of his solo career. Here is a song-by-song review.
11. “Man With A Mission”- Even Henley was eligible for a clunker now and then in the 80’s. This grating, overheated track definitely qualifies.
10. “Drivin’ With Your Eyes Closed”- Some of the lyrics are humorously nonsensical, not what you would expect from Henley, but overall this feels like a throwaway.
9. “Building The Perfect Beast”- The social commentary married with dance beats works a little better on “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” although the chanted vocals here are amusing.
8. “Land Of The Living”- After all of the aggressive percussion and rapid tempos found on the rest of the album, Henley taps the breaks on this sweet closer, which works better in the context of the album than it does when considered on its own.
7. “You Can’t Make Love”- There’s nothing too earth-shattering about this mid-tempo track, but its leisurely vibe and buoyant melody carries it a long way. A good palate-cleanser for some of the Type A material around it.
6. “You’re Not Drinking Enough”- It’s a good time to mention that LA session great Danny Kortchmar was Henley’s close collaborator on the album, co-writing and co-producing much of the material. He gets the sole songwriting credit on this one, a barroom lament that purposely overdoes the woe and comes the closest to sounding like Don’s old band.
5. “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”- A big hit in the day (also written by Kortchmar), it hasn’t aged all that well, but that could be said of many of the songs from that heady decade. It’s best to concentrate on the catchiness of the refrain and that genetically altered bass line than worry too much about the sociopolitical bluntness of the verses.
4. “Not Enough Love In The World”- Hey, wait a minute, I though Glenn Frey was supposed to be the soulful one. Henley really soars on this one, milking the double-meaning of that refrain for all its worth. It could be a compliment to say that “There’s not enough love in the world” for this girl, or it could be an admission that she’ll never quite be satisfied.
3. “Sunset Grill”- Henley gets a big assist from Randy Newman, who assembled the synthesizer wall that makes this song so majestic. Henley’s tale of small-world values being trampled by big-city greed is personalized by the narrator’s humble plight to make a better life for himself without losing sight of those values.
2. “A Month of Sundays”- Henley’s bitterness can sound unearned at times in his songs, but it feels right at home coming from the down-on-his-luck farmer who narrates this story. In the era of Farm Aid, nobody evoked the plainspoken desperation of the farmer’s plight any better. It’s hard to believe that this song was an extra of sorts, not even included on the LP version of the album.
1. “The Boys Of Summer”- The story goes that Mike Campbell wrote the propulsive, minor-key music for this track and offered it to his bandleader in the Heartbreakers, but Tom Petty turned it down due to his ambivalence toward synthesizers. Henley was glad to accept it, and he married it to lyrics that hauntingly capture lost innocence and compromised ideals. It still stands as one of the decade’s finest songs and boasts a legendary video too.
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