It has long been an established trend for musicians well into a rich and successful career to indulge in a cover album. It’s a trend has included career-reinvigorating works from Johnny Cash and huge selling but rather less creatively stirring compilations from Rod Stewart with his long running Great American Songbook series of albums. The latest covers album from a well-respected senior musician is After Hours, from The Eagles founding member Glenn Frey.
After Hours is the first solo album in 20 years from The Eagles vocalist and it sees the now 63-year-old Frey taking on a canon of classic love songs ranging from American standards of the 1940s to some curveballs from some of America’s greatest songwriters. The songs collected here helped shape Frey’s early days, and the album can be seen as a piece of reflective nostalgia as Frey indulges in the memory of his formative years growing up with music. A time when Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett were his parents musical idols and jazz and a classic style of songwriting was blooming.
The music collected on After Hours is very much the easiest of easy listening. The pace is gentle and graceful, and there is a smokey, jazzy vibe throughout. Frey’s versions are faithful and reverential; these are not really songs you can experiment with. Helped out by Eagles touring band members and co-producers Richard F.W. Davis and Michael Thompson, Frey has lovingly captured the graceful beauty that made so many of these songs alluring.
The album begins with 1940s standards For Sentimental Reasons and My Buddy before progressing through a number of easy listening classics. Frey’s passion for this style of music shines through on emotive versions of Johnny Mandel‘s Shadow Of Your Smile and an excellent rendition of It’s Too Soon To Know by Deborah Chessler, the doo wop sound perfectly suiting Frey’s vocals. The record does veer perilously close to a lounge singer cabaret act though at times and suffers from being a bit too sedate and one paced; the cover of Burt Bacharach‘s The Look Of Love sounds overly cheesy in context of the album.
After Hours’ best moments are when Frey delves a bit deeper and further into his record collection and delivers versions of songs from his 1960s and ’70s contemporaries. Frey’s take on Brian Wilson‘s first solo single, which also appeared on Pet Sounds, Caroline No adds a welcome variety to the album and its longing melancholy is especially affecting. Equally interesting is his version of a slightly obscure Randy Newman song from 1983. Same Girl is an excellent choice of cover, haunting and desolately sad in tone it is a striking curveball.
Frey has spoken of this album being a musical challenge that has forced him to stretch himself as a singer. In the press release he says: “It was a new adventure for me as a vocalist to see if I could learn, own and deliver these songs.” In this sense the record is a definite success. Frey’s voice sounds terrific throughout, his soft and understated yet rich and warm tones complement perfectly the subtle arrangements of the songs. After Hours is the sort of album that only someone with a long and storied career and appreciation of music could release. Glenn Frey is clearly an artist with a passion for this kind of music and his passion certainly shines through. It is definitely not a record to get pulses racing, but anyone with an appreciation for Glenn Frey’s voice and career should find much to enjoy.