They'd broken up spectacularly. Then they got back together, incredibly. There was one more mountain for the Eagles to climb in the 21st century: could they record a new album?
Since reuniting in 1994, the band hadn't been strangers in the studio. Their first reunion project, the mostly live Hell Freezes Over, featured a handful of new studio tracks, including "Get Over It," their last Top 40 hit. Then in 2003 they released a best-of collection featuring the powerful "Hole in the World," inspired by the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. It became a solid radio hit.
By then, the group dynamic had shifted a little bit. Don Felder had been dismissed from the group, and Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit were ready to soldier on. So ready, in fact, that they amassed two CDs - or two vinyl LPs - worth of material for Long Road Out of Eden. (This time, the band largely produced themselves, though a handful of co-producers came in to assist, including longtime producer Bill Szymczyk.)
Among the highlights included quirky single "Busy Being Fabulous"; the Paul Carrack-penned "I Don't Want to Hear Anymore"; "Waiting in the Weeds," hailed by Schmit as "a jewel of the album"; and "How Long," a song written by longtime Eagles associate J.D. Souther. Souther, who'd co-written some of the band's biggest hits ("The Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town," "Heartache Tonight"), had earmarked this track for his first solo album back in 1972 - though the track was familiar to fans from the band's live concerts over the years.
Talking to Billboard in 2007, Henley had this to say of Long Road Out of Eden:
I'm thrilled and delighted. None of us ever thought it would go on this long. But we are a determined bunch of guys. We take our time. We are not afraid of the passage of time, necessarily, and we've been sitting one out for a long time. We've just been sort of waiting for some of this bad music to die down, for certain trends to go away, so that we can get out there on the dance floor again. We are a band that knows how to bide its time, and how to wait.
Ultimately, it was worth the wait. Long Road Out of Eden made minor music history when it came out: while the only stores it was available in were Walmart and Sam's Club, Billboard let the "exclusive" record on the charts, where it became the first of its kind to top the charts.
Now, of course, it's available anywhere. The band still plays album cut "No More Cloudy Days" in its set - a bittersweet moment, as it was written and sung by Glenn Frey, who died in 2016. Remembering the beauty and soul he brought to the Eagles for more than 40 years, then and now, it's clear that though it may be a Long Road Out of Eden, perhaps time spent with the music of the Eagles is its own kind of bliss.
Long Road Out of Eden is now available on vinyl from Rhino Records. Classic Rockers readers can get 20% off at Rhino.com with the promo code "EAGLES20."