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Eagles - Hell Freezes Over

Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 99 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Watching this performance it is hard to believe The Eagles ever went away, especially for as long as they did. Although their songs remain FM radio favourites, it was quite a surprise to the music world when a reunion tour was announced in 1994, ending their fourteen year vacation. The very title of the resulting CD (and DVD), Hell Freezes Over, is a reference to the hostility that surrounded the break up in 1980. When asked when The Eagles might record or perform again, the response was, "When Hell freezes over."

In the 1970's (for those of us who were there), music was evolving and expanding in many directions. Sure, we had hi-fi stereos, and some bands toyed with quadraphonic sound, but discerning audiences desired better systems to play their 'records' on to fully appreciate the quality of the recordings. There were many music styles to choose from including disco, punk, glam, shock-rock - and west coast rock. The Eagles were prime examples of what west coast rock was all about, as were Fleetwood Mac, Boz Scaggs and Jackson Browne, amongst others. All you needed were lots of guitars (acoustic and electric), multi-layered harmonies, catchy tunes with killer choruses and to preferably hail from California. The Eagles had all this and they had it in abundance.

The Eagles' first recordings were labeled country-rock and included hits like Peaceful Easy Feeling and Lyin' Eyes. Although they were significant hits, they were not the sort of rock songs some members of the group were keen to produce. As their line-up changed (due to that old chestnut "musical differences") so did their sound and the hits that followed such as Take It Easy, Heartache Tonight and The Long Run proved that The Eagles had indeed become a rock band - maybe the biggest rock band of the '70s.

"For the record, we never broke up - we just took a fourteen year vacation."

The line-up on Hell Freezes Over is essentially the same one that recorded The Eagles last 'new' album, The Long Run, released in 1979. It would appear that time has healed many wounds and differences have been pushed aside for this comeback, but this time, it is a good thing. It's clear there are still nerves to overcome and the band members appear apprehensive about their musical relevance after such a long break - they need not have worried. Right from the first track, Hotel California, with its extended killer intro, it is obvious The Eagles can still cut it.

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What do you mean, you don't know A minor?

The inclusion of two Don Henley solo tracks (reworked), an audio-only DTS track and four new songs makes Hell Freezes Over an essential release for anyone with even a passing interest in The Eagles.

There is a slightly sad post-script to the Hell Freezes Over reunion - it didn't last. Although Henley, Frey, Walsh and Schmit are still together, Don Felder is pursuing a loss of royalties claim and hasn't played with the band since about 1997. So while The Eagles are still a performing band in 2002 and there are semi-confirmed rumours of a new studio album, Don Felder is a part of neither. Whatever happens, I think it is safe to predict that we have not heard the last of The Eagles.

Track Listing:

Hotel California
Tequila Sunrise
Help Me Through The Night
The Heart Of The Matter
Love Will Keep Us Alive
Learn To Be Still
Pretty Maids All In A Row
The Girl From Yesterday
Wasted Time
I Can't Tell You Why
New York Minute
The Last Resort
Take It Easy
Life In The Fast Lane
In The City
Get Over It
Desperado
Seven Bridges Road (DTS audio-only track)

  Video
Contract

Hell Freezes Over was filmed in 1994 for a television audience and as such is a good quality transfer. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (full frame) and is non-16x9 enhanced. The concert image is clear and sharp with good colouring, black levels and shadow detail. There are no instances of film artifacts and only the slightest hint of aliasing.

The show itself is prefaced with 11 minutes of interviews and backstage footage of varying quality and suffers from grain. This is also presented in full frame and is non-16x9 enhanced. The leap in picture quality when the concert begins merely heightens the experience.

Although Hell Freezes Over is a dual layer disc I could not place the layer change.

  Audio
Contract

Ok, so this is the DVD that *everyone* raves to you about and you are still wondering, "Can it be that good?" Let me tell you, it can.

Hell Freezes Over was the disc that was used by almost every salesperson when I was shopping for a home theatre system. It was the first DVD I wanted to own and is still the one I use to impress family and friends.

There are two audio tracks to choose from, Linear PCM and DTS 5.1. The Linear PCM track was only briefly sampled and is adequate. It has slightly better than CD-quality sound and for those without DTS, it is good enough to show what fine musicians The Eagles are. Then of course, there is DTS, and this is where Hell Freezes Over rises above any other release I have heard.

From the opening burst of audience applause, you can hear that something magical is happening. The acoustic arrangement of the first track, Hotel California, is an instant treat with all instruments and harmony vocals progressively placed across the front and rear speakers. The subwoofer kicks in early and is rarely silent. Lead vocals come from the centre speaker and are always clear and synchronised. The entire performance is first class and is wonderfully presented with the music evenly spaced around the room. Some critics have suggested there is too much surround sound and the music should have been placed predominantly at the front with crowd noise to the back to reproduce a concert feel, but with so many instruments and vocals vying to be heard, I think this would have 'crowded' the sound.

  Extras
Contract

Apart from track selection there is a bonus DTS audio-only track, Seven Bridges Road. This is a great example of DTS sound and is like sitting in the midst of five very talented performers.

  Overall  
Contract

Hell Freezes Over is still the benchmark by which current music DVDs are often judged. It is still one of the best selling music DVDs around and the excellent all-round quality should guarantee repeated viewing.


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      And I quote...
    "If there is space in your collection for only one music DVD, make it this one…"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
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