Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Don Henley - Building the Perfect Beast
Though Henley and keyboardist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar did work on all the tracks, the album featured a number of guest performers too. The list includes Lindsey Buckingham (guitar and vocals), Mike Campbell (synthesizer and guitar), Charlie Sexton (guitar), Randy Newman (synthesizer), Steve Porcaro (synthesizer), Belinda Carlisle (backing vocals), Patty Smyth (backing vocals), Waddy Wachtel (backing vocals), J.D. Souther (backing vocals), Martha Davis (backing vocals) and many more.
The original vinyl release included just ten tracks. The cassette and CD release included eleven.
Side one begins with “The Boys of Summer”, a song whose lyrics reflect upon aging. The opening guitar-riff with the light backing percussion instantly pulls me in whenever I hear it, taking me back in time to the mid-80’s when the song ruled the airwaves. As the lead single, it went to number 26 in the Netherlands, number 18 in Germany and New Zealand, number 15 in Canada, number 12 in the UK, number 7 in Ireland, number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 3 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Henley won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance in 1986 for the song, and it was ranked at number 416 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.
“You Can’t Make Love” is a mid-tempo resignation to the fact how powerless one is when it comes to love.
The B-side to the third single was “Man with a Mission”, a high-energy rocker that summons up the spirits of the early days of rock n’ roll. This one, for me, is a definite hidden gem among the deep cuts of the album.
“You’re Not Drinking Enough” drops into the country-rock roots of Henley’s early days with the Eagles.
The slower tempo of “Not Enough Love in the World”, as the third single, swayed its way to number 63 in Canada, number 34 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 17 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, number 6 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 3 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. Cher covered the song on her 1996 album It’s a Man’s World.
Side two opens with the bombastic title track. “Building the Perfect Beast” appeared as the B-side to both the second and fourth singles. This one comes across as a little sterile and impersonal for me; it might be the industrial vibe I get off of the percussion and rhythms. The one piece I like is that you can get a hint at the melody of one of the later tracks of the side here.
“All She Wants to Do Is Dance”, the second single, crossed over to number 65 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 10 on the US Billboard Dance chart. It also boogied to number 13 in Canada, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. This one was a big party favorite, getting everyone out on the dance floor – especially the ladies. The lyrics always remind me of the plot for an episode of Miami Vice, the hot cop show that had debuted just a few months prior to this album’s release.
It is here where the cassette and CD versions inserted “A Month of Sundays”, the B-side to the first single. This one is a very beautiful piano ballad that again reflects on times gone by. I can definitely see why it was added back to subsequent releases of the record; it is a very powerful song.
As the fourth single “Sunset Grill”, another sauntering song, went to number 52 in Canada, number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 18 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 7 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and number 3 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. The song was inspired by a hamburger restaurant of the same name on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Clocking in at over six minutes in length, it is the longest track of the group.
The deep track “Drivin’ with Your Eyes Closed”, due to popularity, charted at number 9 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart even though it was not released as a single. The song has a heavy synth hook to it, giving it a new-wave rock vibe. This one pairs quite well with the album’s second single.
The album closes with “Land of the Living”, a tune with a swaying Caribbean rhythm.
Building the Perfect Beast was a popular album around the college campus during most of 1985. While I knew the hits well, I never felt inclined back then to pick up the record. When I was putting together my digital library in more recent years, I did manage to pick it up.
For more albums featuring Don Henley, click here.