The Cassette Chronicles – Don Henley’s ‘I Can’t Stand Still’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

DON HENLEY – I CAN’T STAND STILL (1982)

In a case of “the first shall be last”, Don Henley’s debut solo album I Can’t Stand Still is the last album of his five solo releases that I added to my collection. I’d heard the stone cold killer track “Dirty Laundry” when it was a big hit on the singles chart, but I’d never gotten around to hearing or buying the full album. I’m a big fan of both The Eagles and his solo work, so it is kind of a surprise that I had his other solo albums but not this one.

(Brief Interruption: As I typed that last sentence, the Eagles song “Desperado” started playing on the radio station I listen to at work, where I composed this week’s article.)

Despite being the biggest hit (and truthfully only hit) from the album, “Dirty Laundry” is held off in the track listing until Side Two. This gives me the whole first side to see what the beginnings of Henley’s solo career had to offer as a completely new experience.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite get off on the right foot for me. The title track opens the album and it just kind of left me wanting something more. I could say the same for the two ballads that appear on Side One as well. I just couldn’t find my way to a real appreciation for either “Long Way Home” or “Talking To The Moon”.

This gave me pause and I tried to puzzle out why neither song did it for me, particularly since I’ve found the ballads from The Eagles were always some of my favorite tracks. The only thing I could come up with is that neither of these two songs seemed all that lyrically potent in comparison to both his work with the Eagles and the latter solo releases.

Side one isn’t a total loss for me though. “You Better Hang Up” features a stronger uptempo pacing and “Nobody’s Business” (co-written by Henley, Bob Seger and J.D. Souther) is a flat out rocker!

If you’ve been a fan of Henley for any length of time, you are well aware that his various beliefs on social topics make their way into his lyrics. As side two opens with “Dirty Laundry”, he goes full on at the media for the sensationalistic way they covered the news. Of course, seeing how the news is covered now, Henley’s complaints about the 1982-era news media seems both quaint and newly timely all at the same time.

He follows that up with the song “Johnny Can’t Read” where Henley takes the educational system to task. It’s noteworthy because he once again capably couches his message inside a great sounding musical soundtrack.

While I wasn’t crazy about “Them and Us”, the album closed out strongly with the last three tracks starting off with a traditional instrumental called “La Eile”. It’s relatively brief but sounded great. And despite not liking the ballads on Side One of the album, the slower paced “Lilah” was a big hit with me because it had the lyrical potency I look for in his work and/or pretty much any ballad looking to be a worthwhile listening experience.

The biggest surprise to me was the final track “The Unclouded Day”. I’m not one for religion but when I looked up to find that this was a gospel song originally written in 1879, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Adding to the surprise factor is that Henley’s version is just amazing!

While this album wasn’t quite the home run I was hoping for when I popped it into the cassette player, there are a number of great songs on the album and I Can’t Stand Still laid the foundation for what was to come from Henley on his other great solo albums to come.

NOTES OF INTEREST – Despite this being Henley’s first solo album, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit from the Eagles make appearances on “Dirty Laundry”. Schmit also guests on four other tracks on the album.

The list of famous musicians who made guest appearances on I Can’t Stand Still (which achieved Gold sales status) includes Jeff and Steve Porcaro and Steve Lukather (all from Toto), Benmont Tench from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Bill Withers. One of my all-time favorite musicians is Warren Zevon who provides backing vocals on “Them and Us”.

The album is dedicated to Henley’s girlfriend at the time, Maren Jensen. She sang on the song “Johnny Can’t Read”. She is best known from her time as an actress where she played “Athena” on the original Battlestar Galactica TV series.

While I’ve never seen Don Henley in concert with The Eagles, I did get to catch a show at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA, back in 1989 when he was touring in support of his The End of the Innocence album. It was a fantastic performance.

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