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History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2(2013)
Seeking to provide an unprecedented and intimate look into the history of the band and the legacy of its music, the Eagles partnered with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) to produce the film. Directed by Alison Ellwood (Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place), History of the Eagles is a meticulous creation featuring rare archival material, concert footage, and never-before-seen home movies that explore the evolution and enduring popularity of one of the world’s biggest-selling and culturally significant American bands.
For more about History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 and the History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray release, see History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh
Directors: Alison Ellwood, Alex Gibney
» See full cast & crew
History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 1, 2013
You can't keep a good band down. Even when you're a member of it. That might be the single most salient lesson imparted to both fans and casual viewers (and/or listeners) alike as they review the epochal journey The Eagles have taken over the past several decades. Like many superstar outfits, The Eagles took a while to get their groove on, but once they started topping the charts, they were the band, at least for a little while, until that same success started fraying the edges of long simmering tensions between members of the group. It's a story that's been told a thousand, maybe a million, times in the annals of rock (and other music genres), but somehow it has a visceral intensity in this particular tale because the band members seem like "regular guys", not unapproachable Rock Gods. In fact in one of the early moments in this absolutely fascinating documentary, Don Henley and Glenn Frey are in the back of a limousine after a concert, a little worried that their driver will be able to get the doors locked before the crazy fans do something unexpected ("You never know with these kids"). As they take off, Henley and Frey wax philosophical about why their fans are so ardent. "They think they're up on stage", Frey opines, while Henley talks about how The Eagles' allure has more to do with the fact that the band looks like their fans, dresses like their fans and has a general worldview that mirrors that of their fans. It's a compelling little piece of insight—just one of many this documentary imparts—that helps to show not just what knit The Eagles and their followers together but also how interior looking the guys were from their earliest days.
This has been a rather incredible year already for Eagles fans with the stellar release of The Eagles: Farewell I Live From Melbourne, a kind of retrospective concert that found the band in good spirits, good voices and good rapport with each other. The History of the Eagles may show that while the band almost always sounded fantastic, those two other elements tended to disappear rather quickly after the first heady rush of overwhelming success had begun to wear thin. While the documentary takes a fairly rote approach to its subject, detailing the childhoods of various band members and then moving on to their nascent careers as struggling musicians before hitting the veritable big time, The History of the Eagles is nonetheless an unusually fascinating and satisfying affair which really smartly weaves together archival footage (and is some cases, sound bites) with contemporary talking head sequences. The ping ponging has a perhaps unexpected side effect, for it's kind of shocking to see the baby faced Henley and Frey from the late seventies suddenly morph into slightly tired looking elderly men.
The first part of The History of the Eagles details the guys' backgrounds, first forays into professional music making and then the formation and eventual success of the band. That of course is followed by roiling disputes which ultimately spill out in the open (one of this section's most visceral moments is a recording of Frey and Don Felder almost coming to blows), finally breaking up the band. For this reason, the first half of the documentary is perhaps the most compelling simply by dint of the fact that it contains the most conflict and the more common "rags to riches to ruin" story elements. What again sets this apart is the uncommonly intelligent perspective all of the guys have on this part of their career. While it's obvious that Henley and Frey are the go-to guys for a lot of the information, The History of the Eagles doesn't shirk in terms of the other players and in fact also doesn't shy away from the storied conflict with Felder, something that gives this section a really palpable sense of dread and doom.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, then, the second half of the documentary (which focuses on interim solo careers and the ultimate reunion of at least one formulation of The Eagles) isn't all sunshine and lollipops, either. In fact there is a very palpable lingering feeling of recriminations, angst, and even outright malice running through some of this material. The reunion really was almost a stroke of luck, a happy accident and certainly nothing that any of the guys really planned on. There's quite a bit of information about the various peccadilloes of the band members, including (obviously) rampant substance abuse, and perhaps a bit more on the psychological side of things, feelings of inferiority which perhaps led to overweening ego issues that were attempts to compensate. About the only thing lacking in this documentary, and most likely by design, is any real focus on the private personal lives of the guys. Randy Meisner mentions in an archival interview how hard it is to be away from his wife and three kids, but that's one of only a handful of references to any life these guys lived outside of The Eagles. Of course as several of the band members themselves mention in one form or another, life with The Eagles tended to trump anything else that was going on, one of the reasons various members ended up experiencing problems down their long and winding road.
While there are still some ghosts (perhaps even demons) haunting various members of The Eagles, it becomes more and more obvious as the documentary moves up into more or less contemporary times that the current members at least have largely come to terms with their roiled history and have in fact mellowed both with regard to each other and in terms of their careers as a whole. The band has famously announced its "farewell", but this History seems to hint that the final chapter has yet to be written.
This three disc set also includes a third disc which features excerpts from some 1977 concerts at Maryland's Capital Centre outside of Washington, D.C. The band was at the height of their popularity and the concert finds them in extremely good form performing several of their biggest hits, but evidently the entire concert is not presented here.
History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
The History of the Eagles is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in a variety of aspect ratios as befits the many source elements. The bulk of the documentary is in 1.78:1 and 1:33. The accompanying concert disc is 1080i in 1.33:1. (Screenshots 1-17 come from both parts of the documentary, while screenshots 18 and 19 come from the concert disc.) Given the hugely disparate amount of material this documentary incorporates, things look pretty good overall. The contemporary talking head sequences of course look the best, with a nicely sharp image, accurate color and pleasing fine object detail. Even some of the archival footage has weathered the vagaries of time and its smaller millimeter sourcing rather well. On the other hand, there's some really ragged looking footage here, including old television appearances that look like they were sourced off of second or even third generation tapes. The bonus concert footage is relatively decent looking, though suffers from the red stage lighting, something that makes the midrange and wide shots look extremely soft and fuzzy. Close-ups fare considerably better. Given the historical significance of so much of this footage (much of which has never been seen before), it's hard to get too worked up over a less than totally pristine high definition presentation here. Anyone with appropriate expectations should be easily pleased with the overall video quality of this release.
History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The History of the Eagles (as well as the concert disc) feature both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as an LPCM 2.0 track. While it's obvious that some of this material had multitrack source stems to build a proper 5.1 mix out of, it's just as obvious that some did not, and at least some of the repurposed material has a kind of oddly processed quasi-phasing sound that I personally found a little distracting. I opted for the 2.0 track for that reason, but others' mileage may vary and those people may well find the 5.1 track perfectly acceptable. Fidelity is just fine in all of the interview and voiceover material, and is mostly excellent in the archival footage. The professionally filmed concert material sounds the best (including on the bonus disc), but some of the older appearances have some transitory issues. As with the video quality, the historical importance of these older pieces is such that any minor problems are easily ignored.
History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no "official" supplements per se, though some might count the third Blu-ray which features the March 1977 concert at the Capital Centre as a bonus.
History of The Eagles Parts 1 & 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
You don't need to even be a particular fan of The Eagles to find much of this documentary fascinating, unless the vagaries of the music business don't interest you in the slightest. There's quite a bit of incisive self-reflection here that helps to make the foibles of "overnight sensations" (which of course they weren't) a bit more understandable. This is an impeccably structured piece that includes a lot of rare footage and crafts a careful and perhaps ever so slightly sanitized version of events, but which still exhibits enough "warts and all" attitude to make a lot of the documentary immensely compelling. Video (and to a lesser extent audio) quality here is fairly variable due to the vast array of source elements utilized, and some may complain about the concert disc apparently being incomplete, but otherwise The History of the Eagles comes Highly recommended.
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