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Can 40-year Old Music Brands Stand The Test of Time?

I’m not sure if I’m getting old or if branding has become such an integral part of my existence that I can’t simply enjoy a new song anymore. Two of my music idols released tracks from their upcoming albums today. David Gilmour released the title track to “Rattle That Lock,” and Don Henley released two tracks, “Take a Picture” and “That Old Flame” from Cass County. On listening to the tracks I couldn’t help thinking about both brands and how time, maturity, my own evolution as a music fan, and society in general has impacted these great artists and their brands.

Now, as a fan of both artists (brands) I have deep-seeded expectations of each. These brands were the soundtrack to my adolescence. When I was discovering myself, I was also discovering Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and the release music gave to a nervous, insecure, goof-ball kid from the Midwest.

don henley and david gilmour release new music 2015David Gilmour, through the amalgamation of “All things Floyd,” handed me the voice of teen angst and rebellion. He and Roger Waters’ music scored my first drug experience (as well as its subsequent disdain). “Sheep,” from their Animals album, “The Wall Part 2″ and “Comfortably Numb” from The Wall drove me to question authority and society’s norms. The music gave my adolescent awkwardness a heartbeat that, finally, didn’t feel so awkward.

His following non-Waters compositions were simply rounds based on the same theme, dissolution of respect, war on government, war or society, drugs, psychedelica, and deep, growling guitar solos that could strangle your heart and lungs while at the same time, give you wings.

Don Henley, on the other hand, was everything that was right in the world. The first album I ever purchased, with my own money, was The 1980 release of Eagles Live. Through the “crackling pop and scratch” sound of my $12 Sears and Roebuck turntable, I discovered the harmonies of “Seven Bridges Road,” the rock-life insanity of “Life in the Fast Lane,” and the freaky undertones that lived at the “Hotel California.” It was a 1-2-3 punch that knocked me on my ass and made me ask for more.

As good brands do, since my first encounter, I have been a dedicated advocate of both artists ever since. They delivered on every note, on every chord, and through every transition of their long careers. Their music, their brands became part of my own personal brand. To this day, I’ll catch myself whistling the melody to “Seven Bridges Road” or working through the chord progressions to “Goodbye Blue Sky.Could it all have been coincidental timing and placement? Sure, but I don’t find myself humming the chorus to “Muskrat Love” by Captain & Tennille, and they were thrust upon me and my generation around the same time.

For me, it was brand and the relationship I had with the musicians.

Side note: I often find myself smitten with girls with big teeth and a smooth voice. If they can work in the Hamill camel, I’m a gonner. Look it up.

But I digress.

Whether with their respective bands or solo, both artists, Gilmour and Henlely, are proven musical deities. So, after four decades, would we find a chink in the armor?

I’ve spent the day listening to both Gllmour and Henley’s newest tracks. I can say, as a musician and music fan, they still do it better than most. But as a brand advocate, where I hear the Don Henley I’ve always loved, just a little country’d up, I wonder if David Gilmour took a break on this one and phoned it in.

Henley’s tracks are as Henley-esque as I would have hoped. And Don? Well, he’s killing it at 67.

Henley’s tracks are as Henley-esque as I would have hoped. And Don? Well, he’s killing it at 67. The voice, the composition, the brand are all as strong as ever, rooted in southern gentleman swagger and symphony. While he does step away from “The Boys of Summer” and “All She Wants to Do is Dance” pop-rock, he continues his domination of audible tenacity in the track “Take a Picture Of This” and proves his partnering is as good as ever in “That Old Flame” with Martina McBride.

From what I hear in Rattle That Lock, David Gilmour forgot to set the clock to 2015. The track simply lies there like a used prom dress from the mid 1980’s. While remnants of the brand, Gilmour’s voice and some licks, are heard calling out from The Division Bell and beyond, while it wants to have soul and even some blues, it just seems thin and tired. As for the growl of that Fender we all expect so much, that cat lost all nine lives. In a disappointing display of pop drivel, the sound that was supposed to be David Gilmour was left in the studio – with his spirit.

Time, maturity, the brand’s evolution, and society, as I stated before, can have a huge affect on a brand. I mean, I’ve changed, so why wouldn’t the brand of music I listen to change as well?

Again, I’ve only listened to one track from Rattle That Lock, so maybe Dave showed up for other track sessions.

That’s where the debate over brand consistency and brand evolution comes in. Some times, through no concerted effort of its own, a brand changes. I’ve heard of artists refusing to play older hits, just because “They aren’t that band anymore.” But Gilmour and Henley have, for this fan, always promised to be great. They’ve always delivered, on every note and on every chord through their entire career, consistently.

To drive the point home, that’s why they’re the brands they are. Or were.

So what of their newest releases? Do they deliver? Do 40-year old music brands stand the test of time? No. Not always. Where one brand maintained its grip on its fan-base (in this case, me), the other drove off the cliff, and with it, took any expectations for redemption.

Again, I’ve only listened to one track from Rattle That Lock, so maybe Gilmour showed up for other track sessions. But first releases are supposed to be the creme of the crop. This doesn’t bode well for us old, stodgy, somewhat hazed Gilmour brand fans.

As for Don Henley’s new album, Cass County, I’m genuinely excited. And I don’t say that about country albums very often (Oh, please Don, tour with Darius Rucker… Pleeeeeeze). But that’s what great brands do. They make you follow them to places you never expected to go. Unfortunately, for Gilmour, I’ve been there and done that. I expect other fans will agree.

Here’s Don Henley’s Track, “Take A Picture Of This” —  Hear it for yourself.

Both albums are due out in September.

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