Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Rough Guides

    

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The albums covered here are:-

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Cuba
The Rough Guide To Lucky Dube
The Rough Guide To The Music Of South Africa
and The Rough Guide To West African Music

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF CUBA

  

Cuba is an island full of music. I am lucky enough to have visited the island and enjoyed sitting in tiny bars in Havana listening to music such as appears on this album played live by ordinary, amateur musicians. It is incredibly atmospheric. Cuban music is not all The Buena Vista Social Club, although that album is certainly reflective of some Cuban music. There are serious salsa influences, and jazz ones too as well as Cuban folk music. All those styles are represented on this truly excellent compilation.

Some of my favourites are the infectious salsa of En Casa Del Trompo No Bailes by Orquesta Riverside; the gloriously Cuban Santa Barbara by Celina Gonzalez; more intoxicating salsa from Descarga En Faux by Ritmo Y Candela; the fetching voice of ageing vocalist Ñico Saquito on A Orillas Del Cauto; the effervescence of Los Van Van on Amiga Mia and the magnificent, rhythmic  Cuban jazz of Bellita Y Jazztumbata on Oyelo Sonar.

Cuba also has had a long standing "big band" tradition, and this is reflected in Mario Bauza's Mambo RinconSierra Maestra's addictive Dundunbanza and Chico O'Farrill'Descarga No. 2 are both impressive examples of upbeat Cuban music. In fact, the whole album is full of such material, to be honest. It is most enjoyable.

This is another highly recommended album from Rough Guides showcasing music from a country that just lives and breathes music in its very DNA.

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THE ROUGH GUIDE TO LUCKY DUBE

1. Reggae Man
2. Slave
3. Together As One
4. Truth In This World
5. Prisoner
6. War And Crime
7. House Of Exile
8. Crazy World
9. It's Not Easy
10. Keep On Knocking
11. Victims
12. Feel Irie
13. We Love It
14. Crime And Corruption
15. The Way It Is     

Lucky Dube was the "king of South African reggae". He unfortunately lost his life a few years ago, which was a tragedy because he was a true reggae great.
                                
His music combines traditional reggae sounds with the lilting, melodic music of the South African townships to great effect. What a beautiful, uplifting combination. His voice is intoxicating, full of personality. He uses female backing vocalists a lot too, the closest Jamaican artist to compare him to would be Peter Tosh. Lyrically, he is politically observant, passionate and sensitive.

Personal highlights are SlavePrisonerTruth In The WorldFeel IrieWe Love It and the moving House Of Exile, about Nelson Mandela.

I remember playing that while on holiday in South Africa, looking out at nothing but the countryside and the hills. An experience I will never forget.

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THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

  

South African "township jive" is some of the most vibrant, uplifting music you will ever hear. Plenty of it is included on this incredibly enjoyable compilation. If you want evidence of the captivating nature of this music, check out the irresistible Groovin' Jive No. 1 by Noise Khanyile and the Jo'Burg City Stars. It is literally impossible to keep your feet still as that infectious drum kicks in, backed by that trademark lilting guitar sound and those rubbery, mellifluous bass runs popularised on some of Paul Simon's Graceland album.

Other highlights are the growling voice of Mahlathini (& The Mahotella Queens), the wonderful, upbeat and sheer liveliness of Yvonne Chaka Chaka's celebratory Motherland and Udlame by The Soul Brothers. The well-known vocal talents Ladysmith Black Mambazo are present on here as well with Kangivumanga.

As well as township jive, South Africa has a distinct style in is jazz - as the township melodies and joie de vivre mix intoxicatingly with traditional jazz styles. Examples on here are My Kind Of Jazz by Teboko and Jive Township by The African Jazz Pioneers. More experimental, jazz-wise, is the extremely impressive improvisations of Celebration by Bheki Mseleku.

There is also South African reggae in the presence of the much-missed "Father of South African reggae"Lucky Dube, whose wonderful, evocative voice and a reggae style that merges township guitars with classic reggae skanking. The song included here is the mighty House Of Exile, about Nelson Mandela. Overall, this is a highly recommended album reflecting some of the vivacious, ebullient and varied music of South Africa.

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THE ROUGH GUIE TO WEST AFRICAN MUSIC

  

West African music is deliciously melodic and catchy, full of lilting guitars, rhythmic drums, often nasal high-pitched vocals all underpinned by a throbbing but deeply tuneful bass guitar. Saxophones and trumpets often interject the sound most effectively. The music also has an influence from Islamic Sufi-style music too, particularly in the acoustic based music of Mali. Music from Senegal and The Gambia tends to be more drum and guitar-driven, less stark, and fr more "danceable". Then there is Nigeria, with its infectious "high-life" guitar and saxophone music. The latter really gets treated as a genre in itself, however, and does not feature on this album. The thumb piano is often used to great effect too, particularly in Malian music, along with that special acoustic guitar sound (the kora) they have. Then, of course, there are the roots of the blues, which are deeply embedded in traditional West African music.

Foliba by Mali's Super Rail Band is a great way to kick off the compilation, although it is far more Senegalese or even Nigeria sounding than Malian, with its use of saxophones, pounding drums and throbbing bass lines. Toumani Diabate'Djelika is far more instantly recognisable as Malian, with a wonderful kora sound, together with a marvellously evocative thumb piano. It really is a most seductive sound. Roucky by Ali Farka Touré is a gruffly sung, slow song over a bluesy acoustic guitar sound. If you want the roots of the blues, they can be found in material like this. It is as bluesy as you will find.

Toro by Moussa Poussy is a more contemporary number with modern synthesised drum backing but it still has a traditional vocal and some fetching backing vocals. It reminds a lot of Salif Keita'Soro album. M'Bote by Sona Diabate is a folky, female voice very ethnic and traditionally folky sounding number. It has some sumptuous guitar joining it at the end. Djama Kaissoumou by Oumou Sangaré is a gently insistent, rhythmic Sufi-influenced haunting number. It has a delicious bass line throughout. I Ka Di Nye by Bajorou is another acoustic, folky song, this time with a plaintive male vocal. 205 by E.T. Mensah is completely different from anything else on the album so far, however, being a jaunty, brass-driven upbeat number that sounds almost South African in places. Another different one is the almost jazzy, laid-back blues of Utru Horas by Orchestra Baobab.

Basically, overall, this album is far more dominated by the "kora"-driven sounds of Mali than most other musical styles, the lively, danceable opener of The Super Rail Band's Foliba is not representative of what is to come. It is a very atmospheric, laid-back album of the highest musical quality.

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Monday, 29 October 2018

Dire Straits






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The albums covered here are:-

Dire Straits (1978)
Communiqué (1979)
Making Movies (1980)
Love Over Gold (1982)
Alchemy (1984)
and Brothers In Arms (1985)

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

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DIRE STRAITS (1978)

1. Down To The Waterline
2. Water Of Love
3. Setting Me Up
4. Six Blade Knife
5. Southbound Again
6. Sultans Of Swing
7. In The Gallery
8. Wild West End                                           
9. Lions

Dire Straits' impressive debut album, dating from late 1978, right in the middle of punk and new wave, was a mini masterpiece of difficult to categorise bluesy “pub rock” dominated by the hitherto unknown Mark Knopfler’s unique guitar sound.

What also often slips under the radar is what a Newcastle album it is. Some songs refer to the North-Eastern UK city - Down To The Waterline and its mention of the “dog leap stairs”, a steep flight of old stone steps in the city centre, and the evocative Southbound Again, about catching the train down to London. There is also Wild West End, an atmospheric song about Knopfler’s experiences once getting to London. It features great lyrics about the conductress on the number 19 bus Knopfler is travelling on and references to Shaftesbury Avenue, Chinatown and coffee at Angelucci's. Other highlights are the mysterious, slow-burning Six Blade KnifeIn The Gallery and, of course, the massive chart hit and darling of subsequent Radio Two playlists, Sultans Of Swing. The story of an honest, working blues rock band, it has a timeless appeal that keeps it on those oldies playlists. Then there are Knopfler’s killer guitar parts in it.

  

Water Of Love has a fabulous, bottleneck-ish bluesy guitar and a captivating, shuffling rhythmic to it. There is a rawness to this that helps to make this a really credible, appealing album. It has a great throbbing bass line too. Setting Me Up continues in that country blues vein, but with a faster pace and catchier beat. It is equally as infectious, though. Lions ends the album on a laid-back but still bluesy note. All these songs are packed full of smoky atmosphere, you could pick any of them. Check out that wailing guitar on this one. however. Great stuff. You can almost smell the beer and hear the traffic go past in the rain, the whole album has that sort of atmosphere. 

Overall it is a great, wholehearted, honest laid back rock album that could have been played by the band in Sultans Of Swing. It was respected at the time, even by the punks and new wavers and deserves the same today.

   

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COMMUNIQUÉ (1979)

1. Once Upon A Time In The West
2. News
3. Where Do You Think You're Going
4. Communique
5. Lady Writer
6. Angel Of Mercy
7. Portobello Belle
8. Single Handed Sailor
9. Follow Me Home      
                          
The follow up to the outstanding debut album was basically more of the same - intricate guitar work backing a laid back folk rock style vocal. It doesn’t stray far from the formula and is certainly not a bad album but for some reason I do not play it as much as either the debut or the next one, Tunnel Of Love. It is a competent, well-played collection of songs but with not quite the ambience of the debut, and certainly nothing as individually notable as Sultans Of Swing. The closest it gets is the soundalike, Lady Writer, which was an unsuccessful single. 

Portobello Belle is another catchy one too, with Mark Knopfler paying homage to parts of London again, and an Irish girl who he encountered there, following his “emigration” there from the North East. This track has all the atmosphere of the previous album, to be fair.

The extended rock workout of the opener, Once Upon A Time In The West is probably the other true standout, while News has an appeal particularly in its alternate speaker drum fadeout and its tricky guitar sound.

  

Where Do You Think You're Going probably reflects the influence of Bob Dylan, Knopfler having worked with him on Slow Train Coming in that same year. Communiqué is an upbeat piece of bar-room blues drive by some suitably lively piano initially until it settles comfortably into a archetypal Dire Straits laid-back groove.

Angel Of Mercy is an appealing, typically early Dire Straits number, with trademark easy and slow guitar picking and one of those laconic, bluesy Knopfler vocals. An excellent solo bit of guitar can be found in the middle. It has a bit of a singalong chorus too. Single Handed Sailor has a great atmosphere to it a bit like the previous album's Down To The Waterline. Knopfler once more contributes a deadpan but enticing vocal and, ofcourse, a great guitar picking solo. The song finishes with more of the same.

Follow Me Home has some tropical insects and lapping waves against the shore sound effects before an unusually African-sounding conga sound introduces the song which is a supremely chilled-out one. Knopfler's vocal is positively sleepy as he sings about wanting a woman to follow him home. It is a bit of a hidden gem - a delicious slow blues groove in the style that Chris Rea would specialise in during the mid-eighties. 

Recorded in The Bahamas, Mark Knopfler had said the location relaxed him too much and took some of the edge from his playing. Granted, he is right about it not having quite the earthy appeal of the debut, but the chilled out feeling is maybe one of the album’s strengths. 

It is a bit unfair to criticise this album just because it sounds like the first one. Of course it does. It’s Dire Straits. What else should it sound like?

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MAKING MOVIES (1980)

1. Tunnel Of Love
2. Romeo And Juliet
3. Skateaway
4. Expresso Love
5. Hand In Hand
6. Solid Rock
7. Les Boys 
                                        
Released in 1980, this was the album that saw Dire Straits take their first steps from being a cultish ”pub rock”-ish band into a multi million selling outfit beloved of those whose only other albums were by Phil Collins and Michael Jackson.

This wasn’t quite Brothers In Arms though and is still a highly credible album. First of all, it contains the magnificent opener, Tunnel Of Love, a seven minute gloriously atmospheric tale of the fairgrounds in Whitley Bay, in the UK’s gritty North EastMark Knopfler’s guitar from half way through is just heavenly, joined by Roy (E St Band) Bittan on piano as it fades out takes the listener truly through the pearly gates. Then there is the laid-back hit single, Romeo And Juliet, with killer romantic but ultimately cynical lyrics. Skateaway concludes the old “side one” with another atmospheric extended song, with another knockout chorus. Great percussion and guitar feature, of course.



The old “side two” contains shorter, more punchy, rock orientated material. Espresso Love is probably the best track, followed by the chunky, riffy Solid RockHand In Hand is a bit more ordinary, comparatively, and then there is the bizarre and utterly incongruous Les Boys - a completely odd song about cross dressers. It sits totally at odds with the rest of the album, to be honest. I am not quite sure what the point of it was. 

  

Unlike some, I have no real problem with Bob Ludwig’s remaster of this album. It is clear, full, nice stereo separation and probably as good as this 1980 recording could get. However, that is just my opinion. Others may differ, of course. Maybe the bass could be highlighted a bit more, but that is small beer, it is certainly not tinny. Listen to the point where Espresso Love kicks in. Big and full. I do agree, though, the the three subsequent Dire Straits albums have a richer sound to them. Maybe they always did. In fact I am sure they did. 

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LOVE OVER GOLD (1982)

1. Telegraph Road
2. Private Investigations
3. Industrial Disease
4. Love Over Gold
5. It Never Rains   

Dire Straits were not quite the world-dominating mega-band at this point, that came with Brothers In Arms two years later, they were on the cusp of huge popularity though, but that did not stop them putting out this decidedly uncommercial five track album of extended, atmospheric rock tracks. For me, while I prefer the debut album and 1980's "Making Movies", I always had time for this album, although I have to admit to not revisiting it too often.
                                            
The opener, Telegraph Road is fourteen minutes in length, but it never gets tiresome, largely due to its changes in pace and tempo and Mark Knopfler's various guitar skills that are on show throughout. There are rock patches, laid-back passages, a stunning solo at one point and evocative lyrics about the forming of America. It is a great song, no question. Forget its length.

Private Investigations is a whispered vocal, incredibly quiet song that never gets above walking pace but it absolutely crammed full of mystery and cinematic atmosphere. The bit where the music stops, a single bass note sounds and then Knopfler's guitar come slashing in sends shivers down the spine. Again, it is notable and unique track.

Industrial Disease raises the tempo somewhat in a typically Dire Straits rock and blues number, featuring some wryly humorous lyrics and then Love Over Gold brings it down again with a moody, brooding but melodically appealing number with a great Knopfler vocal and an overall captivating feeling to it. Once again the instrumentation is superb, with crystal clear, audio demonstration-style sound. The album closes with the catchy laid-back rock of It Never Rains, which has Knopfler's quiet semi-spoken vocal delivery at its best. He is the master of this sort of vocal and he never loses his ear for the melody. Overall this was an understated, innovative album that has remained under the radar quite a bit. I certainly much prefer it to Brothers In Arms.

  

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ALCHEMY (1984)

1. Once Upon A Time In The West
2. Expresso Love
3. Romeo And Juliet
4. Love Over Gold
5. Private Investigations
6. Sultans Of Swing
7. Two Young Lovers
8. Tunnel Of Love
9. Telegraph Road
10. Solid Rock
11. Going Home

Released in 1984, by which time Dire Straits had become a “big” band and were playing places like the Hammersmith Odeon, where this was recorded, a sold out, enthusiastic crowd whoops and hollers along, despite much of the material being introspective, laid back and moodily atmospheric. Classic examples of this are the extended bluesy rocker Once Upon A Time In The West, the eerie Private Investigations, with its killer guitars interjections near the end, and the beautiful but solemn Love Over Gold .

The sound, despite being remastered, contains a considerable amount of live “buzz” noises, but it doesn’t detract from the quality too much. Overall, it is a good live album of a band just about to become massive. The crowd noises are stirring, particularly on Tunnel Of Love, as the guitar parts kick in.

 

Highlights are extended, inspirational versions of Romeo And JulietSultans Of Swing and, of course, the band’s masterpiece, Tunnel Of Love, given an extra, wonderful saxophone and guitar ending here. Bloody marvellous stuff. Actually, I was forgetting Telegraph Road, another fourteen-fifteen minutes of Straits’ magnificence. It ends with the anthemic Going Home, which builds up to its rousing climax quite exhilaratingly.

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BROTHERS IN ARMS (1985)

1. So Far Away
2. Money For Nothing
3. Walk Of Life
4. Your Latest Trick
5. Why Worry?
6. Ride Across The River
7. The Man's Too Strong
8. One World
9. Brothers In Arms      
               
Up until the release of this record-breaking, multi-million selling album, Dire Straits were a low-profile, well respected honest rock band who eschewed all fashionable trends. With this release, the beginning of the end was in sight fir them, despite it being by far their most successful albums, and indeed one of the best-selling albums of all time.

The problem was that its laid-back, immaculately recorded hi-fi sounds attracted “non-music fans” and alienated the music media cognoscenti. All of a sudden it seemed to be open season on the “stadium rock” of Dire Straits. The homely pub-rock of their appealing 1978 debut album was forgotten and, despite the huge sales, it became deeply “uncool” to admit to liking Dire Straits. They were now the property of estate agents and conventional married couples.

  

There are some good tracks on there, mind, but the overall ambience is so laid back as to be almost horizontal, particularly on solemn, reflective tracks like the title track and Why Worry. There is some serious good guitar on the urgent The Man's Too Strong and Ride Across The River, but nothing like the glorious stuff found on Tunnel Of Love or Telegraph Road. There is nothing as inspired on this album. 

So Far Away is a pleasant, country-ish single and then there are the big hits, the poppy Walk Of Life and the somewhat irritating Money For NothingYour Latest Trick is a pleasurable piece of gentle saxophone and guitar AOR, however.

Dire Straits, despite the huge success of Brothers In Arms had only one more album left in them.

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Sunday, 28 October 2018

The Eagles




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The albums covered here are:-

Eagles (1972)
Desperado (1973)
On The Border (1974)
and Hotel California (1976)

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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EAGLES (1972)

1. Take It Easy
2. Witchy Woman
3. Chug all Night
4. Most Of Us Are Sad
5. Nightingale
6. Train Leaves Here This Morning
7. Take The Devil
8. Earlybird
9. Tryin'
10. Peaceful Easy Feeling     

This was The Eagles' debut album, from 1972. It was a pleasant, perfectly easy on the air mix of country and rock with some folky airs floating around. High quality vocals from different members was also a notable thing about the band, who went on to be huge, million selling artists. Ironically for such a slice of Americana, it was apart from Nightingale, recorded in London.
                      
Jackson Browne's piece of upbeat, country rock perfection that is Take It Easy opens the album, with its "well I'm runnin' down the road, tryin' to loosen my load, I got seven women on my mind..." first verse, while Witchy Woman has a killer heavy rock riff and a general bluesy rock feel. It is a powerful cut. that showed the band were not all about Take It Easy style AOR. Folk/country rock was de rigeur in 1972, and this album fitted in well with the genre. Stuff like this was very much the sound of America in 1972, while the UK was in the grip of glam rock, The US music scene was nothing like that. One look at the charts all the time showed that to be the case.

Chug All Night is another pounding rocker, sounding a little like some of Elton's John's rocking material from the period (which possibly helps to explain why Elton did so well in the US). It has a mysterious, funky little bass and quiet vocal part that is sort of endearing. Most Of Us Are Sad is a tender rock ballad and Nightingale gets back to riffy, lively melodic rocking. Incidentally, the sound on this remastered version is excellent, taken from The Complete Studio Recordings box set.

  

Train Leaves Here This Morning is a beautiful country ballad with a gorgeous bass line. Take The Devil is a big, chunky, electric riff-dominated rock song with some excellent sleepy guitar in the middle. Earlybird is a guitar-picking country rocker with distinct airs in its harmonious vocals of Crosby, Stills, Nash & YoungTryin' has another fiery guitar riff and energetic guitar abounds throughout the track. On the whole, this album is more rock than country.

Peaceful Easy Feeling is pretty much what everyone recognises as classic Eagles - twangy, melodic guitar, steady country beat, perfectly pitched slightly mournful vocals and a general feeling of being in a sparsely populated Mid-Western roadhouse at the end of a hot afternoon, with just the barmaid and a few local guys for company.

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DESPERADO (1973)

1. Doolin-Dalton
2. Twenty-One
3. Out Of Control
4. Tequila Sunrise
5. Desperado
6. Certain Kind Of Fool
7. Doolin-Dalton (Instrumental)
8. Outlaw Man
9. Saturday Night
10. Bitter Creek
11. Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)     

This, The Eagles' second outing was a mix of vibrant country rockers and finger-picking country folk numbers, with the balance in favour of the former. It really is, in places, quite a heavy rocking album, far more so than many would imagine. Like their debut album, strangely, it was recorded in the cold English winter, in 1972-1973, as opposed to California or Arizona. To add to that expected US West image, though, the group appear on the cover on a grainy photo looking like Old West outlaws.

The opener, Doolin'-Dalton (what did that mean?) was influenced by The Band, and had a real bluesy rock power, despite its country feel in the vocals and theme. Twenty-One was more of a melodic light country folk number. The rock power is back, however, on the gloriously riffy and powerful Out Of Control, a track that showed that The Eagles could really rock, despite their laid-back, easy country rock image. Tequila Sunrise is a track well-known to many, it is melodiously atmospheric, beautifully sung and played and just has that hot, dusty, travelling through South-West USA feeling about it.

  

Desperado is a beautiful, evocative piano and strings backed ballad that kicks in half way through with a huge rock backing and the vocal is just superb. The rocking Certain Kind Of Fool has a real hint of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers about it (three years before that band came into existence), with echoes of Little Feat and The Doobie Brothers too. A snatch of Doolin'-Dalton (Instrumental) leads from this track into the muscular, solid rock of Outlaw Man is almost Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque in its whiskey-swilling rocking bluesiness. The end of the track has the band really giving it some.

After all that rocking out, it is time to retire to the roadhouse or cantina for a bit of country mournfulness. Saturday Night provides just that with a lovely piece of laid-back country balladry. Bitter Creek is a delightful, tuneful CSNY/America-influenced harmonious slice of country folk.

The album ends with a reprise of Doolin'-Dalton that sounds much more folky and laid-back than the first version of the song and merges into a reprise of Desperado in its solid rock passage. Instead of being the repetition of previous tracks that it would seem to be, it actually works well. The album as a whole, is a largely upbeat, if a bit short, piece of work. The current remastering is good quality as well.

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ON THE BORDER (1974)

1. Already Gone
2. You Never Cry Like A Lover
3. Midnight Flyer
4. My Man
5. On The Border
6. James Dean
7. Ol' 55
8. Is It True
9. Good Day In Hell
10. The Best Of Your Love                                 
After two excellent and varied country rock/harder rock albums, The Eagles were back with a similar mix of styles showing that were never always simply the "easy-listening" laid-back country rockers they have often been perceived to be.

The Jackson Browne-esque Already Gone is a superb piece of of solid West Coast US rock. It is powerful, riffy, melodic and atmospheric. One of the Eagles' best tracks. You Never Cry Like A Lover goes from being hugely powerful to quiet and tender between its verses and chorus. It is both melodious and muscular. Midnight Flyer is a finger-pickin' bluegrass-ish piece of fun. It is lively, jaunty and just enjoyable. It has some excellent bass and drum interplay at the end. My Man is a country tribute to the recently-deceased Gram Parsons. It is a Parsons-esque, laid-back, slide guitar-driven song. It is quite lovely. "We who must remain, go on living just the same..." is a touching refrain.

 

On The Border has that characteristic Don Henley throaty vocal over another solidly grinding, mid-pace rock beat. It is almost funky r 'n' b in its feel. It has an intoxicating instrumental break two-thirds of the way through. James Dean is a corker of an Eagles rocker. Back in 1973 I remember hearing this played by Johnnie Walker on Radio 1 as a teenager. It was the very first time I had heard The Eagles. Funny how one remembers things like that.

Ol' 55 is a classic steel guitar, harmonious "freeways, cars and trucks" ballad that The Eagles did so well. It is actually a Tom Waits cover, but it suits the group perfectly. Is It True is a powerful rock song, again with some great harmonies, but also some copper-bottomed chunky guitar. Good Day In Hell is a wonderful rocker, full of riffs and searing guitars runs and a great rock vocal. The album is ended by the classic, unforgettable country ballad The Best Of Your Love. That track is pretty much perfection. These early Eagles albums are most enjoyable, only short, but varied, and the sound and playing is high quality. They were far more than just a "best of" group. Their albums were great too.

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HOTEL CALIFORNIA (1976)

1. Hotel California
2. New Kid In Town
3. Life In The Fast Lane
4. Wasted Time
5. Wasted Time (Reprise)
6. Victim Of Love
7. Pretty Maids All In A Row
8. Try And Love Again
9. The Last Resort     

This was The Eagles’ huge, multi-million selling album, the moment that they became a massive stadium-filling band. It arrived eighteen months after their previous outing, “One Of These Nights”. The departure of Bernie Leadon had taken much of the band’s initial country flavour from them and rock guitarist Joe Walsh’s arrival saw them taking a big leap from being a country rock band that tried to rock out heavily on occasions to a fully-fledged mainstream rock band. Don Henley also became the band’s main vocalist, featuring on six tracks here. In many ways, The Eagles on this, and on their final album, “The Long Run”, sound like a different band. This material is a long way from Doolin-Dalton and Desperado, it is far more big stadium or arena tour than dusty roadhouse.
                           
Everyone knows the atmospheric Hotel CaliforniaNew Kid In Town is laid-back, melodic rock balladry and the solid Life In The Fast Lane is The Eagles having learnt to rock out, stadium-style.

  

Wasted Time is very much like some of the material on Don Henley’s solo albums. Victim Of Love is a muscular but catchy mid-paced rocker. Both Pretty Maids All In A Row and Try And Love Again are big, powerful rock ballads once more. The latter has Randy Meisner on lead vocals, the former features Joe Walsh. This is classic rock as opposed to country rock. The final track, The Last Resort is a sublime slow romantic ballad, well sung by Don Henley. It is my favourite on the album.

Look, this album is undoubtedly an album that will be remembered as a classic of its genre, but whether it is an actual, bona fide classic is debatable. It is a short album of very listenable, immaculately played rock songs, but does it amount to an album of copper-bottomed classics? Probably not, in my opinion, but there you go. Nothing makes you think “wow”. On the other hand, you can’t deny it has something, particularly the opening and closing tracks. However many times you hear the title track, it always has that atmosphere to it. Overall, though, I prefer the more raw, unpolished feel of their earlier albums.

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