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 the baking desert heat of 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 Band had led the way in this retro look a few years earlier.
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.
This Eagles album, their fourth, came fourteen months after On The Border and saw the start of the group’s rise to superstardom of the road’s middle. That said, the album is one that showcases several different styles, from country rock to harder rock to soul, disco, balladry and even prog. They were a far cleverer group than they were ever given credit for.
Too Many Hands initially sees a return to the muscular rock sound of the previous album, chugging along robustly until it is enhanced by some almost psychedelic bongos and Eastern-sounding guitar interplay - you feel you have walked in on a late sixties-early seventies party. Hollywood Waltz is one of those Don Henley country rock slow ballads that he did so well. That voice and that down on one’s luck barroom sound is so evocative.
The Eagles were, despite being often unfairly pigeonholed as being formulaic, often keen to throw in an inventive curveball and they do so here with a beguiling six and a half minute instrumental in Journey Of The Sorcerer. Here they merge country rock with prog, would you believe. It is a couple of minutes too long, though. It was used as the heme music to the TV show The Hitch-Hilker's Guide To The Galaxy, not something I ever watched, so I didn't know that. We are back on familiar ground on the iconic, sad narrative Lyin’ Eyes which is as good an example of driving along the freeway country rock as is possible to hear. It is what everyone things of when they think of The Eagles, and why not, it is simply a great song. People can mock the group all they like just as they do Dire Straits and post 1975 Fleetwood Mac but I hold no truck with them - this is a great record. I liked it even during my punk days. A good song is a good song as is the next one, Take It To The Limit, a song often quoted by my uncle in his later years - he lived to be 92. Both these songs are packed with killer lyrics, superb vocal delivery and irresistible melodies. The Eagles at their very best.
Visions is a riffy rocker and After The Thrill Is Gone is a strong, dignified slow rock ballad with a fine, deep bass line and moving Henley vocal. As with many seventies albums, however, it was over very quickly and we get to the closer, the end of the evening ballad I Wish You Peace before we know it - forty-three minutes or so but it seems less to me. Furthermore, I guess the album’s three big hits are now so well known that I can’t assess the album without avoiding saying that they are clearly the stand outs. Incidentally, the final song as co-written (allegedly) by Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, partner of Eagle Bernie Leadon. It was put on the album as a favour to Leadon, despite others in the band hating it, feeling it was not representative of their work. Listening to its syrupy string backing, you can see what they meant.
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.
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.
The Eagles, darlings of the mid-seventies, fell as the unfortunate victims of the dual attack of punk and disco, their brand of hard-edged country rock holding no truck in the febrile musical zeitgeist of 1977-80. They embodied everything punk railed against. Personally, I think it is a good album but it meant nothing to me in 1979 and that was the point. It sounds good in retrospect but at the time many were not too interested (in the UK, it went to number one in the US, of course). Certainly it was not a favourite with the critics, keen to write the band off as has-beens and yesterday's men. The backlash against the runaway success of Hotel California had well and truly begun. Not only did "disco suck" but The Eagles sucked too. As a punk-new wave fan at the time, it is a source of regret to me how much good music I rejected - as the years have progressed my blinkers have been put away.
It is a slightly "darker" album than their others, although maybe this conception is fuelled by the white on black, minimalist dull front and rear covers. Why it could almost be Joy Division.
Not a lover of disco, Don Henley tries to cynically take on the much-maligned genre on The Disco Strangler, a surprisingly good song which utilises a disco guitar riff but is pretty much rock all the way. It is a bit of an underrated gem, short as though it is. King Of Hollywood is an appealing, low-key brooding number, featuring some hard-hitting, wry lyrics about the Hollywood "casting couch". It is a superb song, one of the band's best, for me. The other big hit from the album (even in the UK), along with The Long Run, was Glenn Frey's excellent rocker, Heartache Tonight. It seemed to be all over the radio in 1979, not everything was The Police, Elvis Costello or The Jam.
I really like this album, in many ways consider it the group' best album, certainly outdoing its illustrious predecessor. The critics have dealt it an unfair undeserved hand, in my opinion, there are numerous unflattering reviews out there, so I am changing things - it was a good album.
Long Road Out Of Eden (2007)
This album, recorded thirteen years since their previous one, is a sprawling, way, way too long double album containing an hour and a half's blatantly retrospective Eagles music. It is full of jangling riffs and those trademark freeway driving vocals - AOR rockers and AOR ballads and it seems as if the band had never been away. Can I trawl through it, analysing in detail track after track of generically-similar music? No, I guess not. It is suffice to say that I can dip into any of this album at any time and thoroughly enjoy it. The sound quality is uniformly excellent and the band, often at each others' throats over the years, sound as if they really enjoyed recording it.
Roughly, the album can be separated by its two CDs - the first recalling the smooth country rock of the seventies while the second looks back, sonically, to the eighties and has many vibes of Don Henley's The End Of The Innocence album. This is only to an extent, though, because much of the second half of the first part is also distinctly eighties-style Henley-esque.
There are highlights worthy of individual mention, however. How Long has an obviously Take It Easy riff and melody to it and is classic Eagles fare. The appealing Busy Being Fabulous is a track that would have fitted fine on the afore-mentioned Don Henley album, The End Of The Innocence. Guilty Of the Crime is a great, upbeat riffy grinder. A favourite of mine is the Springsteen-esque (in places) No More Cloudy Days.
Do Something is beautiful, as is I Don’t Want To Hear Any More. The ten-minute Long Road Out Of Eden is a chugging, mightily impressive Jackson Browne-influenced cynical diatribe about the state of the world and the USA in 2007. I Dreamed There Was No War is a lovely, short guitar instrumental and Somebody has a gritty rocking thump to it. Frail Grasp On The Big Picture is another socially motivated number, with strong echoes of Life In The Fast Lane to it. The Last Good Time In Town has a laid-back Chris Rea sound to its rhythm. Look, I could compliment each and every track on here - they are all good, not a duffer anywhere to be found.