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"Life in the fast lane surely make you lose your mind"
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Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of an Eagles fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Eagles fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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Oh those poor Eagles. Few bands have fallen victims of their own commercial success to a higher degree than the Frey/Henley/Walsh gang. All the more amazing is the fact that the Eagles, for all their faults and advantages, were just a mediocre band - not particularly lousy and not particularly outstanding. All the members of the band were quite professional and skilled at their instruments, yet nothing in their playing techniques is really astonishing; Joe Walsh was never a guitar god, and Don Henley was, well, just a good drummer. And singer. And their vocal harmonies? Cute, but they ain't no Beach Boys, heck, they ain't even no Bee Gees.And their songwriting abilities? Well, most of the band's members were songwriters, and the songs they wrote weren't crappy as such, because the Eagles knew a thing or two about melodics and hooks - I suppose even the most rabid Eagles haters will have to admit that. But, of course, the Eagles were no Beatles: these melodies and hooks were, for the most part, painfully obvious and generic, as the Eagles relied on formulas that existed long before them, and one of my main problems with the band is that they really don't have an identity of their own, which would separate them from roots-rock genres. Which really makes me wonder. How come? How come such a mediocre, passable, okayish band like the Eagles, which I really cannot bring myself to either love or hate, inspire such bipolar reactions? 'The Eagles are Gods, the best band that ever walked upon this Earth', say the rabid fans. 'The Eagles are faceless, bland, ridiculous AOR crap, one of the worst and most offensive products to come out of the Seventies', say the intelligent critics. Get down to reality, both of you, and realize there's always a second side to every story. The problem is that way back in the Seventies, the Eagles suited a helluva lot of people. By that time Sixties' teenagers had matured and settled down, and new bands, of the glam-rock type like Sweet, or of the hard-rock type, like Aerosmith, no longer suited their system of values which was definitely 'milder' in the Sixties than in the Seventies. The Eagles presented a magnificent compromise: they were still 'rocking', but they were restrained and peaceful, and the slowly aging hippies took a liking to them. Not to mention the even older generations, of course, for whom the Eagles were perhaps one of the only points where they could be in agreement with the 'youngsters' about musical taste. It's only natural that the Eagles enjoyed such a massive success on the radio, as the baby boomers, now in their thirties, clung to them almost like the last straw. But the younger generations couldn't but hate them, of course. It's one thing if you only get to hear 'Take It Easy' or 'Hotel California' once a month or so. But when you get exposed to these songs blaring out of every window, every car and saloon, for hours on end, and they're not even great songs - the Beatles could probably get away with this - it's only natural that you go off pronouncing death sentences to every Eagle alive and rush off to put on some KISS or some Ramones instead. Or, if you're the intellectual kind of type, some Genesis or Brian Eno. But do not worry so much, younger generations. The Eagles are bound to disappear off the radio sooner or later, of course. Whatever be, they still belong very much to their era, the Seventies, the era of slowly mildening baby boomers. When the last baby boomer disappears from the planet, the Eagles will no longer be appearing on the radio, maybe only as historical curios. Of course, today's younger generations are bound to get older, too, but something tells me that in their thirties and fourties they'd sooner be listening to some typical modern adult contemporary stuff than switching off to the Eagles - whatever for? And that said, I still insist - as a representative of the younger generation, no less - that it would be a pity if the Eagles were to disappear completely and forever. It is definitely not true that theirs is but a museum value. The kind of music that they were making, moderate, restrained soft-rock without any tremendous lapses of taste and with quite a few pleasant hooks and intelligent lyrics and melodies, completely unpretentious and very humane, is still way better than whatever the music industry is holding in store for the aging generations today. At least the Eagles played their instruments and knew how to play them, and they wrote songs that were not always based on the same chord sequences and time signatures. Just one thing. Placed before an alternative: the Eagles' Hotel California and Phil Collins' Both Sides Now, which one would you choose? Think about it and tell me your thoughts on the quality of popular music. So I'm quite serious in giving out this precious rating of one to the Eagles - just to commemorate their status as a decent, normal, never outstanding band, certainly not deserving neither the God-like status nor the 'rock Judas' tags that get hanged on them all the time. And just one last thing: if you think only rednecks and braindeads love the band, let me just tell you that I've got quite a few intelligent friends with good musical taste and education, who are quite fond of the Eagles and hold a deep respect for them. So there. Lineup (although you probably know it better than I): Glenn Frey (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bernie Leadon (lead guitar, banjo), Randy Meisner (bass), Don Henley (drums, vocals). Don Felder (guitar) was added in 1974; Joe Walsh replaced Leadon in 1975. Tim Schmit replaced Meisner in 1977; the band dispersed two years later. There's also been a reunion recently, but I don't know much about it.
Listenability: 3/5. Sure
they're listenable. They're also quite forgettable.
Resonance: 2/5. Fans will kill me for this, but hey, this is a personal criterion. They're too rednecky to tug at your soul.
Originality: 0/5. Unless, of course, "achieving major commercial success through total lack of originality" counts as something.
Adequacy: 1/5. Every second song of theirs bites off more than it can chew.
Diversity: 1/5. Well, rootsiness on the run.
Overall: 1.4 = E on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 11
The fresh and even slightly exciting debut. Innocent country fun, hah hah.Best song: TAKE IT EASY
Track listing: 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) Peaceful Easy Feeling; 10) Tryin'.
A long long time will pass before the Eagles will be again remembered for what they did best: good, friendly, cheerful, more or less authentic and memorable country rock. Okay, forget 'memorable'. Not even a single tune on here, apart from maybe 'Witchy Woman' which isn't country rock at all, is memorable, and that's one of the Eagles' worst problems: everything they do from the very beginning is so slick and formulaic, and all the hooks are so damn predictable and abused many times before, that this record will flow out of your head as smoothly as it flowed in. But what the hell - while it's there, it's enjoyable, and it makes for some excellent background music. To an extent, this is the band's best album, p'raps, it's just that it's way too unremarkable even for the Eagles.Even so, you may be surprised, but the Eagles know how to rock out. I wouldn't know how to condemn 'Witchy Woman', for example. The guitar riff is kinda obvious, but so is the one on 'Smoke On The Water' and on about ninety percent of Black Sabbath tunes. Henley takes lead vocals and the others 'whoa-hoah' around him, apparently, to create a mystical, slightly evil atmosphere, except that at a certain point they bring in female backing vocals and the room begins to smell of cheese a little. Fortunately, that's only occasionally. The melody is good. 'Chug All Night' is worse, because it doesn't have an 'obvious riff', but, on the other hand, it's faster and shorter, and features some ferocious lead notes that are about the hardest the Eagles get on their debut album. That's alright by me, too. However, third time around ('Tryin') it gets tiring and far too generic. Sorry dudes, I can't rate that one. Oh, and by the way: I must give out the warning that if the words 'generic' and 'formulaic' will crop up about ten times more often on this page than on any other on the site, well... that's not my fault. Let's revert to the milder stuff, shall we. Essentially, the Eagles should be flying over the Grand Canyon - a better name for a country-rock band could hardly be found. So pay attention to their country schtick. The single 'Take It Easy' is pleasant as hell, and dang is it friendly. Everything about it. Frey's vocals, the band's harmonies, the slide guitar part, the banjo solo, everything just screams "we're doing this to please you". Not "we're doing it because we like it" or "we're doing it because we want to push forward the boundaries of country" or anything. User-friendly - quite unlike Windows 2000. Do you understand now why the Eagles are considered radio fodder? The other single was 'Witchy Woman', and a third one was 'Peaceful Easy Feeling', written by a guy whose name I've forgotten, and it's more of the same, basically 'Take It Easy' Volume 2. I don't even know what to write about it, except that the melody is lovely. I just have to put it on every time I want to remember it. In fact, I hardly know what to write about all of that stuff: getting to the bottom of it is not very interesting, considering that I've dismissed many songs in a similar style on other artists' albums as filler. Everything is relative, and the Eagles really make you reconsider certain things. Such as the beauty of minimalism, for instance. But I digress. I actively dislike one song, the slow, dull and sacchariney ballad 'Most Of Us Are Sad', but at least I'm able to tolerate it. It's just that the melody is far too pedestrian, even for the Eagles. Oh, and a major highlight on here is 'Earlybird', too. Love that beginning - are they tapping synthesizers to get that pecky-pecky sound? Lyrically, it's actually the Eagles' version of 'I'm Only Sleeping' - life goes on around me and I'm kinda lazy to follow it. And musically, it's just another country rocker with a nagging banjo part and cool guitar solos. I seem to like it because it's unusual to hear a banjo in such a straightforward rock composition, but at least it's better than getting nothing at all in 'Nightingale' (apparently, the Eagles were somewhat keen on birdnames and bird thematics on their debut album. Do you think they would have made suitable ornithologists instead?) Well, the last notes of 'Tryin' are currently echoing away, and I find that I have to go and re-listen to the record again while I check this here review. Again, there's nothing left in my head. How can that be possible? I think I'm starting to understand the real reasons for the Eagles' radio overplay now: unless you've heard a certain song for fifteen times in a row, maybe more, you won't have the ability to memorize it. But joking aside, this is a pretty cool debut album, not at all cheesy or corny. If one can't stand country-rock, it's one's own problem. It would get far different later on, but as of then, this record is a good introduction to the Eagles and one of the main keys to the understanding of their incredible success. And longevity. In people's minds, that is. Oh, and I suppose it's the Eagles' best album, too, but I guess that goes without saying.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 9
The culmination of the band's country-rock period - they not only play country-rock, they seem to impersonate it.Best song: OUT OF CONTROL
Track listing: 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).
In order to completely prove their authenticity (probably for those deaf enough not to hear the banjo on their debut album), the Eagles dressed up as outlaws, called their second record Desperado and came up with a rather generic (there I go with that word again) concept about Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton, driven to a life of crime with all its excesses and cruelties, and quite naturally hung at the end of the line. In other words, a good subject for an entertaining, but worthless (in the long run) Western movie. It's quite amazing that they didn't use this as a soundtrack, as it would indeed come out completely authentic.On record, though, it's somewhat pale, and I'm only vaguely impressed. The cheery friendliness of the previous record has vanished into thin air, leaving us with the kind of cynical pessimism that would be perfected later on 'Hotel California', but here it comes out stiff and forced. Not that there aren't any highlights on the record, of course. 'Doolin-Dalton' is just like any other melancholic, self-consciously 'making-one-consider-the-fate-of-himself-and-mankind' anthem with a Western flair, but the heartfelt vocals and the quiet echoes of the harmonica really make the song work like nothing else. And the several 'upbeat' songs found on the record are all superb: 'Twenty-One' revisits the banjo on a fast countryish tune, of the type that I really like, and 'Out Of Control' is a surprisingly loud and brawny saloon boogie with heavy guitar tones and powerhouse drumming. On second thought, it's not all that surprising, because the song is supposed to illustrate the freedom and brutality of the outlaws - and as if the main part wasn't enough, the Eagles end it up with about thirty seconds of pure musical chaos. The drunken bravados discharging their six-shots onto empty bottles, right? Their cover of 'Outlaw Man' is also pretty energetic, with Meisner switching on to fat fuzz bass and Leadon playing fierce solos. I only wish they'd have made all the song as fast as the coda which ends far too quickly for me. So these three tunes even make me forget the corniness of 'Certain Kind Of Fool' with one of the ugliest vocal tones ever recorded (I hate it when somebody sings like a drunk beggar, and that's exactly the case). No, it's the balladry that I'm not exactly fond of on here. Again, there's nothing particularly offensive, since the band hadn't yet begun to overorchestrate their numbers, and everything is pretty quiet and humble. But the melodies are even weaker than on Eagles, and I simply can't understand what did all the public find in 'Tequila Sunrise', apparently the best-known song from here. Is it the slide guitar bits that pop up now and then? They're very low in the mix, and minimalistic, and it's not a brilliant minimalism. You gotta believe me - personally, I think that out of all guitars, the slide one is the most beautiful on earth, it's just that you have to be a master like Pete Drake or, well, George Harrison. Leadon's licks on 'Tequila Sunrise' don't move me at all. Even less understandable is the title track. I mean, what the hell... there are people who hate Dylan's Selfportrait and New Morning and love this one? It's based on about one chord. And the vocals? Forgettable. Blah. Is it Henley singing? Tell him at least to lower and raise his voice more expressively - you can't sing a supposedly cathartic ballad without some modulation, you know. It's kinda like the Bee Gees with all the substance and all the hooks taken out. 'Saturday Night' and 'Bitter Creek' are equally ????. No, I am really starting to think that the boys were way too busy with the lyrics and the concept to polish up their melodies. It often happens with concept albums, you know. Oh the poor lads, if only they'd taken a side look at themselves at the time. What concept are we talking about when it's just so plain obvious? And the lyrics don't suck, but that's not exactly prime meaningful poetry either. I remember some Eagles fan on a colleague site vehemently defend the band saying that they were writing about love and life while the Beatles were writing about yellow submarines and walruses. The problem is, there's been pretty few things written about yellow submarines and walruses (at least, if it's poetry we're speaking of), but there's been such a terrible lot of things written about love and life that you have to literally climb out of your skin in order to write something original about these notions. And it's definitely not a task suitable for the Eagles, and at least not on Desperado (I do admit, though, that 'Hotel California' is interesting from a lyrical point of view). I get plain bored when listening to the dripping noodling of 'Bitter Creek', and the lyrics and 'atmospherics' don't help me none. Result? When the theme for 'Doolin-Dalton' comes on again, I'm almost as happy as a little child at the sight of a Kinder Surprise. And as it is followed by a reprise of 'Desperado', I feel almost as happy as a child whose parents took the Surprise away saying it's bad for his teeth. And I give the album an overall rating of nine, which - I insist - is far too generous, since there ain't a single song on here I couldn't live without after hearing it. Therefore, please revert to the band's first album for some real non-guilty pleasures. And for a good country-rock concept album? Forget it, there ain't no such thing. Go see that cool Marlon Brando movie instead whose name I've forgotten... ah, yeah, I think it was Missouri Breaks... it's the one where he plays the part of a gritty murky old criminals hunter and mows them down one by one. That movie really had some cool psychological moments going for it. Desperado hardly has any.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10
The initiation of all things Eagle-like, slicker than a well-oiled you-know-what...Best song: MY MAN
Track listing: 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 My Love.
This album and ALL the following Eagles' albums get exactly the same rating - an overall ten, which means "Good/listenable, but nothing unusual or exceptional". It's simply because starting somewhere at this point, the Eagles fell into a firm, stable style that allowed 'em to take next to no chances. On The Border is a little bit more diverse than some of its followups, but that's small consolation: art-rock or avantgarde jazz you won't find on here for sure, as the Nighthawks fly from routine soft rock to country to sappy ballad and back to soft rock again. Thankfully, the Falcons know their schtick well, and all of the songs are tasteful, well-recorded and, well, most of them have a point: whether it's nostalgia, melancholia, anger, or, well, love, it's always well-expressed.This is where steel guitar wiz Don Felder joins the band, however he is marked as 'late arrival' in the liner notes, having joined the band only in time to overdub some parts on the opening rocker, 'Already Gone', and the patented three-guitar style of 'Hotel California' isn't yet in full place. More important is the band's switching from Glyn Johns to Bill Szymczyk as producer, meaning that the band doesn't have even a single chance to let its hair down; all the songs are as flawless, ideal, and eventually sterile as possible. But hey, if you're buying an Eagles record, you probably know all about that already, don't you? I suppose if you're buying an Eagles record, you have nothing against sterile recordings, don't you? You'd rather prefer a well-done, lifeless, morbid, life-sucking piece of soulless plastic like this album, right, rather than an energy-filled, breathing, blazing, breathtaking live performance by rock idol 'N Sync? Think twice before answering... Anyway, there's certainly one great song on the album; not too many Eagles' songs are able to move me to tears, and even some of them are, I'd be scared shitless to admit it, but I gotta tell you, 'My Man' is one of the most moving, beautiful tributes to a dead guy I've ever heard - Bernie Leadon's lament about the late great Gram Parsons will certainly tear the heart of you if you ever cared a little about country-rock and one of its greatest idols. I've never cared that much about Leadon and didn't lament his departure from the Eagles, but 'My Man', even despite its awful title, certainly remains a great contribution to the band's legacy, with gorgeous Harrison-worthy slide licks and equally gorgeous, heartfelt vocals. Apart from that masterpiece of a song, there's little praise I could heap on the remaining numbers. I mean, the good news is that there's nothing offensive on the album - I'd say that closing ballad, 'The Best Of My Love', is pretty boring and pretty sappy, but at least they didn't orchestrate it or anything, just added some more of these slide licks (this time, quite generic ones) to the basic acoustic rhythm, put Don Henley in his sappiest mood, and crooned some routine vocal harmonies over a somewhat memorable chorus. Totally forgettable, but maybe not totally despisable. The other ballads are a tad better - 'You Never Cry Like A Lover' has cool guitar solos that don't actually let you notice how the song intricately transforms into an arena-rocker halfway through, and 'Ol' 55' almost sounds like something Brian Wilson could have pulled out of his pocket on a particularly uninspired day... or maybe Mike Love. Very Beach Boyish sounding, anyway, not to mention car-related lyrics. For more of that country schtick, check out 'Midnight Flyer' - the last time Bernie Leadon gets a chance to flash his totally unique (as in, 'me and those other three thousand guys') banjo-picking style, a typical country rave-up that seems to roar out 'LOOK AT ME I'M A GENERIC GENERIC GENERIC COUNTRY RAVE-UP' with every note. Isn't it pathetic how all the "generic" songs fall into two categories - the "half-generic" songs, with a few tiddle-widdles on well-known melodies, usually turn out to be the most boring ones, while the "completely generic" songs always sound great, no matter how many times you've heard that melody? That's the secret of da blues, baby - all blues sounds the same, so it always sounds good. But if you take a classic Chuck Berry number and change a few chords, you suck - you can't improve on perfection, so the classic Chuck Berry number will always sound fresh and your uninspired 'renewal' of the melody will be forgotten. Hey, look at Kiss for Chrissake. In any case, 'Midnight Flyer' doesn't even try to improve on perfection, and neither does the stupid rocker 'James Dean' which will always be memorable because the Eagles certainly never wrote that melody, apparently thinking that honouring a fallen hero can be done with the help of others' musical achievements (so Mr Leadon turned out to be the cleverest with 'My Man'). Say, isn't it a funny coincidence that 'James Dean' was co-written with Jackson Browne? It rocks, though. It does rock. The other rockers are kinda ehn, I'd say, falling into that "half-generic" category - 'Already Gone', 'Good Day In Hell', and the title track all have their isolated moments and moods, but none are particularly memorable. Although I'd bet my head that with 'Already Gone', the guys were certainly aiming at another 'Take It Easy' - unfortunately, they blew it, because this time they didn't come up with a catchy chorus. Or, rather, 'come up with making the chorus catchy', seeing as it's a cover song and all that. Nevertheless, On The Border is still a nice record, and stands as many fans' favourite - probably because of the relative diversity, the presence of Leadon and the lack of corny orchestration. Truth is, though, the Eagles were so goshdarn consistent that their songwriting hardly ever extended beyond mediocre - be it on this record or on any of the following ones. So... we all get a ten, don't we?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10
Good ballad quality, but man do these rockers suck. What do they think they are - Mott the Hoople? Thin Lizzy?Best song: ONE OF THESE NIGHTS
Track listing: 1) One Of These Nights; 2) Too Many Hands; 3) Hollywood Waltz; 4) Journey Of The Sorcerer; 5) Lyin' Eyes; 6) Take It To The Limit; 7) Visions; 8) After The Thrill Is Gone; 9) I Wish You Peace.
I actually like this album. No kidding, even if it stands so oh so close to the universally despised by Good Taste Owners' Hotel California. But it's indeed very different from its immediate follower, and certainly nowhere near as off-putting. The problem is, as evidenced by numerous facts, the Eagles are at their weakest when they try to put out something conceptual. In these cases, they're so damn busy creating multi-significant, poly-intelligent lyrics (that still suck in the end) that they dump their melodicity in the trash can, and induce hours of boredom upon the listener. That was the case with Desperado; that would be the case next year. But when the Eagles aren't pretentious, when they're just putting out whatever comes into their heads, that's what they do best; that was the case with Eagles, and apparently, that's the case with One Of These Nights.Even so, there's a big squabbly difference between the two. By 1975, the slickness had overcome the Eagles. They're no longer a country-rock outfit, more of a... well, whatever is called 'polished soft-rock', that's that. The obligatory mat for most 'classic rock' radio stations. And with the banjo out and the country intonations gone, the air of cheeriness and friendliness of their debut is obviously gone forever. They want to address the listener directly, but end up distancing themselves from him instead. There is basically no 'groove factor' on the record, and that makes even the best tracks seem flawed and corrupt. What's worse, they aptly demonstrate that they can't rock any longer, either. Two tracks on here, 'Too Many Hands' and 'Visions', are supposed to be 'rocking', but they have about as much energy as a spent battery, with plodding monotonous weak riffs and completely generic metallic solos, not to mention these stupid harmonies. Rockers are not supposed to be harmonized in a way that 'Visions' is. No, the Eagles were never great hard-rockers, but at least in the earliest days they could always trod out a great memorable riff like 'Witchy Woman' or at least demonstrate some real energy, like on 'Out Of Control'. These two numbers are dull and lifeless, and their melodies are so artificial and undistinctive that I could have written better in the middle of the night. There are also some super-slow thumpers on here that are supposed to re-unite them with their country past, but they're miserable failures as well. 'Hollywood Waltz' is obvious to the core, and sounds just like the title suggests - a standard country waltz with not an ounce of identity. Even the slide guitar is used in the most plain and generic way. It's almost as if the band just wanted to prove its 'authenticity' by standing in line with the most average barroom country band. Pffoooey. And 'Take It To The Limit' is more of the same. This leaves us with five songs that save the light of the day - actually, most of them rank with just about any other Eagles classics. What are they? Ballads. Yes, ordinary soft-rock balladeering. The transmutation is complete; the Eagles have amputated their rocking skills and mutilated their country skills, but they concentrate on the balladeering side, and that's where the talent still shows through. I could care less if the title track is overplayed on the radio or not; the ingenious swooping bassline is worth the price of admission alone, and Henley does a magnificent singing job on the song. I find the lines 'one of these nights we're gonna find out pretty mama what turns on your light' pretty gross, but others have done worse, heh heh, and they're sung with great feeling. And it's catchy catchy catchy, in a fun 'so-so McCartney ballad' way. Actually, solo Beatles comparisons crop up everywhere: thus, the closing number, the soothing, moody 'I Wish You Peace' sounds like it comes off Harrison's Extra Texture, uncannily reminding me particularly of the man's pretty ballad 'Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You)'. I find the Eagles' pastiche rather adequate, and the guitar and synth lines flow smoothly and melodically. They could certainly do without the orchestration, though. Then, of course, there's 'Lyin' Eyes', which again demonstrates the band's great taste in choosing guitar arrangements. Overplayed, again, but that's only an impediment for US fans, and hey, you're not the only ones in the world. Are you gonna appropriate the Eagles for yourselves so you could beat them up quietly in the corner? We want our share too! I like the way 'Lyin' Eyes' flows, but then again, I'm also a big fan of Dylan's Selfportrait, so what do I know? And 'After The Thrill Is Gone' opens up with some Lennon-ish guitar phrases and then becomes Neil Young on the verses and mediocre McCartney on the choruses. I mean, seriously, how could you discriminate the song? I mean, come on, just substitute Neil for Henley and you can put it on Harvest for all it's worth. It would make a highlight on Harvest, by the way... Plus, just to demonstrate to the world that they are willing to 'experiment', the Eagles put on a lengthy, mind-boggling guitar/banjo/orchestra-dominated instrumental ('Journey Of The Sorcerer') with quite a few interesting atmospheric passages. It sounds nothing like the other stuff on here, and I wish it were a radio standard, which would go on to show Eagles haters that they were really capable of something beyond the limits of 'Lyin' Eyes'. Okay, so six minutes is probably not the most rational length for an Eagles instrumental, but at least for the first three minutes I'm willing to follow all the unexpected twirls of the melody (quite complicated and involving, by the way) without any problems. Which makes up for a real good album in the end, or, okay, for a real good five-song sequence. The rockers are stupid, and the country schmaltzes are boring; but these ballads really can't be beat. They're that good.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10
Slick as hell, but at least it's somewhat thought over, and the concept is tons more subtle than the one on 'Desperado'.Best song: HOTEL CALIFORNIA
Track listing: 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.
It's definitely 'wasted time' to pen this review, as most of the songs off this album are bound to be known by you that way or the other. Love it or hate it, Hotel California is a solid reflexation of certain sides of life in the Seventies, and is well worth owning if only as a unique historical document, no matter what you think of the actual entertainment value of the song material.Joe Walsh, formerly of the James Gang, joins the Eagles at this time, and this is definitely a plus, in that the guitarwork on the record actually surpasses the playing on the previous record. No more crappy metallic solos, for instance: Joe's playing is laid back and restrained, but has enough emotional impact to stay fresh, like in his soloing on the title track. But it's not that Walsh revolutionizes the Eagles' sound or anything; he fits in the band seamlessly, and his songwriting style is virtually undistinguishable from the others' - just the same old muck... whoah, sorry. Of course, it says a lot that this album was recorded in eight months. Anybody who calls the Eagles 'the Beatles of the Seventies' or something like that, should consider how low Seventies' rock had fallen if the Beatles' Please Please Me was recorded in 16 hours and still sounds fresher and more entertaining than Hotel California today. Most of the songs off the Eagles 'masterpiece' are painfully generic, with trivial chord changes, banal orchestration, fake energy, boring lyrics and uninspired playing. Have I forgotten anything? Yet, for some strange reason, I'm very rarely offended by the album - the most irritating moment is the soundtrackish instrumental reprise of 'Wasted Time', but it's kinda short and forgettable. And, of course, there's the matter of the title track. Eagle bashers can go to hell on that one; it's still one of the greatest anthems of the Seventies and one of the most interesting and moving compositions recorded in that decade. If anything, this song alone would be well worth spending eight months of recording; and any album with the song on it should automatically get a good rating, as 'Hotel California' is one of these 'automatic rating-lifting' ditties that saves even the worst records from ruin. It stands out like a typical white crow on the album - it comes on first, and no other track on here comes close to matching it. And there's hardly anything not likeable about the song, from the moody acoustic rhythm to the weird tinge of reggae in the arrangement to the lyrics that are for once unordinary and thought provoking to Henley's soulful singing to the famous guitar battle on the fadeout. To me, trying to put down the song is just as plain ridiculous as trying to put down 'Yesterday' or 'A Day In The Life' (although I'm definitely not saying it stands up to any of the Beatles' best material), and it's about the only number for which the Eagles will be remembered in eternity. Come to think of it, that is the only number by which the Eagles are known around the world, their 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida', if you wish. Talk of the other stuff should definitely come in a footnote - all the rest of the album is like a giant footnote indeed. There's some standable, okayish material on here, anyway, like the soothing, melancholy and cynical ballad 'New Kid In Town'; and as for the two rockers - 'Life In The Fast Lane' and 'Victim Of Love' - well, they don't suck, and that's better than whatever I could say about the rockin' stuff on One Of These Nights, because Walsh is a good master of riff and solo, and with his aid the guys make 'Life In The Fast Lane' boogie and 'Victim Of Love' pound with enough conviction. Even if the chorus of 'Victim Of Love' does sound a bit like corny Aerosmith, but I prefer not to notice it. But spending eight months on these tracks? Sweet Jesus! Then there's 'Wasted Time', which actually hides a pretty decent melody under all the sugar and orchestration (just remember to program out the Hollywoodish coda), and just one upbeat tune in all the sea of pessimism and whining, the cheery 'Try And Love Again' which I probably like because listening a lot to Eagles' records can really let down your tastes. On the other hand, Walsh's 'Pretty Maids All In A Row' is yet another boring country schmaltzathon in the 'Take It To The Limit' style, and 'The Last Resort' is definitely the 'wrongest' way to close the record. Boring us with seven minutes of orchestrated saccharine pomp that never amounts to even a snippet of good melody is a very ungrateful surprise, especially for those listeners who already sat clenching their teeth through most of the second side. Eight months? Somebody pass me the tranquilizers! Still, lowering your expectations, you might find Hotel California a pleasant surprise - while the ravings of fans about how it is one of the greatest records ever written are ridiculous, it's definitely not a tasteless hedonistic toss-off which you hear so often shouted from the opposite corner. True, the Eagles make no musical advances or revolutions, and their melodies on here aren't distinctive at all, but at least they try. This might be one of the most commercial albums of all time, but I suppose that if you're really trying to record a commercial album, better choose the style of this one than, say, Paul McCartney's Press To Play. And don't you go forgetting the Bay City Rollers, too.
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Year Of Release: 1979
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10
Immaculately arranged. Wonderfully recorded. Flawlessly produced. Brilliantly packaged. It still sucks! (Or maybe not?)Best song: THE LONG RUN
Track listing: 1) The Long Run; 2) I Can't Tell You Why; 3) In The City; 4) The Disco Strangler; 5) King Of Hollywood; 6) Heartache Tonight; 7) Those Shoes; 8) Teenage Jail; 9) The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks; 10) The Sad Cafe.
Underrated. I feel kinda ashamed of myself to give this record an overall rating of ten when the very same day I just slammed Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run on my MP3 page, but... you know how it goes: I usually judge the music rather than the philosophy. And I find the Eagles' last album quite an interesting listen as for what actually concerns melodies and stuff, you know, the usual shenanigan. I know most of these songs (like 90% of the Eagles' catalog) have been overplayed to death on classic rock radio, but hey, I'm not a radio listener and I can frankly state that I have never heard even a single one of these tunes until about three months ago when I got the CD. So log me on, I'm clean.Anyway, it's a long run indeed: if it took the Eagles eight months to record Hotel California, it took them almost three years to make this one. Apparently, during these three years the band members were busy soaking in various influences so as not to find themselves under the bandwagon rather than on it "in the long run". Quite naturally, disco rhythms rear their head on the final product; there's also a strong reliance on synthesizers, and at times the sound is leaning towards the Fleetwood Mac kind of things. In other words, true to their American roots, the Eagles took Rumours and Saturday Night Fever as their main fetishes. The resulting product didn't seel as much as either of those two, of course, but it still sold a lot, and everybody was pleased - everybody, that is, bar the band itself that fell apart the next year. To their dishonour, it must be said that not a single trace of more 'intellectual' musical genres that had already arisen after 1977 can be found on here. But I guess that's understood. The album itself is perhaps the Eagles' best-produced ever; every second of the sound is so glossy and well-polished that I'm tempted to call the record 'completely lifeless and sterile', and, well, it probably is. But on the good side, there's an interesting diversity about the songs: the Eagles try out several different grooves, some of which work and some don't, but at least the sound is nowhere near as monotonous as you'd expect it to be. Upbeat pop rockers, angry blues rockers, cheesy ballads, disco shuffles, pseudo-industrial ravings, and Fifties' retro stylizations, all of them can be found here, and every song sets its special mood. There are also hooks: some nicely memorable choruses, some gimmicky but effective sound effects, even a couple of guitar riffs that one might want to learn. And while the lyrics are far from brilliant (we already know everything about the band's brand of social critique), they almost never suck. Actually, the only true misfire on the whole record might be the one song that's boldly proclaimed as a 'classic' on the back cover - the dreadful rocker 'Heartache Tonight'. Really, this kind of primitive barroom crap should have been donated to Eagles' roadies. Yeah, it does rock, but it's the kind of song that I could string together in five seconds. Don't tell me they had patiently waited three years to release it. The other rockers, though, thank God, are somewhat more complex and don't qualify as 'guilty pleasure' (not that 'Heartache Tonight' could even qualify as that). The title track is my favourite, with tasty Joe Walsh lead work and a catchy chorus. Quite a change of pace from the opening number on Hotel California, eh? Walsh's own 'In The City' is louder and dirtier, but also less memorable, apart from the boom-boom of its power chords which is memorable because it's generic. And 'Teenage Jail' is pretty grim and desperate for the Eagles; at times it gives the impression of being far too draggy, as if the band had taken in too much Alice Cooper but forgot to end the show at the appropriate place, but I enjoy the song's heavy-falling, depressing atmosphere. Can't really say the same about 'The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks', the Fifties sendup with Jimmy Buffett (sic!) on backup vocals, but at least it doesn't annoy me. Just a silly short singalong stomper, obviously inserted in order to relieve the casual listener after taking in the sonic torture of 'Teenage Jail'. The 'disco rockers' are somewhat interesting as well. 'The Disco Strangler' is... well, it's a weird chant about a disco strangler, and 'Those Shoes' is fun - my second favourite tune on here. Sure, the Eagles might have been the last band in the world to try out 'talk boxes' on their guitars, but they weren't the worst outfit to do it. I find the result eminently likeable and don't even mind the annoying robotic beats, because essentially it's a blues number. With annoying robotic beats and cool sounding talk boxes. Eh? Plus, there's the creepy 'King Of Hollywood' which strikes me with its minimalism - I mean, it works, dammit, it works. It ain't no 'Hotel California', but it works. Listen to it. It works. And so as not to lose my last fans, I won't say naught about the two ballads. They're not awful, but they don't constitute the main part of the record's charm, so why bother? Anyway, I'm probably the only person in the world to say it, but I'll still go ahead: I think that dabbling in the world of late-Seventies production techniques actually did the Eagles a favor. It's when they do the standard guitars/bass/drum business that they quickly get monotonous and boring. Here, the acquired diversity really works, and while none of the songs can even make it into the band's Top 10 songs ever written, the album in general produces a good impression. Yes, the production is lifeless, but I'm learning to get used to these things - maybe in a perfect world, fifty years on or so, somebody will re-record these songs with some great production techniques and everybody will see that they are melodic. And hook-filled. Yes, these hooks ain't exactly cherry pie, but at least they're good, healthy cauliflower. What's that you say? Hate cauliflower? Ever tried roasting it in tomato sauce?
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