The Eagles arouse more mixed feelings in me than any other band I can think of. Emerging in the early 1970s, initially as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band for her album “Silk Purse”, the Californian-based band were massively successfully, with a string of chart topping singles and albums; in particular their first Greatest Hits record is one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

The band’s early sound was a watered-down, commercialised take on the sound of country-rock pioneers like Gram Parsons. – the band’s two leaders both had significant weaknesses. Don Henley was an excellent vocalist, with his distinctive vocal sound, and a thoughtful lyricist, but a boring drummer. Glenn Frey was a good tune-smith and utility musician, but his vacuous Californian persona is in the forefront on irritating tracks like ‘Chug All Night’ and ‘Heartache Tonight’. The band had excellent supporting parts – Don Felder and Joe Walsh are excellent guitarists, and Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmitt strong bassists and vocalists. Early member Bernie Leadon could play country licks on anything with strings. They had excellent harmonies – Henley and Frey sang together beautifully.

With some of their singles which hold up very well – in particular ‘One of These Nights’, ‘New Kid in Town’, ‘Desperado’, or Felder and Walsh’s guitar duel at the conclusion of ‘Hotel California’.

So lets have a look at the Eagles six studio albums from the 1970s Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

Both of the band’s live albums, 1980’s Eagles Live and 1994’s Hell Freezes Over, and they’re both fun for fans, but not particularly essential.

The Long Run

eagles-the-long-run1979
The Eagles had run out of steam by their last 1970s album, and The Long Run has filler like ‘The Disco Strangler’ and ‘The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks’. It also sounds bland, with the last vestiges of their country sound gone. The Long Run does contain one of the band’s very best songs though new bassist Timothy B. Schmitt sweetly croons his way through the R&B flavoured ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’, Bassist and singer Schmit didn’t hesitate to make his presence known on his very first Eagles album. Replacing Randy Meisner, the musician brought in this lush ballad ‘I Can’t Tell You Why,’ which he finished with Frey and Henley. Schmit sang the track in a beautiful falsetto that added a new dimension to the group, topped off with yet another perfectly melodic guitar solo from Felder.

In many ways,’The Sad Cafe’ sets a template for Don Henley’s subsequent solo career, as he offers a darkly ruminative examination of love lost. But it wouldn’t be such a fitting finale, on what for some 14 years looked to be the Eagles‘ last studio recording, without Felder’s understated, elegiac, utterly virtuosic turn on guitar.

While the Eagles’ last studio effort of the ‘70’s didn’t attain the blockbuster status that ‘Hotel California’ did, the record still had its bright spots including the record’s title track. Eagle Don Henley takes lead vocals on the song “The Long Run’. He had been one of the group’s most reliable songwriters when it came to some of their biggest hits and snagged nine co-writing credits on this record in total.

When you hear the opening line of “Somebody’s gonna hurt someone before the night is through/Somebody’s gonna come undone there’s nothin’ we can do” to this 1979 Eagles hit, one has to wonder whether the Eagles sensed the end was nigh. Given the multi-plantinum group’s acrimonious split just a few years later, there is a very good possibility that this Glenn Frey-sung track was foreshadowing things to come.

Schmit  had been in Poco in 1969, replacing Meisner for the first of two times, but that critically acclaimed band remained largely ignored. Schmit then took over for Meisner in the Eagles seven years later, just as the band was coming off a tour in support of the career-making Hotel Californiaalbum. It took a year and half for the Eagles to complete The Long Run, then they promptly broke up.


Eagles

eagles-eagles1972
The band’s debut album effectively melds the soft-rock and country-rock trends of the early 1970s, spawning the mellow hits ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’. The former song was the Eagles’ debut single and what a debut it was. Written by Jackson Browne and with some help from Eagles member Glenn Frey, the song was an immediate hit and a hint of things to come from a group whose 1976 hits retrospective has sold an astonishing 29 million copies in the U.S. alone.

At their core, the Eagles were undeniably a country rock band early on, and ‘Most of Us Are Sad’ is a lost classic that brought together all of the elements that made that period special. Written by Glenn Frey and sung by bassist Randy Meisner, the song is a hardcore country lament, but produced in the trademark Eagles style featuring crystalline vocal harmonies and clean instrumentation. The lyric reads like prose poetry: Most of us are sad / No one lets it show / I’ve been shadows of myself / How was I to know?”.

The band’s at their most democratic here, as the dominant axis of Don Henley and Glenn Frey wasn’t yet established, and all four members share equal billing. It’s their least coherent album – the Bernie Leadon and Don Henley composition ‘Witchy Woman’ is spooky and excellent, but Frey’s ‘Chug All Night’ is perhaps the most horrendous song the band ever released.


Desperado

eagles-desperado1973
The band’s sophomore effort was a concept album, equating the Eagles with wild west outlaws. Henley stated later that “the metaphor was probably a little bullshit. We were in L.A. staying up all night, smoking dope, living the California life, and I suppose we thought it was as radical as cowboys in the old West.” . The centrepiece to the Eagles‘ 1973 record of the same name Desperado, it is interesting to note that this sweeping ballad was never formally released as a single. But given the song’s majestic strings and a truly superb vocal performance by Don Henley, there’s no doubt that it remains a favorite of Eagles fans to this day.

It failed to meet the moderate success of its predecessor, although Henley and Frey’s first compositions, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and the title track, are among the band’s best loved tracks. Another early country hit from the pens of Frey and Henley, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ started because of the drink that was popular at the time. Glenn Frey was hesitant about the song, feeling that reference might limit it to a specific time and place, until Henley argued that the lyric was really about waking up the morning after drinking tequila all night. Bernie Leadon’s guitar work and mandolin contributions to the track provide a perfect bed for Frey’s deceptively easy vocal delivery.

It’s still inconsistent, but Leadon’s mournful ‘Bitter Creek’ is one of the band’s best deep cuts.

‘Doolin-Dalton’ Written by Frey and Henley, with a little help from their friends in this case Jackson Browne and J.D. Souther — this song told the story of outlaw Bill Doolin and the Dalton Gang. It kicked off the cycle of songs that became ‘Desperado,’ a concept album steeped in Western mythology. The track is typically precise, with an evocative lyric: “Well the towns led across the dusty plains / Like graveyard filled with tombstones waiting for the names .”.


One Of These Nights

eagles-one-of-these-nights1975
The Eagles were mega-stars by 1975, and some of Henley’s lyrics were beginning to wrestle with questions of fame. The band take on disco on the excellent title track, while Leadon’s instrumental ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ was later used as the theme music for The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. Title track “One Of These Nights” Felder arranged the unforgettable bass and guitar signature for this chart-topping smash composed by Henley and Frey. Then Felder launches into a searing solo – one that perfectly underscores the song’s bitter sense of missed opportunities. The Eagles took a turn in a different direction with ‘One of These Nights,’ fusing elements of disco and hard rock to create something that had little to do with most of the group’s recorded output. The funky track exploited the more soulful side of Don Henley’s voice. “It is a breakthrough song,” Glenn Frey stated in the liner notes to ‘The Very Best of the Eagles.’ “It is my favorite Eagles record.” Don Felder contributed a blazing electric solo that’s a perfect example of his trademark blend of tone, phrasing and melody.

But while most of the individual songs are strong, the album gets bogged down in slow tempos and long running times after the first couple of tracks – the singles ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ and Meisner’s showpiece ‘Take It To The Limit” It could be argued that their vocal harmonies were always a central piece to the success of the Eagles. And though other Eagles songs may have proved to be more popular on the charts, this track is one of the group’s strongest showcases of their remarkable ability to blend their voices together in an arguably unparalleled way.

The Eagles returned to their country rock roots with ‘After the Thrill Is Gone’ this plaintive ballad from Frey and Henley, which they not only wrote together, they also alternated lead vocals. The lyric perfectly captures both the fading thrill of the ’70s club scene, and the malaise that had begun to creep into the band: “Same dancers in the same old shoes / Some habits that you just can’t lose / There’s no telling what a man might use / After the thrill is gone.” The track also captures some of Henley and Frey’s best close harmony singing.

Randy Meisner’s ageless waltz made all kinds of band history, becoming the first single to feature someone other than Henley or Frey on lead vocals – and the last to include founder Bernie Leadon. Buried somewhere in all of that are a few tasty little asides from Don Felder. Especially “Visions” Written by the guitarist with an assist from Henley, this riffy, Southern rock-informed rocker is the only Eagles song to feature Don Felder on lead vocals. He’ll never be confused with the group’s better-known singers, but Felder’s scorching runs on his main instrument provide plenty of gritty distractions.


Hotel California

eagles-hotel-california1976
The Eagles
best known album is similar in shape to One Of These Nights, with long-winded songs wrestling with questions of fame and debauchery. Bernie Leadon had now left the band, and was replaced by James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh, who supplied the muscular guitar riff for ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ and moved the band further away from their country roots.

Written by the dominant songwriting duo of Frey and Don Henley, ‘Wasted Time’ is a superb showcase for the grittier, soulful side of Henley’s voice. Constructed with simple, intersecting piano chords, string lines and a trademark clean, straightforward melody, the track demonstrates that sometimes the magic of the Eagles wasn’t in what they played; it was in the taste and restraint they showed in not overplaying, letting the chords, melody and vocal deliver the true intent of a song.

The three big hits are all at the start, and the rest of the album is more mellow – even the rocker ‘Victim Of Love’ is slow, Featuring an intro from Felder that stutters and snarls, “Victim of Love” paints a dim portrait of a desperate search for late-night companionship – propelled by a series of nasty retorts courtesy of Felder. The guitarist also co-wrote this track, . Speaking of ‘Victim Of Love’, there’s a charming story where the song’s main writer, Don Felder, was scheduled to sing lead vocals, but was taken out to lunch by the group’s manager, while Henley completed the lead vocal behind his back.

The Eagles closed out their most classic album with ‘The Last Resort,’ an epic track that presented the entire world as a resort being destroyed by the greedy, self-serving and short-sighted machinations of the human race. A classic Henley rant, the song was a true ballad with no chorus, centered around a solo Henley vocal. Any track that manages to combine Henley’s extreme misanthropy with such an alluring pop arrangement amply deserves to close out


On The Border

eagles-on-the-border1974
On The Border
 is my favourite Eagles record because it captures the band in a state of flux between their early country sound and the more mainstream rock of their later work. It’s their most energetic work, and if there are throwaways like the Jackson Browne written ‘James Dean’, there are charming album cuts like the almost power-pop of Meisner’s ‘Is It True?’, Leadon’s Gram Parson’s tribute ‘My Man’, and the country/rock hybrid ‘Midnight Flyer’. New guitarist Don Felder adds punch to ‘Already Gone’ No other moment on this album arguably captures guitarist Don Felder’s debut as an Eagle so powerfully . ‘Good Day In Hell’, A key moment in Eagles history arrives, as Felder is asked to join in as a sessions guest on slide guitar for a Glenn Frey-sung album cut. After this sizzling, Allman Brothers-inspired performance in fact, the very next day Felder was asked to join the Eagles. while the Henley sung ‘The Best Of My Love’ took the group to mega-stardom.

The energetic, “James Dean” a guitar-driven rock track follows along the same lines as more prominent hits like ‘Already Gone,’ with its shuffle pattern rhythms and trade off lead guitars. Written by Frey, Henley, Jackson Browneand J.D. Souther — whose contributions to the Eagles were so large that he should be credited as an additional member — the song pays tribute to the movie icon, describing him as “Too fast to live, too young to die.”

‘Best of My Love’ A song that serves as a reflection upon what should have been, the track and namely its vocalist Don Henley also shares an optimistic view of what could be in the future if the parties involved are willing to put in the time. This contrite ballad would give the Eagles their first No. 1 single.

The track ‘Ol’ 55′ is one dramatic example of the Eagles taking the work of another writer and delivering it in its highest form. Written by Tom Waits, ‘Ol’ 55′ was a fan favorite, but the Eagles’ recording surpassed his version vocally and instrumentally, using simple piano chords, pedal steel, alternating Frey and Henley lead vocals, and trademark big harmony stacks that make the song into an instant Eagles classic .

The Line Up changes

Late in Glenn Frey’s life, the Eagles revolved around the axis of his partnership with Don Henley. This complete guide to Eagles lineup changes makes clear, however, that the band didn’t start that way – and it won’t end that way either.

Their self-titled, 10-song debut featured eight songs that were written or co-written by others. In fact, Frey and Henley didn’t collaborate on an Eagles song until 1973’s Desperado LP. Fast forward more than four decades, and the Eagles could be found continuing after Frey’s sudden passing, with his son Deacon taking over alongside stalwart members Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit.

In between, Bernie Leadon and Don Felder made important contributions. For the country rock-leaning Leadon, that meant playing a key role in their earliest albums, where he co-wrote songs like “Witchy Woman,” “Saturday Night” and the title track from 1974’s On the Border. Felder’s arrival helped the Eagles transition from those rootsy sounds toward the more rock-oriented era with Walsh and Randy Meisner, and then Schmit added a touch of soaring romanticism: Meisner was the voice behind “Take It to the Limit” and “Try and Love Again,” while Schmit voiced “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

When Felder was fired in 2001, only two members of the EaglesFrey and Henley – had enjoyed longer tenures in the band, and they dominated the next era. Long Road Out of Eden arrived six years later as the Eagles‘ first LP of all-new material since 1979, and the duo wrote or co-wrote 14 of its 19 tracks. That made it all the more surprising when the Eagles decided to go on following Frey’s death in 2016.

1971-74: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

The Eagles found early fame as the epitome of California’s new country-rock movement. Ironically enough, they were nothing of the sort. Frey and Henley were transplants from Michigan and Texas, respectively. Meisner and Leadon were from Minnesota and Nebraska. (Only Timothy B. Schmit, who arrived later, grew up in California. He’s an Oakland native.)

1974-75: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

Felder was introduced as a full-fledged member on 1975’s ‘One of These Nights,’ but his Eagles debut actually came a year earlier, on “Good Day in Hell” from 1974’s ‘On the Border.’ Felder also took over for his lone vocal (on the song “Visions”) during this period, as the Eagles moved determinedly away from their countrified early style.

1975-77: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh was the Eagles’ rock-chart rocket fuel. He completed the band’s musical restructuring, bringing a gritty rock edge to a group best known for peaceful, easy music. Something clicked. His first album with the Eagles, 1976’s ‘Hotel California,’ became one of the best-selling in history.

1978-80: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh Asylum

The Eagles not only spent three years but also a then-amazing $800,000 trying to complete a follow up to ‘Hotel California,’ often finding that sessions for the album that would become ‘The Long Run’ would break down over a single word. By the time it was over, the Eagles were headed for a long break.

1994–2001: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

After almost 15 years apart, the Eagles reunited for the appropriately titled ‘Hell Freezes Over.’ This celebrated homecoming was actually sparked by a gutsy request from country star Travis Tritt, who asked the original Eagles to portray his backing band in a video for his early ’90s remake of ‘Take It Easy.’ Trouble, unfortunately, was brewing once more.

2001-12: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

They’d previously divided all band revenue equally, but the Eagles reunion reportedly saw Frey and Henley demanding a new structure favoring their chart-proven partnership. Don Felder initially signed off, but in the ensuing years, arguments over money only worsened. His dismissal pared the Eagles down to a foursome.

2013-16: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

Early member Bernie Leadon returned for a series of well-received tours in celebration of ‘The History of the Eagles’ documentary. (Leadon’s feature moment was “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” which he co-wrote with Gene Clark of the Byrds.) Those shows lasted until the death of Glenn Frey, who’d suffered for years with serious stomach issues. His death appeared to mark the end of the journey for the Eagles, but then something surprising happened.

2016: Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

The Eagles and Jackson Browne remembered their late former songwriting partner Glenn Frey at the 2016 Grammys, performing a reverent take on “Take It Easy.” Browne and Frey composed the song, which later became the opening track for the Eagles’ 1972 self-titled debut – and the band’s first hit single. Henley said at the time that this would be the Eagles’ last-ever performance.

2017: Deacon Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

After some initial waffling, the Eagles finally confirmed in early 2017 that Glenn Frey’s son would replace his late father when they take the stage for a pair of summer festival dates. Deacon Frey was set to make his Eagles debut at the Classic East and Classic West music festivals that July. The remaining Eagles earlier sang “Peaceful Easy Feeling” with him at a private memorial service for Glenn Frey in February 2016.

2017-Present: Deacon Frey, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

Veteran country artist Vince Gill joined the Eagles in June 2017. He was set to split vocal duties with the younger Frey on the late Glenn Frey’s songs. Eagles co-founder Don Henley hinted that this version of the Eagles could continue past their appearances at the Classic East and Classic West festivals in the summer of 2017.

‘History of the Eagles’ DVD

The three-hour ‘History of the Eagles’ documentary is an entertaining if slightly sanitized trip through the career of one of rock’s most popular groups.

The first two hours, is a focus on the group’s formation, rise to super-stardom and dramatic breakup, while the following one-hour episode picks the story up with the band’s 1994 reunion and continues to the present day.

We see how a surprising range of stars — Kenny Rogers, Bob Seger, Linda Ronstadt — helped the group during their early years, and how Glenn Frey learned to write songs partially by hearing Jackson Browne toil endlessly on songs like ‘Doctor My Eyes’ day after day in the apartment above his own.

It isn’t long till the Eagles have conquered the world, and we’re off into the “third encore” rock and roll excess portion of the tale. It’s also here that the first sign of inner-band conflict turns up, as Joe Walsh is brought in to replace original guitarist Bernie Leadon as Frey and Don Henley seek to add more of a rock edge to the band’s sound.

The eventual departures of bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Don Felder are addressed in much harsher terms, with the former essentially dismissed as a crybaby and the latter icily referred to as “Mr. Felder” by Henley. We learn about the fight over who should sing ‘Victim of Love,’ and even get to hear actual on-stage audio recordings of the threats between Felder and Frey from the famous 1980 Long Beach concert that essentially ended the group.

It’s obviously a current lineup-sanctioned documentary, but Leadon and Felder (who gets touchingly emotional) are allowed to state their side of the story in present-day interviews, and Henley and Frey are pretty open about their desire to control the band and the effect that had on the relationships with their departed band mates.

There are entertaining backstage and studio video clips from throughout the band’s history and a smattering of vintage live footage. If this collection ever makes it to the home video market it would be nice to see more songs played live in full, especially from the old shows. But in general ‘History of the Eagles’ accomplishes its modest goals in a completely satisfactory manner.

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