Not being a particular fan of The Eagles, I have only ever owned one LP, ‘On the Border’ but now I have the complete set of all six 70s releases from their debut up to the frankly dreadful ‘The Long Run’. Has time mellowed my indifference or do they now strike a chord? Well, yes and no. Listening to these albums now in chronological order it is easy to see how the conversion from ex-Linda Ronstadt country backing band to full blown stadium rock ‘n’ roll outfit occurred. Whilst there is a gradual shift over time, the most marked change in style happens about the time of my only purchase, ‘On the Border’. It is here that the mix of Leadon-led country and Frey/Henley rock is at its most divisive following the arrival of additional guitarist Don Felder – a move that eventually precipitated the departure of Bernie Leadon.
Having listened to all six albums, my overall impression is that The Eagles were in essence a great singles band. Each album has 2/3 stand out tracks and all of them were released as singles. Even the Hotel California album itself, which I have now listened to for the first time, is little more than the title track with a load of so-so other tracks (I can feel the comments coming already!). In many ways I am a bit disappointed by this as I expected to find many hidden gems amongst the non-single tracks but I’ve been a bit under whelmed to tell the truth. Nevertheless, the singles still stand the test of time and show why The Eagles were such a revered band so I think I’ll stick with them.
I have made an ipod playlist of about a dozen of my favourites and it bears a very strong resemblance to most of the ‘Best Of’ compilations already on the market. The only major addition I have made is to include Bernie Leadon’s tribute to Gram Parsons, ‘My Man’ which is one of the best Country songs I have ever heard and cannot understand why it doesn’t feature on any Eagles compilation.
So, are The Eagles the American Madness, a great singles band with a series of less than great albums? Discuss.