Review by David Bowling
Late 1976 found The Eagles reigning as one of the most popular bands in the world. Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), released the previous February, was well on its way to becoming the biggest seller in United States music history. Hotel California, issued on December 6th, would build upon that legacy.
The album would be their most successful studio release. It would spawn two Number One singles, earn two Grammy awards including Record of the Year, and eventually sell sixteen million copies in the United States.
Change was in the air for the Eagles. Bernie Leadon had departed and taken his soft country/rock inclinations with him. His replacement was rock guitarist extraordinaire Joe Walsh, who would change the group’s sound and provide a formidable presence over the years ahead. The added bonus was that his vocals would fit their harmonies just right. Hotel California would also mark Glenn Frey and Don Henley’s official domination of the group as they co-wrote seven of the album’s nine tracks.
It there is one song that shows off Joe Walsh’s arrival it’s “Life In The Fast Lane.” The lead-off riff makes it quickly apparent that there is a new guitarist in town. While Don Henley’s vocal explores the lyrics of a ’70’s lifestyle, it is the guitar of Walsh that makes the track memorable. His other major contribution was “Pretty Maids All In A Row.” This track, written with long time partner Joe Vitale, sounds more like a solo effort and is very seventies as the guitar shares equal billing with the synthesizers.
The two signature songs were both huge hits. “Hotel California” would include memorable solos by Walsh and Felder, demonstrating just how technically adept they could be both separately and together. A classic Don Henley vocal floats above the mix. “New Kid In Town” is basically a Glenn Frey production as he provides the lead vocal and a fine acoustic guitar performance.
“Try and Love Again” was written and sung by Randy Meisner and would prove to be his swan song with the group. I’m not sure of his reason for leaving the Eagles but his contributions cannot be underestimated. This mid-tempo rocker finds him at his best one last time.
Many people regard Hotel California as the apex of their recording career. It would show a lyrical depth while maintaining the perfect harmonies, musicianship, and production for which they were so noted. The catchiness of the music combined with the seriousness of its themes makes it memorable, entertaining, and enduring.
Glenn Frey: 1948-2016