His recent and very sudden passing didn’t just bring to an end the incredible life of 'Eagles' founder Glen Frey. It ended a musical journey that began in 1971, had an acrimonious gap in the middle, a triumphant final act and produced some of the greatest albums of all time, with one in particular still a shining monument to the craft of musical storytelling.
Hotel California came along in 1976 and while it was the Eagles’ 5th studio album and the band were already well established as a staple of the American rock music scene, it felt like this was the album where it all finally came together. While the product on vinyl was as tight as a drum things could not have been less harmonious in the studio. Don Henley has stated in numerous interviews since, that it was during the production ofHotel California the group grew apart as 'collaborators and friends'. This growing apart led to one of rock music's most famous breakups and most triumphant reconciliations.
The album received mixed reviews at the time of its release but still garnered five Grammy nominations, including a win for 'Record of the Year' and with a classic array of singles and album tracks it’s no surprise.
This was a time of transition for The Eagles, in terms of both its musical direction and its lineup.
The replacement of Bernie Leadon with rock guitarist Joe Walsh gave the band an edgier sound and his guitar riffs with fellow lead Don Felder were a highlight.
It also marked the swansong for bass player Randy Meisner who decided to leave to devote more time to his family
As one listens to the track listing on the album, the question is entitled to be asked… were they even country rock anymore?
Hotel California, Victim of Love, and Life In The Fast Lane were all great stand alone rock tracks, punctuated by gutsy guitar riffs and solos, along with an occasional rock duel for good measure.
That aside, the band were smart enough not to alienate lovers of vintage Eagles with the more mellow sounds ofNew Kid In Town, Try And Love Again, and ironically, the most solemn of all, Joe Walsh’s pennedPretty Maids All In A Row.
Hotel California stands as one of The Eagles greatest statements, but sadly, an artistic pinnacle they would never reach again. But to be fair, once you’ve reached the pinnacle of Everest, where do you go?