The most successful band to emerge from the country rock genre, the Eagles gradually shifted to mainstream rock as a result of personnel moves and changes in public taste. Of greater significance, they created a body of work during the 1970s unequaled in terms of quality by any American music act.
The Eagles originated with the shared vision of guitarist Glenn Frey and drummer Don Henley when both were part of Linda Ronstadt’s backup band. Two other musicians hired by Ronstadt—ex-Poco bassist Randy Meisner and lead guitarist Bernie Leadon, formerly with the Dillards and the Flying Burrito Brothers—agreed to join the enterprise and, with David Geffen serving as manager, the Eagles obtained a recording contract from Asylum.
Recorded in England with the assistance of veteran producer Glyn Johns, the debut LP, The Eagles (Asylum 5054; 1972; #22), exhibited a strong country rock bent built around lush vocal harmonies and Leadon’s facility on a variety of string instruments. Whereas The Eagles succeeded largely due to three strong singles—"Take It Easy" (Asylum 11005; 1972; #12), "Witchy Woman" (Asylum 11008; 1972; #9), and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" (Asylum 11013; 1972; #22)—the follow-up LP, Desperado (Asylum 5068; 1973; #41), a concept album concerned with the Old West’s Doolin-Dalton gang that lacked Top Forty material, was only moderately successful.
The decision to hire producer Bill Szymczyk during the recording of On the Border (Asylum 1004; 1974; #17; included #1 hit, "Best Of My Love," Asylum 45218)—along with the addition of guitarist Don Felder—added greater polish as well as dynamic range and texture to the outstanding melodies and intelligent lyrics typifying the band’s material. One Of These Nights (Asylum 1039; 1975; #1)—which included the hit singles "One Of These Nights" (Asylum 45257; 1975; #1), "Lyin’ Eyes" (Asylum 45279; 1975; #2), and "Take It to the Limit" (Asylum 45293; 1975; #4)—propelled the Eagles into the upper pantheon of rock stardom. The recruitment of former James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh to replace the departing Leadon resulted in a tougher rock sound on Hotel California (Asylum 1084; 1976; #1); the lyricism of "New Kid in Town" (Asylum 45373; 1977; #1) evoked the early Eagles sans roots references, while the extended guitar jam on the title track (Asylum 45386; 1977; #1) literally defines 1970s American rock.
Although merely consolidating earlier experiments, the final releases from the band’s first phase, The Long Run (Asylum 52181; 1979; #1)—which included three Top Ten hits: "Heartache Tonight" (Asylum 46545; 1979; #1). "The Long Run" (Asylum 46569; 1979; #8), and "I Can’t Tell You Why" (Asylum 46608; 1980; #8)—and Eagles Live (Asylum 705; 1980; #6), also achieved platinum success. Core members Henley and Frey opted to dissolve the Eagles at this point in order to pursue solo careers. Despite comments over the years that a reunion would never take place, Henry, Frey, Walsh, Felder, and Timothy B. Schmitt (who’d replaced Meisner in 1977) got together for a 1994 tour. The album, Hell Freezes Over (Geffen 24725; 1994; #1) featuring songs from an MTV performance plus four new studio tracks. Rumors continue to the present day regarding a new LP of original material and further tours.
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