Thursday, December 8, 2016


On December 8, 1976 The Eagles released Hotel California, an album that sold more than 32 million copies worldwide. There are three schools of thought about The Eagles: that they always sucked, that they were always great, or they were only decent after Joe Walsh joined them.His lead guitar dual with Don Felder at the end of the title track is certainly one of the highlights of the band's entire career.

 Don Henley has described Hotel California as a concept album-- a reflection on America in its bicentennial year: a weird country obsessed with sex, violence, fast cars and little care for the environment. Perhaps it was a reflection on a band burned out by five years of non-stop touring. Glenn Frey has said the album "explores the underbelly of success, the darker side of paradise."

 I probably have a soft spot in my heart for "New Kid in Town" ( with Joe Walsh trading his electric guitar for a subdued electric piano), because I was the new kid at my middle school. Not that everybody was talking about me. Nor did I ever catch anyone walking like me.

1001 Albums You Must Hear puts words to a point I also was trying to figure out how to say:

In many ways Hotel California represents everything that punk came to destroy : glassily perfect production, harmonized guitar solos, and "themes".

Rolling Stone's Charley Waters  gave the album a mixed review:

Hotel California showcases both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situated rock, but more strikingly its lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself. Don Henley, handling five of the eight vocal tracks, expresses well the weary disgust of a victim (or observer) of the region's luxurious excess. 

 Yet the record's firm musical bases cannot be overlooked. Bernie Leadon departed and Joe Walsh arrived; the Eagles have abandoned most of their bluegrass and country and western claims in favor of a more overt rock stance. Walsh's exact effect isn't always obvious, but his record does have subtleties and edges that have sometimes eluded the group. The title cut, for example, incorporates a pinch of reggae so smoothly that it's more felt than heard. "Life in the Fast Lane," propelled by Walsh's guitar and Glenn Frey's clavinet, rocks like it really means it; "Victim of Love" works similarly, though at a slower tempo. Henley is superb on all three. 

The frequent orchestration, however, doesn't always fit. "Pretty Maids All in a Row" employs glistening, high-pitched string synthesizer to good effect, adding a reserved tension to the slowly paced arrangement; but the approach fails on "Wasted Time," an overarranged wash embodying the worst of rock-cum-Hollywood sensibilities. What does work is the elegant fullness of "The Last Resort," whose concluding words sum up Hotel California: "You call some place Paradise...kiss it goodbye."

And from the dean Robert Christgau 's B review:

Speaking strictly as a nonfan, I'd grant that this is their most substantial if not their most enjoyable LP -- they couldn't have written any of the songs on side one, or even the pretentious and condescending "The Last Resort," without caring about their California down deep. But though one strength of the lyrics is that they don't exclude the Eagles from purgatory-on-earth, Don Henley is incapable of conveying a mental state as complex as self-criticism -- he'll probably sound smug croaking out his famous last words ("Where's the Coke?"). I'd also be curious to know what Mexican-Americans think of the title tune's Spanish accent.

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