On the Border (1974)


 
1. Already Gone 2. You Never Cry Like a Lover 3. Midnight Flyer 4. My Man 5. On the Border 6. James Dean 7. Ol' 55 8. Is it True 9. A Good Day in Hell 10.Best of My Love

 

Fortunately The Eagles didn't suffer any sort of sophomore slump with their second, semi-concept album Desperado, but they made several changes for this follow up - perhaps to keep the momentum going and/or keep things fresh. First and foremost, rock guitarist Don Felder was added to the lineup as the fifth member. Felder had played on both of the first two albums, so his strengths were already known by the other band members. This was seen as an attempt to be more "rock" and less "country". Interesting that on his freshman effort, he was yet to have a writing credit. Then, a new producer, Bill Szymczyk was brought in to further distance themselves from their original sound. They would continue their partnership with Szymczyk throughout the decade.

What the final result ended up being, was something that definitely had the band's formula, but ended up sounding very pristine and polished. That in itself is not a bad thing - since they would still have a ton of success in their all too-short near future. The downside to this album is that it just has one too many mediocre songs to sit side by side with most of their other, nearly flawless work. You could look at this as a "growth" album, where in some cases they sacrificed quality for production.

You wouldn't know any of this from the first single Already Gone which sounds awfully similar to Take it Easy and Peaceful Easy Feeling from the debut Eagles album. Of course, with new member Felder's crunching guitar throughout, it definitely is a harder song, which was probably the point behind the whole thing anyway. For an example of how this band could pull of a "polished" product and still sound incredible, one need not look further than the follow up single, Best of My Love which easily cruised up all the way to the number one spot.

Some of the other highlights featured are the title track, On the Border which has enough of the Western theme that could have easily fit on Desperado and fan favorite Ol' 55 that was written and originally recorded by Tom Waits. Midnight Flyer shows off a bit of Randy Meisner's high pitched folksy voice amongst some chuggin' banjos, and Good Day in Hell is another of the more successful "rockin" songs by this band.

The rest of the album just doesn't have the same momentum, nor the same memorable hooks. In many cases it just sounds like they're trying a bit too hard. Even the minor hit James Dean sounds a little hoaky to me - a song that seems to focus more on the subject matter rather than the tune itself.

The album was generally well received, and definitely has more ups than downs. This was also a crucial step for the band to further the evolution of their sound and style. Plus, it's easy to forget that this was only the third album by these guys. It always seems a bit unfair when a "good" album such as this one is forced to sit side by side with classic after classic which is what The Eagles mostly delivered in their relatively short history.

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