The Eagles’ original vinyl Asylum Records catalog, including each of their albums between 1972 and 1980, will be released as the Eagles Box, a limited-edition, nine-disc set including the debut of their “Please Come Home For Christmas/Funky New Year” single on CD.
The Eagles Box will showcase each of their first seven albums, from 1972’s self-titled debut to the band’s 1980 two-disc Eagles Live. Each disc will be packaged in a CD replica of the original vinyl album (including original album cover art and original posters) and will be enclosed in a retro, gatefold jacket. The track listings duplicate the original albums. A limited edition of 20,000 numbered units of the Eagles Box will be available in the U.S. beginning March 15, 2005, for a suggested retail price of $129.98 ($116.99 at Amazon).
The Eagles continue their “Farewell I” tour this March and April.
The Eagles evolved from a highly personal, touchingly sincere Western-rock band (“country-rock” is a misnomer) to a collection of jaded superstars. This evolution played against the band’s strengths and shined harsh light on their weaknesses. Ask any filmmaker: lighting is everything.
From the Eagles’ original position as a pleasant, unimposing, and lightweight outfit, they could slip in truths without seeming heavy, contrived or pretentious. They had charm. By the time of their highly publicized recruitment of guitar hero Joe Walsh, the Eagles could no longer creep up on anyone.
The Eagles went from overachieving upstarts to defending champions. This is a familiar transformation in sports: the underdog rises through the pack and becomes champ. Every other team gets particularly geared up to play the champions – every team sends its best pitcher against them, even on three days rest. Beating the champs gives a struggling team hope.
The defending champion mentality affects the champs as well: they feel the pressure of heightened expectations. They don’t play to win, they play not to lose. The joy of playing gets lost somewhere. The team may bring in high-priced hired hands to shore up perceived weaknesses, but they also may forget how they got to the top in the first place.
All of the above happened to the Eagles, the first rock band of the free agent era. The problem wasn’t Walsh per se, it was the “now they’ll really achieve greatness” mentality that accompanied him into the group. There was an ease to the pre-Walsh Eagles. They moved as a unit. They functioned as a pack. The latter-day Eagles felt more like high-priced session men backing up each other’s projects than a group of peers.
The band’s sound changed along with its mentality. Their pre-Walsh albums (up through One of These Nights) breathed. There are spaces in the surface of the music which afford clean, dry ventilation, like cotton or fine spun wool. The holes closed up on Hotel California and the material didn’t breathe: it was slicker but caused discomfort in the long run.
The band changed stylistically as well. When they traded the bluegrass-based Bernie Leadon for the ’70s-rock based Joe Walsh, they lost their contact with the desert: their source of high-lonesome inspiration. Gone were the banjos, the pedal steel, the fancy finger picking that informed even their most un-Western material. The falsetto R&B vocals of “One of These Nights” were “Western” R&B vocals.
When the Eagles looked out over the city lights of L.A. in “Lyin’ Eyes” or “Hollywood Waltz’” they saw the city for what it really was: an irrigated desert. They saw the ancient smoke of the indian’s campfires backing up against the San Gabriel Mountains. The Eagles traded this view for a windowless luxury suite at the Hotel California.
When I listen to to warm dry breezes of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” or “Tequila Sunrise,” or “Lyin’ Eyes,” I remember an incident from my childhood: When I was 10 my family lived a few doors down from an open field of Southern California sage, tumbleweeds, sun-beaten dust and desert critters. Kids rode dirt bikes and flew kites and went on hikes and searched for old spent shells from the WWll firing range. We lived where Southern California confronted its former self.
One fall day, I went to the field to practice my boomerang – the real thing that my grandmother had brought back from Australia. I gave the stick a mighty heave and it swung out in a beautiful, soaring arc. Unfortunately my trajectory was off and the boomerang landed in a forbiddingly tangled mess of prickly brush. Heedlessly I charged through the crackling brown tangle, and spotting the hole that the boomerang had neatly sliced through the brush, I reached down to claim my prize.
I was momentarily confused when my hand connected with something smooth, firm and circular. Then it rattled. I nearly yanked my arm out of the socket as I extracted it from the hissing brush in an exaggerated umpire’s “you’re out” gesture. To my added horror, the rattler had lodged a fang in my shirtsleeve and it came twisting out of the tangle following my arm.
Freaked, I swung my arm over my head in a feverish calf-roping motion and the writhing menace broke free, pinwheeled through the air and landed with a pronounced thud somewhere behind me.
I sprinted all the way home – feet barely touching the ground – slammed the door behind me, and threw up. The desert is not to be trifled with. The field was replaced some years later by a luxury mobile home park with begonias and imported palms: a mobile Hotel California – pretty good analog for your Eagles before and after.
Though the hits collections are fine, for the real fan the context of each of these albums is worth having, although the price is a bit steep.