Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Eagles

  • Eagles [Asylum, 1972] B
  • Desperado [Asylum, 1973] C
  • On the Border [Asylum, 1974] B+
  • One of These Nights [Asylum, 1975] C+
  • Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) [Asylum, 1976] B
  • Hotel California [Asylum, 1976] B
  • The Long Run [Asylum, 1979] C+
  • Eagles Live [Asylum, 1980] C-
  • Greatest Hits Volume 2 [Asylum, 1982] B-
  • Hell Freezes Over [Giant, 1994] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Eagles [Asylum, 1972]
These guys certainly boogie more than the bluegrass sellouts who populate the vaguely country-oriented mainstream of contemporary American rock, and they certainly write more memorable songs. But this culminates the reactionary individualism that country-rock has come to epitomize in the counterculture. What's worse, the country orientation bespeaks not roots but a lack of them, so that in the end the product is suave and synthetic--brilliant, but false. And not always all that brilliant, either. B

Desperado [Asylum, 1973]
With its barstool-macho equation of gunslinger and guitarschlonger, its on-the-road misogyny, its playing-card metaphors, and its paucity of decent songs, this soundtrack to an imaginary Sam Peckinpah movie is "concept" at its most mindless. I don't know, fellas, how do ya "tell the dancer from the dance"? Have to get people off their asses first. C

On the Border [Asylum, 1974]
The critic in me has no doubt that this is their best album, although he notes that the male-bonding songs (which articulate an affirmative ethos) have more to say than the female-separation songs (which rationalize hostility into pity/contempt). And when the critic plays the record, the listener enjoys the Gram Parsons tribute "My Man," the MOR-oriented "Best of My Love," the vaguely anti-authoritarian "On the Border," the permanently star-struck "James Dean," and several others. But the listener is too turned off by what the band represents ever to put the thing on voluntarily. B+

One of These Nights [Asylum, 1975]
Put on your neckboots and wade through the slickshit and you may get a kick from the lyrics--these boys like lotsa malaise with their mayonnaise. But in rock and roll the difference between tragedy and soap opera is usually the acting, here so completely immersed in stringing sings that even the aptest phrases are reduced to the clichés they restate. C+

Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) [Asylum, 1976]
Hum 'em high--ten poptunes from the Four Lads of I'm-okay I'm-okay are probably a must for those who've concluded they're geniuses by listening to the radio. I happen to remember that what makes On the Border a decent album isn't their "victory song" (over guess what kind of person) but the songs to, about, and by other men, and that the only other decent cut on last year's breakthrough was the one that told a hard truth about the artists. B

Hotel California [Asylum, 1976]
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 theme down deep. But though one strength of these 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. B

The Long Run [Asylum, 1979]
Not as country-rocky as you might expect--the Eagles are pros who adapt to the times, and they make the music tough. I actually enjoy maybe half of these songs until I come into contact with the conceited, sentimental woman-haters who are doing the singing. I mean, these guys think punks are cynical and antilife? Guys who put down "the king of Hollywood" because his dick isn't as big as John David Souther's? C+

Eagles Live [Asylum, 1980]
New originals: 0*. New covers: 1**. Rerecording quotient: -.2***. Spontaneity quotient: -.5***, *"Life's Been Good" doesn't count. **Washed-out "Seven Bridges Road." ***On a scale of +1 to -1. C-

Greatest Hits Volume 2 [Asylum, 1982]
I admit it--this made my A shelves after the Bellamy Brothers softened me up. But that was unjust to the Bellamy Brothers. The Eagles are slimy not smarmy, pulchritudinous not purty, multiplatinum titans not singles artists, pretentious cynics not small-time con men, Topanga Canyon not San Fernando Valley. Sure their tunesmanship, zeitgeistheit, and guitar goodies were fun on the radio. But the next time I weeded my shelves, they were tracked to the reference collection. B-

Hell Freezes Over [Giant, 1994] Dud

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