Review Summary: Another fairly standard release by the Eagles. They wear their southern influences on their sleeves too often, and its clear that the band was still just a singles band at this point in their career.
Following of their release of Desperado
, the Eagles
found themselves about to break into superstardom. Their southern style arena rock was selling out concerts and after a few hits the band was in the limelight. Yet, the thing about the Eagles is that they were a singles band. Sure there were nice songs on their albums that weren't played on the radio, but they always came across as a second thought. The Eagles third LP On the Border
was no attempt to change this, and although it flows better and it doesn't show the band trying to breakaway from the western tinge of Desperado
as much as we all hoped. They still release a compilation of good songs with some added fat around the hips.
On the Border
finds the Eagles finally expanding their sound into a more mainstream market than they already were. Don Henley, Glenn Frey and company really know their way around their instruments. They know music theory, and they know what sounds good on an acoustic guitar and banjo. On the Border
seems to exhibit some of the later flare that would make One of These Nights
and the legendary Hotel California
so classic. Nice hooks, pretty ballads, some country rock, and great string arrangements. The bass guitar is always audible throughout this album, and it's one of the highlights musically for the album. It has plenty of shining moments and nice lines, even though it always plays a supporting role. Henley and his drum set will never light the world on fire, but it fills where it needs to be filled. He always keeps a nice and clean beat, getting the job done without drawing too much attention away from the guitar and vocals. Glenn Frey and Don Felder on lead guitar never burst out into rapid solos or shred on some improvised jam session, but the few times they do, the solos are slower, more emotional, and always well thought out.The album highlights everything thats good and bad about the classic band. It has great songs that overshadow the rest, and throw a little southern twang in there and we have On the Border
To start off the album on a good note, Already Gone
starts out with a southern guitar line as the bass and other guitar join in and the song spins off in its upbeat direction. The verses aren't that amazing, but its laid back, Eagles-esque progression is very nice. The chorus starts, and is clearly what the legendary Eagles are great at. The guitars begin a new and welcome riff as the rest of the band joins with Glenn Frey in singing "And I'm Allllreaddddddy Goooone, And I’m feeeeeelin’ strooong". Glenn Frey's lead vocal work is very strong, and his signature guitar style is shown in the solo. It's not necessarily quick fretwork, but very melodic and upbeat. Being quite pleasurable to listen to, it contributes a nice, welcome taste of what Hotel California
will be like in a few years.
The title track, On the Border
, is very bluesy. Its beginning power chords set up something a little heavier, before the band changes pace with the bass switching to an almost funky line and the guitar follows suit on a blues style riff. The influences are worn on their sleeves until the chorus until more classical Eagles songwriting is shown with the chorus. The song in itself isn't groundbreaking or immeasurably intricate, but once again it showcases the Eagles ability to write catchy songs and lyrics. The blues influence is also quite refreshing.
The remaining standout tracks are the two great ballads Ol' 55
and The Best of My Love
. With the latter being the best track of the entire album. Ol' 55
(a Tom Waits cover) is very nice, holds the more souther feel and is fairly standard verse chorus verse chorus. It's chorus is beautiful, with the incorporation of the piano being a very nice touch throughout the song. Its very slow, with a small pick up when the band begins to sing in unison, "And now the suuun's cooomin' up, I'm riiiidin' with Laaady Luck, Freeeeway caaars and trucks". During the verses the guitars hold long notes with an almost country style. Don Henley gives the lead vocals and a fairly nice beat.
The Best of My Love
then finishes the album, being the other outstanding ballad. It's the most well known song off the album, and one of the Eagles' most famous songs ever written. Its very chill, and its acoustic guitar is what drives the song. Theres a bass and slide guitar in the background, but they fill more of a secondary part to the acoustic and vocals. Once again, Henley takes the lead vocals, and puts out a quite good performance. Theres less country with more soft rock in the song, what the Eagles are the best at. The Best of My Love
is very solemn in nature, with reflective lyrics about the recent loss of a lover, and how Henley gave her "the best of his love". Sure its a little corny, but hey...its a damn good song. It makes me just want to close my eyes. My only peeve with the song would be that it fades out. I would have preferred the track to end rather than fade.
Well, with that aside, the Eagles also know the meaning of country-style filler. James Dean
is quick for the Eagles, but it is plagued by annoying, repetitive lyrics. Hence hearing "James Dean" around two dozen times. Its not bad by any means, but unless you're doing your homework, you're probably gonna skip it.
There's You Never Cry Like a Lover
which gets the worst chorus award. It starts out quite promising with some good piano notes and a bluesy guitar line, but then it fades back to just the acoustic guitar and Don Henley singing. The drum work is quite nice, and the song writing isn't bad by any means, but telling a woman she doesn't "smile like a lover" is quite annoying. This is a great example of a fairly good song with bad lyrics gone a wry. I was hoping that "you were the one" too...unfortunately not.
Finally, Midnight Flyer
took no thought at all. Sure, the Eagles can pull off some country influence, but this IS a country song, and it DOESN'T WORK. The band says "Ewwwww, Midnight Flyer," during the chorus. Yeah, I say the exact same thing when it comes on with those lame twin banjo riffs. I mean dammit Randy Meisner, just shut the hell up.
The remaining songs are fairly nice as well, filling in the same theme as one of the previous songs mentioned, just not as well. They take a backseat to the rest of the album and I often find myself zoning out while listening to them. They often lack the emotion or hook of the previous songs, and they seem like a second thought after the Eagles had their singles recorded.
When it comes down to this album, On the Border
has some very nice tunes and catchy hooks, but all in all, the great songwriting ability of the Eagles doesn't always shine through. Too often do they find themselves rehashing the same old material, or they exhibit their obligation to a southern jam. Intended to be fun, they often drag and bore, losing at the song's most obvious purpose. The album is also often plagued with clichéd, unoriginal lyrics about love. Being from a time where love and women are all that is sung about in popular music, the Eagles contribute yet another album that would have been lost with the test of time had it not been for their future releases and great singles.
-On the Border
-The Best of My Love