Top Fifty 11: Eagles – Desperado, 1973

[Originally posted June 2013]

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Pretty Is As Pretty Was

I’m working my way through the fascinating Eagles documentary History of the Eagles, The Story of an American Band shown recently on the BBC. I’ve just watched the section where it features the recording of their second album Desperado, and this is the album that introduced me to the band, having pretty much missed their first. It did then and does now appeal to everything I love about this country-harmony sound, a style Glen Frey in the documentary refers to disparagingly as ‘Beatles-Country’ as dictated [to a shared degree I think if the band is totally honest] by then producer Glyn Jones. The criticism is made because both Frey and Henley wanted a heavier sound, which they did move on to with their next On The Border where production duties were soon transferred to Bill Szymczyk [and the stylistic dichotomy between Bill and Glyn is an intriguing as well as mildly comic revelation in the programme].

Whilst interesting, these relatively minor schisms in style are meaningless in as much as I am a continuing fan of their oeuvre, but this second album is in my Top Fifty as both introduction to and exemplification of their beautiful harmonising and songwriting. The fact that JD Souther and Jackson Browne also still contribute to that songwriting on this album [well, on Doolin-Dalton] is significant, being a fan of their work too, as platitudinous as that statement and proclivity is. The point is I am with Glyn Jones on thinking this is the sound that defines the Eagles.

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The ‘outlaw’ concept with album cover and other photos added an attractive if ultimately tenuous connection with notions of being alternative at the time, but I do recall playing the album over and over, as with their next two, for those glorious vocals. Pretty yes, but pretty damn fine then and now.

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