Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975
Asylum Records, 1976
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/27/2000
I find it very hard to write about albums like Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 by the Eagles. Maybe part of it is because such albums have become cultural phenomenons -- after all, if I remember correctly, this is now the best-selling album of all time. To say anything bad about something like this is almost like ridiculing your own history.
Fortunately, the only negative thing I can say about this disc is that many of the songs have gotten overplayed over the years. (Then again, it's not like Glenn Frey and company have been spitting out albums every nine months, so it's real hard to alternate tracks, I guess.) If you ever wanted to understand why the Eagles became such an important band in American music, this is the first place to start.
Granted, The Eagles didn't invent country-fried rock. Little Feat had been doing this, as had The Byrds (especially during their Gram Parsons era). What the Eagles did was simple: they perfected it.
Just from their first single, "Take It Easy," you could tell that this was a special kind of group. The vocal harmonies, the impressive songwriting, the wonderful instrumentation (including the use of banjo -- banjo! -- in a rock song) -- I mean, the signs were all there. Anyone who was shocked that this band became such a big draw wasn't paying attention from the beginning.
Even though all the songs on this disc are great (and I admit it took a long time for me to realize that "Desperado" was great, having grown up with the Carpenters version in my parents' record collection), I do have my own personal favorites. "Lyin' Eyes" and "One Of These Nights" are two tracks that show just how well The Eagles could handle rock -- and I realize that "Lyin' Eyes" isn't really a balls-out rocker. But compared to my favorite ballads from the band, "Take It To The Limit" and "Best Of My Love," it qualifies as rock in my book. "Best Of My Love" could well be the prettiest song The Eagles ever performed, and remains a high point of their career.
I guess you could argue about whether the Eagles were really ready for a best-of at this point in their career. But this album does represent the turning point for the band; they were one album away from true superstardom in Hotel California... and a total of three albums away from taking a decade-long nap. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 almost served as the final chapter in their country-rock history, and tried to tie up the loose ends on that part of their career.
While I always encourage people to pick up the full albums in order to really get a good flavor of what a band was doing at that point in their career, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is one of the few best-ofs that I would say is required owning. Sure, explore the other albums of the Eagles at your leisure -- but this disc hammers home why these guys were so popular and so good.