Deep Album Cuts Vol. 55: The Eagles

My last two installments in this series were both occasioned by the deaths of rock stars, and as much as I hate to do 3 in a row, The Eagles are a band I've been meaning to do a deep cuts playlist of for a long time. And it's hard for a sane non-baby boomer to completely embrace The Eagles but I also think it's possible to talk about them, particularly on the occasion of Glenn Frey's death, without being totally condescending or mean about it.

The Eagles Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Chug All Night
2. Most Of Us Are Sad
3. Doolin-Dalton
4. Out Of Control
5. Saturday Night
6. My Man
7. On The Border
8. Good Day In Hell
9. Ol' 55
10. Journey Of The Sorcerer
11. Visions
12. After The Thrill Is Gone
13. Pretty Maids All In A Row
14. The Last Resort
15. Funky New Year
16. The Disco Strangler
17. Teenage Jail
18. The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks
19. Those Shoes

Tracks 1 and 2 from Eagles (1972)
Tracks 3, 4 and 5 from Desperado (1973)
Tracks 6, 7, 8 and 9 from On The Border (1974)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from One Of These Nights (1975)
Tracks 13 and 14 from Hotel California (1976)
Track 15 from the "Please Come Home For Christmas" single (1978)
Tracks 16, 17, 18 and 19 from The Long Run (1979)

"On the day that I die, well I just might scream/ If I'm alive in the morning, I'll be alive in a dream" is kind of a haunting Glenn Frey lyric that you'd probably have seen quoted a lot more in the past week if it wasn't from a song with the refrain "I believe we could chug all night, I believe we could hug all night." But I really kind of love "Chug All Night" in all its dopey glory, and it's a good microcosm of the mix of sincere craftsmanship and hamfisted hackery that defines so much of the Eagles' catalog, particularly the deep cuts.

Like most of the big bands of the '70s, The Eagles plugged along, landing hit singles and gradually playing bigger rooms, until they were ready for a big live album or (in their case) greatest hits album that would serve as the tipping point that catches everyone up and takes them to the next level. And nobody pulled that off better than them: the 29-times platinum Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is famously the biggest-selling album in U.S. history besides Thriller. But boiling the band's 6 original albums down into the last few decades of hugely successful compilations and reunion tour setlists has left behind a lot of weaker and/or more offbeat material that the band made along the way to classic rock immortality.

All 7 past and present members of The Eagles wrote and sang lead at least one song on the band's albums, but the overwhelming majority of their hits were sung by what became the band's core leadership of Don Henley and Glenn Frey (it wasn't necessarily planned this way: Henley sang lead on 2 songs on The Eagles, but as slowly realized that the drummer's raspy voice was money in the bank, he got more and more showcases, including 7 tracks on The Long Run). The only Eagles songs you ever hear on the radio not sung by Don or Glen are by late arrivals Timothy B. Schmidt ("I Can't Tell You Why") and Joe Walsh ("In The City").

So one of the interesting about digging into Eagles deep cuts is just hearing the other guys' voices so much more. Randy Meisner on "Most Of Us Are Sad," Bernie Leadon on "My Man" (a tribute to Leadon's Flying Burrito Brothers bandmate Gram Parsons), Joe Walsh on "Pretty Maids All In A Row," and my personal favorite, Don Felder's sole lead vocal, "Visions." There's also the bonkers Leadon-penned instrumental "Journey Of The Sorcerer," which I'd had no idea until recently I'd been hearing for decades in re-recorded form as the theme of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy BBC mini-series.

Some of the songs never released as singles became classic rock radio staples anyway, including "Desperado" and "Victim Of Love." One song I occasionally hear on the radio but included anyway is "Those Shoes," for my money probably the best song The Eagles ever recorded, which never charted and only appeared on one of their later double disc best-of comps (and was famously sampled on "High Plains Drifter" by the Beastie Boys). And "Ol' 55" is notable for being the first in a long line of Tom Waits songs to be smoothed out by more popular acts.

I've become kind of fascinated with the way many of the bands that defined the '70s all seemed to crap out right on schedule at the end of the decade, releasing indulgent, divisive albums in '78, '79 or '80 that were difficult to record and almost immediately followed by a break-up, prolonged hiatus, death, or major lineup change: Steely Dan's Gaucho, Led Zeppelin's In Through The Out Door, The Who's Who Are You, Aerosmith's Night In The Ruts, etc. The Eagles' The Long Run was the biggest of these albums and yet also the most tortured, with slick blockbuster singles and a shocking amount of weird atypical filler given that it was trimmed down from a planned double LP. Songs like "The Disco Strangler" and "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks" are just weird, jarring songs (and they came from the Henley/Frey camp, not the other guys with less honed commercial instincts). And I included them as much for curiosity factor than anything else, although the instrumental section on "Teenage Jail" is genuinely awesome. I don't have to convince you that The Eagles wrote great pop songs, but I would like to convince you that they had some odd unpopular songs that are worth hearing.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
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