Thursday, December 8, 2016

"Hotel California" Turns 40

On this day in 1976, the iconic Eagles album "Hotel California" was released.  The followup to the band's previous four successful collections became one of their biggest sellers, over 32 million copies sold worldwide.

Much of the success of HC is centered on the title song & lead cut.  However, almost the entire album is filled with masterpieces, from their signature country rock sound to one that's more edgy, there's a reason why this resonated with so many fans and continues to this day.  In addition to the amazing guitar solos on the title track and other songs, is the core of the band's success, lyrics and stunning vocals.  At the time of HC's recording & release, the members were founders Glenn Frey (vocals, piano, keyboards, harmonica, guitars), Don Henley (vocals, drums, guitar), and Randy Meisner (vocals, bass guitar) as well as Joe Walsh (vocals, lead guitar, keyboards) and Don Felder (lead guitar).  The powerhouse songwriting duo of Frey and Henley dominates the lyrically visual songs, a continuum of their stellar compositions from previous albums.  This collection is very much a concept album like 1973's "Desperado" but HC is a study in California's night life, addiction, fame, relationships, and environmental issues.

"Hotel California" is perhaps one of the most debated songs in history, its subject matter being all over the map depending on the listener.  It opens with one of the most recognizable guitar intros in rock music but it's Henley's haunting voice that steals the show.

"New Kid In Town" is the only song Frey sings lead on here and is a beautiful study in relationships and the fleeting nature of fame.  The song is about a woman who moves on to the next "Johnny come lately," and also mirrors the music business where the next big act is always waiting to take over.  Frey's stunning vocals on the bridge drives the message home.  Written by Frey, Henley, and J.D. Souther, the song took home a Grammy in 1977 for Best Vocal Arrangement, was the first single off the album, and hit number one in February 1977.

Also a single, "Life In The Fast Lane" chronicles a couple who spiral downwards in their drug-fueled, high living lifestyle.  Walsh came up with the guitar intro, Frey and Henley wrote the lyrics around that signature riff.  Dire lyrics and emptiness abound despite the frenetic pace of the arrangement.  It feels as if the couple is driving off the cliff long before they reach it.

"Wasted Time" is a gorgeous, melancholy filled ballad, one of Henley's finest vocal moments on HC.  Another Frey and Henley composition, the lyrics are heavy with emotion, "...So you live from day to day...and you dream about tomorrow...and the hours go by like minutes...and the shadows come to you take a little something to make them go away..."

Eagles fans know the backstory to "Victim Of Love" but despite the Felder/Henley controversy on who ended up singing lead, Henley owns the song.  It's a classic, in your face snarl about a woman who's disenchanted by every relationship yet knows "how to play it so well."

"Pretty Maids All In A Row" features Joe Walsh on lead vocals and Randy Meisner's fine "Try And Love Again" round out the variety on HC leading up to the stunning finale.

The album closes with the epic, sweeping ballad "The Last Resort."  Relevant at the time of its release and even more so today, the song looks at the destruction humans have inflicted upon the Earth.  Another Frey and Henley penned gem, the song takes listeners on a journey from innocence to greed, urban sprawl, and despair, "...You call some place paradise...kiss it goodbye..."  Always excelling on ballads, Henley's vocals reach every level on this prophetic song.

"Hotel California" won the 1977 Grammy for Record Of The Year, cementing its place in rock and roll history, as well as in the hearts of millions of fans across the globe.  If music lovers are looking for "new" music to buy, start here and buy the physical copy.  The artwork on the cover and the photos inside are as fabulous as the art flowing out of the speakers.