Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Eagles - One of These Nights (1975)

On the title track of their fourth studio album, One of These Nights, the Eagles sang about being somewhere between the wrong and the right.  That pretty much sums up the whole LP.
The Eagles had by 1975 been striving to improve their musicianship and their rock credentials, and they found an able and willing partner in producer Bill Szymczyk to help them along.  One of These Nights was a positive step forward for them sonically, offering more biting arrangements and some steamy playing, but many a few of the songs were uninspired and even a little embarrassing.  The band had seemed to lose its focus a bit, lyrically and musically.  At some times the Eagles were trying to aim for a more direct rock attitude and at others they were trying to maintain the slick country-rock vibe that had made the Eagles one of the biggest acts of the seventies in the first place.  Their inability to strike the right balance between their trademark sound and their efforts at straight rock produced a record that critic Robert Christgau pretty much accurately described as "malaise with mayonnaise."  
The lesser songs on One of These Nights stick out like sore thumbs.  "Too Many Hands" is a plodding number about a woman who sleeps with numerous men looking for the right one but seems to cast her in an unfavorable light, while "Hollywood Waltz," a musically charming country song more sympathetic to its wronged female protagonist, wallows in sentimentality and cliché.  Maybe ennui was settling in too much for the Eagles during the making of this album; "After The Thrill Is Gone" sounds like it was recorded after it really was.  
Still, there are stirrings of artistic ambition here that could not be denied.  One of These Nights is a record by a band that was getting restless with the California lifestyle, where the pleasures of sex and glamour were beginning to mutate into something hollow and unsatisfying, and they sought to express their own dissatisfaction with it all, which did produce some memorable songs.  The title track, a sexually intense rocker with a delightfully cynical vocal from Don Henley, acidly depicts the seamier side of LA living, while "Lyin' Eyes," one of  Henley's and Glenn Frey's best hybrids of country music and rock balladeering,  illustrates the emptiness of a cheating heart in a loveless marriage.  The majestically orchestrated tale of regret and dead dreams, "Take It To the Limit," featuring a lead vocal from bassist Randy Meisner (his only lead vocal on an Eagles single) is a masterpiece that pretty much encapsulates the disillusionment in all of America in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate.  But, because of the weaker numbers, One of These Nights often sounds too random to hold together.  Bernie Leadon - who would leave the Eagles after this LP's release - has one good track and one mediocre track here, and they're interesting primarily for how they make the album sound even more erratic; "Journey Of the Sorcerer," an astoundingly mesmerizing psychedelic bluegrass instrumental, is countered by "I Wish You Peace," a piece of Aspen ski-lodge cocktail music written by Leadon and his girlfriend Patti Davis (yes, Ronald Reagan's daughter). 
Don Henley later told Cameron Crowe that the Eagles wanted to make an album that reflected the dark spirit of the times.  One of These Nights sure did that, but its biggest weakness was that it was more of a reaction to the times than a reflection; few of its songs offered much insight into the psyche of mid-seventies America.  Little did anyone know at the time that an Eagles album providing just that - with a new guitarist to accentuate it - would soon materialize.       

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