During the late 60s all, or at least many, roads led to southern California, and Eagles (not there’s officially no “the” in the name) was one of the destinations.
It was not a band formed with modest intentions. Glenn Frey had already sung on a national hit (Bob Seger‘s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”) when he came west from Detroit, and Don Henley‘s Shiloh had an album produced by Kenny Rogers. The met Bernie Leadon, late of the Flying Burrito Brothers, while all of them played in Linda Ronstadt‘s 1970-71 backing band, while Randy Meisner was a veteran of Poco and Ricky Nelson‘s Stone Canyon Band. It was a supergroup of sorts, with a universe of great collaborators such as Jackson Browne, JD Souther and Jack Tempchin, and one that certainly flew to super, and superlative, heights.
Over the course of two tenures and seven (mostly multi-platinum_ studio albums, the Eagles have sold more than 150 million records worldwide, while Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) has been locked for years in a battle for best-selling album of all time with Michael Jackson‘s Thriller. The accolades run from six Grammy Awards to inductions into the Rock and Roll and Vocal Group Hall of Fames to a Kennedy Center Honor. And more importantly, Eagles are the first name mentioned in any discussion of California or country-rock.
Frey’s death shortly after David Bowie‘s during January of 2016 seemed to ground Eagles for good, but the group has taken flight again this year with Frey’s son Deacon and Vince Gill in place, a newly recorded version of Dan Fogelberg‘s “Part Of The Plan” for a tribute album and tour dates that look likely to keep the group airborne for an undetermined while longer…
Here’s a list of the 15 best Eagles songs to date.
15. The Eagles – “Doolin-Dalton”
The opening track from Eagles’ second album, inspired by the Doolin-Dalton gang in late 19th century Oklahoma, was a linch-pin reprised twice on the Desperado album’s second side, setting up a quasi-concept that was more successful in the individual songs than across the entire body of work.
14. The Eagles – “Peaceful Easy Feeling”
Like so many Eagles’ songs in their canon, this Tempchin track is a prototype what the group does so well — easygoing melodies with rich harmonies and an organic lushness that gets you humming along practically before the first verse is over.
13. The Eagles – “Seven Bridges Road”
Speaking about what Eagles do so well, this live take of the Steve Young tune is all about the harmonies, executed mostly a capella and jaw-droppingly tight and smooth.
12. The Eagles – “Tequila Sunrise”
One of the first Henley-Frey songwriting collaborations for Eagles, “Tequila Sunrise” is a scene-setter in every sense, although its mellow countenance actually feels more like dusk than dawn.
11. The Eagles – “Heartache Tonight”
Assisted by Bob Seger on both songwriting and uncredited backing vocals, the Grammy Award-winning single from The Long Run has those darn fine harmonies yet again alongside some hot slide guitar playing by Joe Walsh.
10. The Eagles – “How Long”
This latter-day single, from 2007’s Long Road Out Of Eden, has a vintage feel, and for good reason; The group actually performed the JD Southern anti-war song live during the ’70s and rediscovered it more than three decades later — and made it sound like no time had passed at all.
9. The Eagles – “Already Gone”
Eagles’ rendition of this Tempchin tune is a hootin’, hollerin’ anthem that gave Frey and then-new Don Felder plenty of room to let their guitars scream a little bit.
8. The Eagles – “Best Of My Love”
Far more sugar than saccharine, the Henley-sung ballad gave Eagles its first No. 1 single and has kept listeners swooning, rightfully, or more than 40 years.
7. The Eagles – “Lyin’ Eyes”
A little supposition about women cheating on their husbands while Frey and Henley were hanging out at Dan Tana’s in Los Angeles gave birth to this majestic ballad, whose rich chorus harmonies make the lyrical indictment sound like a deceptive pat on the back.
6. The Eagles – “I Can’t Tell You Why”
Timothy B. Schmit’s finest moment is a soulful, moody slow jam whose tension is cut by his pure high tenor and what may be — with apologies to “Hotel California” — the most transportive guitar solo in Eagles’ repertoire.
5. The Eagles – “Take It To The Limit”
Give the other bass player some; Randy Meisner shines on paean to purpose and determination, thrilling with his own brand of jaw-dropping falsetto and an Eagles song — co-written with Henley and Frey — that stands up even without the vocal fireworks.
4. The Eagles – “Life In The Fast Lane”
Eagles’ best out-and-out rocker, bar none, and the finest moment from the Joe Walsh-Don Felder guitar tandem save for, oh, that other one…
3. The Eagles – “Take It Easy”
The take-off point, a Frey-Browne collaboration that put a corner in Winslow, Ariz. on the map and made us all long for the kind of “world of trouble” the singer was having.
2. The Eagles – “Desperado”
The Henley showcase from the album of the same name boasts a desolate, tumbleweeds-rolling-in-the-sunset ambience that makes a genuinely cinematic impact.
1. The Eagles – “Hotel California”
An unbeatable champion of a song, an aural movie that checks off all the boxes — evocative lyrics, social commentary, surrealistic circumstances and that ferocious guitar jam, which resides comfortably in the epic pantheon of epics alongside “Stairway To Heaven” and “Free Bird.”