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Californication Mark One
Hotel California - Eagles
Member Name: JJJJ
Hotel California - Eagles
Date: 30/12/09, updated on 01/01/10 (130 review reads)
Advantages: Awesome tracks, stunning riffs & solos.
Disadvantages: A couple of weaker numbers - although they don't spoil the album as a whole
Hotel California feels very much like a concept album of sorts, and the revisiting of themes throughout the tracks makes the record the closest that the Eagles have come to the genre of 'rock opera'. This is the Eagles at the peak of their creative abilities - harmonious, focussed, and far removed from the fragmented group of later years which eventually disbanded in 1980 (before reforming in '94).
It's a actually quite rare for a album's title track to be placed as position one on the track listing - but here 'Hotel California' takes pride of place. Intricate guitar picking makes way for a stunning bass-line which pops up and hits you like a brick wall of sound. This is rock music with a reggae beat - and it works beautifully. The iconic guitar riff in the middle (Don Felder and Joe Walsh) is quite simply a soaring work of art. In fact, I would describe it as one of the most recogniseable and impressive in the history of modern music. The track itself has been subject to all manner of conspiracy theories as to what it's actually about, but Don Henley has put the myths to bed, claiming "It's a song about the dark underbelly of the American Dream, and about excess in America, which was something we knew about" - whatever Don, we all know it's about devil worship "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."
My second favorite track (which just happens to be track number 2) is 'Life in the Fast Lane', which opens with another of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time - distorted, funky, and seriously cool. It's a riff which has been sampled many times, but has never sounded better than here in its original form. This particular track represents the album's secondary commercial success after Hotel California, and it too hints at the themes of wanton excess which the album is said to refer to - "Life in the fast lane... Everything, all the time".
Hotel California is certainly an album of two distinct sounds - there's the fast paced rock as seen in tracks one and two, and then there's a selection of country-esque numbers such as 'New Kid in Town'. Here, we have a soft and laid back track which wouldn't seem out of place wafting from the jukebox of an Arizona gas station / diner - it really is a prime example of late 70's Mid-West easy listening - not overly ambitious or technically superb, but it works. To be honest, it has a similar sound to what one might expect to hear on a second rate Bryan Adams album - but here it's acceptable listening due to various examples of great harmonisation on the chorus, and creative chord changes which places it firmly in the realms of quality songwriting.
'Wasted Time' represents one of Hotel California's slower numbers - yet it's a beautifully crafted song which features thoughtful lyrics and great use of an orchestral backing. The track is followed by 'Wasted Time (Reprise)' - the two pieces representing the last track on the first side of the original vinyl version, and the first track of side two. The reprise is simply an instrumental, and it works to provide the listener with a decent break from the country / rock tracks which surround it.
Picking up the pace, 'Victim of Love' sees Don Henley's pitch perfect and gravely vocals on top form - although the lyrics themselves are arguably a little weak. A funky and distorted guitar riff, combined with pounding percussion creates a foot-tapping piece, and the haunting chorus once again reverts back to the country overtones which are prevalent in many of the other tracks.
If you mentioned 'Try and Love Again', most people wouldn't recongnise the track by name, but would perhaps be familiar with the opening riff which has been sampled a number of times over the years. This one is basically a love song, and is catchy through and through. That said, it's not one of my favourite Hotel California tracks, but *is* without doubt a technically adept piece which demonstrates varied use of creative guitar picking.
Of course it's quite rare for an album to come to pass without it's fair share of non-desrcript tracks (often described as 'filler'), and in the case of Hotel California, it comes in the form of 'Pretty Maids all in a Row', and 'The Last Resort'. The latter being an epic seven-minutes-and-twenty-eight seconds of overtly soppy soft-rock. In fairness, Eagles founding member Glen Frey has described it as Don Henley's greatest work, and if you analyze the cutting lyrics one might agree - however, it's not my cup of tea.
Overall, Hotel California is undoubtedly one of Rock's seminal albums - combining a selection of awesome riffs with fantastic vocals and creative percussion. Read into the numerous hidden themes and meanings as deep as you like, but at the end of the day it's just a beautifully produced and seriously cool record which marked a turning point for the Eagles, sealing their place in rock folklore as 'the real deal'. Whilst it may not be to everyone's taste, the album is a must for any rock enthusiasts collection - one of the top albums of the 1970's.
1. "Hotel California" (Felder, Henley, Frey) - 6:30
2. "New Kid in Town" (J.D. Souther, Henley, Frey) - 5:03
3. "Life in the Fast Lane" (Walsh, Henley, Frey) - 4:46
4. "Wasted Time" (Henley, Frey) - 4:55
5. "Wasted Time (Reprise)" (instrumental) (Henley, Frey, Jim Ed Norman)
6. "Victim of Love" (Felder, Souther, Henley, Frey) - 4:11
7. "Pretty Maids All in a Row" (Walsh, Joe Vitale) - 3:58
8. "Try and Love Again" (Meisner) - 5:10
9. "The Last Resort" (Henley, Frey) - 7:28
Hotel California on CD can currently be purchased for £6.58 from amazon - unfortunately it's one of those rare albums which isn't available a digital download.
Summary: One of Rock's Iconic Albums