Well, I’m a-runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load
Got seven women on my mind
Four that want to own me, two that want to stone me
One said she’s a friend of mine.
It’s really astonishing how self-assured this debut sounds. Hotel California is a case where the conventional wisdom is dead on target; it’s both the Eagles’ best song and best album. But this debut is a close second in the latter territory (or third, if you count their best-selling Greatest Hits). The album begins with the energetic lope of Take It Easy and moves directly on to the Southwest thriller, Witchy Woman. It’s rare enough to be worth commenting on, the fact that the first two songs on the debut album by a group remain two of their best and most loved songs. Before the album wraps, they hit Peaceful, Easy Feeling, another in their long string of iconic hits.
All three of these songs have the trademarks of the Eagles, a sort of ambling folk rock sound coming out of the heat of the southwestern states, instead of the cool mountains of the east. But the album is actually neatly divided between the two styles of the Eagles. There are these acoustic folk numbers, joined by the surprisingly effective Take the Devil and the Jackson Browne penned Nightingale. And then there are the harder, rawer electric rock numbers. On this album, that side of the group is represented by the dire Chug All Night and the epic closer Tryin’. Like Hotel California, this album presents both sides of the band and does a pretty good job at presenting both. The rockers suffer a bit here; none of the harder songs here are among their best. Take It Easy can stand up next to Lyin’ Eyes and Wasted Time pretty easy, but Chug All Night ain’t a patch on Life in the Fast Lane, if you follow all that.
Earlybird is a straight up country raver of the type they wouldn’t ever quite do again, complete with some of the most horrendously annoying/amazingly hilarious (depending entirely on your mood) whistling you’ve ever heard. But other than that, the album is mostly the Eagles being the Eagles. They debut here without a doubt, it seems, of where they’re headed. The quality of these songs and these performances backs up the confidence. They already know they’re going to be the biggest band in the world soon. That’s why they can take it easy, I guess. It looks like a debut album; but slip it in the player and you’ll see that these cats are already gone.
4 ½ out of 5 stars.