Can I call myself an Eagles fan if I don’t actually like all of their albums? That’s the thought I had when I was writing this review of ‘On the Border’ the Eagles third studio album. I think the answer is still yes because they have been such a part of my listening life over the past decade, but some albums (I’m looking at you Hotel California) get a lot more turntable time than others.
For me, On the Border is the weakest of all their studio albums and my least favourite. It contains the least number of classic tracks, no massive hits and the one song I detest. After such a damming intro we best get into it.
Released in March 1974 this was the follow up to their outlaw opus ‘Desperado’. It marked a transition for the Eagles, as they began to move away from their country-rock roots toward a more rock-oriented sound. Unlike ‘Desperado’ there was no theme as such, just a collection of songs that reflect the times and how the band were growing as individuals.
This album signified the start of band member changes, with Don Felder was listed as a ‘late arrival’ in the record credits.
The album’s notable tracks include the “rocker Already Gone,’ ‘The Best of My Love’ ‘You Never Cry Like a Lover.’, and ‘The Best of My Love’ – by far the strongest song on the album.
Written by Henley, Souther and Frey became a Billboard no. 1 in March 1975, it became the Eagles first Billboard chart number 1, the first of 5 in their career. ‘Already Gone’ peaked at 32 whilst ‘James Dean’ – a leftover from the Desperado sessions – became more of a fan favourite (just not in this house) without charting.
Critical reaction to the album was generally positive, with many reviewers praising the band’s evolution and experimentation with their sound. In their 1974 review, Rolling Stone suggested,
“The title cut defines a vaguely Desperado-like stance (“Don’t you tell me ’bout your law and order”), but the Eagles aren’t thinking like outlaws any more. They’re thinking Top 40, a la their first album, and they now do it better than ever.”
‘On the Border’ didn’t win any major Grammy Awards, but it was a commercial success, reaching the top of the Billboard 200 chart. The album is notable for marking a turning point in the band’s musical direction and for the hit single “The Best of My Love.” For me it marks a slight mistep towards a more consistent style that would become ‘One of these Nights’ and perfection with ‘Hotel California.’