Five In Flight
The Eagles were already a big act in the early 1970s but the release of One of These Nights (10 June, 1975; Asylum) brought them their first number one single, topped the US album charts, and took them to another level.
While guitarist Glenn Frey and drummer Don Henley wrote four of the nine songs when they were sharing a house in Beverly Hills, all the other members actively contributed songwriting to the record’s development. Guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner were already on board beforehand, but the addition of guitarist Don Felder made the group into a quintet for the first time; a format they would stick with from then on. Producer Bill Szymczyk was enthusiastic about Felder’s particiption as he reportedly felt that the guitarist, whose favourite instrument was a ’59 Les Paul, added a harder edge to the sound.
It is worth noting the diverse musical context in which this album emerged. In January of the same year Led Zeppelin’s fans caused mass destruction to a venue in a fight to get tickets, and the band sold out Madison Square Garden in a record four hours. Disco was in vogue as The Bee Gees hit the number one spot with Jive Talkin’; while Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody topped the charts in the UK. Later in the year Pink Floyd released Wish You Were Here.
Against this backdrop it was interesting that The Eagles decided to drop their conservative middle of the road image to kick off their new album with the sexually charged One of These Nights. The high pitched vocal harmonies of the chorus recalled The Bee Gees, and brought The Eagles similar levels of success.
Too Many Hands follows, with Meisner on lead vocals, and the guitarists mixing it up with acoustic and electric guitars. Hollywood Waltz sees the band emphasizing their country credentials on an acoustic ballad that features mandolin and pedal steel. On the instrumental - and I think underrated - Journey of the Sorcerer, Leadon introduces banjo before the strings lift the song and helps close the first side.
The second side kicks off with the international hit Lyin’ Eyes, which features harmonies by Frey and Henley and a lead guitar part by Leadon. The well-crafted song tells the story of a woman who marries into money but then cheats on her older husband. “Your smile is a thin disguise…” sings Frey, “There ain’t no way to hide your Lyin’ Eyes.” It reached number 2 on the Hot 100 Billboard chart.
Take It To The Limit is another highlight, which was co-written by Meisner, Henley, and Frey. The song has a country feel to it and also features orchestration and a guest appearance on piano by Jim Ed Norman. The rock track Visions sees Felder take over lead vocal duties from Meisner, and layered backing vocals adds depth to the mix. After The Thrill Is Gone is a country ballad penned by Frey and Henley, which features Felder on lead guitar and Leadon on pedal steel. The album closes with I Wish You Peace, co-written by Leaden and Patti Davis, who happens to be Ronald Reagan’s daughter. That track I believe is rather weak, and Henley agrees; some time after the album’s release he described the song as “smarmy cocktail music” that he “didn't feel was up to the band's standards, but we put it on anyway as a gesture to keep the band together.”
That strategy only worked to a point, as Leadon was soon replaced by Joe Walsh, but the ‘new five’ went from strength to strength with their next album, Hotel California, and the band found themselves at the apex of their career, in full flight.