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Asylum 5054
Released: June 1972
Chart Peak: #22
Weeks Charted: 49
Certified Gold: 1/22/74

Bernie LeadonRandy MeisnerGlenn FreyDon HenleyThe Eagles' "Take It Easy" is simply the best sounding rock single to come out so far this year. The first time through, you could tell it had everything: danceable rhythm, catchy, winding melody, intelligent, affirmative lyrics, a progressively powerful arrangement mixing electric guitar and banjo, and a crisp vocal, with vibrant four-part harmony at just the right moments for maximum dramatic effect. To top it off, "Take It Easy" was co-written by Jackson Browne and Eagle Glen Frey, whose vocal on the record fell somewhere between Browne and Rick Nelson.

Eagles - Eagles
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Now the album is here, and it's awfully good. Turns out that the Eagles are four veterans of the Los Angeles countrified rock & roll school, and they display to best advantage their distinguished backgrounds: Poco, Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, the Flying Burrito Bros., Dillard & Clark, and a couple of Linda Ronstadt's always impressive bands, to name the most notable. There's another Jackson Browne song, "Nightingale," on the album, and it's just about as good as "Take It Easy." So is "Peaceful Easy Feeling," a haunting love song by unknown Jack Tempchin (who, so we hear, will eventually have his own album) distinguished by a strikingly cinematic lyric: "I like the way your sparkling earrings lay/Against your skin so brown./I'd like to sleep with you in the desert tonight/With a million stars all around..." The song has a warmly intense Glen Frey vocal, and the Eagles' clear harmonies glide around its edges. Even the guitar bridge is a thing of beauty -- the guitars of Frey and Bernie Leadon sound as softly luminous as the singing.

Those three are the absolute high points -- they'll stand proudly right next to the best recordings of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Burrito Bros., and the other premiere Los Angeles groups. Not a bad start for a brand new band. But, surprisingly, that's not all. Each of the remaining seven tracks has something to recommend it. If Frey's "Most of Us Are Sad" and "Chug All Night," Randy Meisner's "Train Leaves Here This Morning," written by Leadon and his former colleague Gene Clark, aren't as extraordinary as the previously mentioned three, they're not all that far behind. "Tryin'" and "Chug All Night" aren't great songs in themselves, but the Eagles use them as frames to hang their rock & roll licks on, and the controlled explosiveness of the performances makes them among the most exciting songs here. Glen Frey's snarfling rhythm guitar is featured on these two, as it is on "Nightingale"; its worth paying special attention to. "Most of Us Are Sad" and "Train..." are slow, melancholy songs full of desert loneliness.

The only tracks that didn't touch me the first or second time through were "Witchy Woman," "Take the Devil," and "Earlybird." The last, a Leadon-Meisner song, is a little more than an excuse to show off for a couple of minutes on banjo (Leadon) and acoustic guitar. The other two are moderately fast, moody songs in which the playing and singing have much more to offer than the material itself. Even these are growing on me now, however, maybe in part because of the reflected glow from the adjoining music.

But I still keep going back to the song I started with. Each time I listen to "Take It Easy," it unfurls new pleasures. The compressed narrative in the second verse, full of Jackson Browne incisiveness, is my current point of special interest:
Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,
Such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me

The rest of the songs -- and a major part of the album -- is as good as those lines. So get the album, by all means. And get the single, too -- it has a side that isn't on the LP. The Eagles is right behind Jackson Browne's record as the best first album this year. And I could be persuaded to remove the word "first" from that statement.

- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 6/22/72.

Bonus Reviews!

The high level energy group whose initial debut, "Take It Easy," is rapidly climbing the Hot 100, offers strong vocals from Bernie Leadon (Flying Burrito Bros.) and Glenn Frey, who also penned most of the original material. All 10 cuts, including the single, are excellent. An outstanding first LP.

- Billboard, 1972.

Hatched from pieces of Poco and the Burrito Brothers, Eagles presents some hot and nasty country tunes in the flashiest of feathery styles. Abandoning pedal steel in favor of guitar and banjo, Eagles lays some heavy rock formations in their nest of country funk. With songs penned by both the group and buddies Jackson Browne and Gene Clark, they look like a sure bet to take off.

- Ed Naha, Circus, 9/72.

You may not have known, but there exists today something called the Los Angeles School of Country Rock -- not some madhouse academy but a label used by all those hip music publications to identify the playing of groups such as the Eagles. This young bunch is "so good they're scary," according to their publicity, and the proof of their prowess is on Eagles, an exciting yet relaxed disc that owes a lot to Jackson Browne. "Take It Easy" is the hit single, but all the tunes are worthwhile explorations of a mode the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield inaugurated.

- Playboy, 11/72.

These guys certainly boogie more than the bluegrass sellouts who populate the vaguely country-oriented mainstream of contemporary American rock, and they certainly write more memorable tunes. But this culmanates the reactionary individualism that country-rock has come to epitomize in the counter-culture. What's worse, the country orientation bespeaks not roots but a lack of them, so that in the end the product is suave and synthetic -- brilliant, but false. And not always that brilliant, either. B

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The Eagles' tentative debut album is notable for its single hits, "Take It Easy," "Witchy Woman," and "Peaceful Easy Feeling." (It also contains a rare Jackson Browne composition, "Nightingale.") The album has more of a bluegrass tone (courtesy of Bernie Leadon) than the band would later pursue. * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The Eagles' debut created a new template for laid-back L.A. country-rock style. Behind the band's mellow message -- "Take It Easy," "Peaceful Easy Feeling" -- was a relentless drive. "Everybody had to look good, sing good, play good and write good," Glenn Frey told Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone.

The Eagles was chosen as the 374th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Although none of the original members of the Eagles were originally from California, the group came to symbolize the West Coast country rock that became hugely popular in the late 1970s. Originally members of Linda Ronstadt's backing band, The Eagles' formation as a distinct group coincided with the launch of Asylum Records, and they were one of the first acts signed to the label, along with Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.

Anxious to work with Glyn Johns, the English engineer/producer who had worked with The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, Led Zeppelin, and The Steve Miller Band, the group recorded their debut album at Olympic Studios in London, which was where Johns liked to work: "I brought them to England, and we made the album very quickly, in under three weeks," he remembered. "I don't think I'd been as excited since probably Led Zeppelin -- they were amazing but they didn't really know what they'd got."

"Take It Easy," "Witchy Woman," and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" were all U.S. Top 30 singles and the album was soon certified gold. Part of its success was down to the quartet's glorious vocal harmonies. Factor in accomplished musicianship (Bernie Leadon's country roots are strongly evident in the banjo and guitar work), and the strength of the songwriting (all of the group contributed original material; lead vocals were also rotated) and it is little wonder that the band soon secured a strong live attraction, and were one of the biggest acts in the world five years later.

- John Tobler, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

This debut created a new template for laid-back L.A. country rock. Behind the band's mellow message -- "Take It Easy," "Peaceful Easy Feeling" -- was a relentless drive. "Everybody had to look good, sing good, play good, and write good," Glenn Frey said.

Eagles was chosen as the 207th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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Thomas F. Dixon


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