The Eagles Tribute
After the recent death of Glenn Frey, Richard Barrett examines the legacy of this iconic band with a look at the contributing styles of Bernie Leadon, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and the sadly-departed Frey.
it’s a good time to appreciate the band that frey founded with don henley, randy meisner and bernie leadon
There can’t be many places in the world where the opening few bars of Hotel California wouldn’t be instantly recognised – and even fewer guitarists who haven’t marvelled at the exquisite phrasing of Don Felder and Joe Walsh, or attempted that famous harmony solo.
In the wake of Glenn Frey’s recent passing, it seems like a good time to appreciate the legacy of the band he founded with Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon back in 1971. The four members first worked together as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band in Los Angeles. Having discovered their chemistry as a writing and performing partnership, they soon moved on (with Ronstadt’s approval) to sign a deal of their own, recording their debut album, Eagles.
The summery, Californian atmosphere on the record belies the fact that the album was actually recorded in Barnes, SW London and produced by Glyn Johns, known for his work with Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Stones, among others. Bernie Leadon provided authentic country licks, plus expert banjo and mandolin performances alongside some surprisingly robust riffing and soloing. This all proved an excellent foil for Glenn Frey’s accomplished acoustic playing on tracks like Take It Easy, Doolin' Dalton and Witchy Woman; the latter featuring Frey on dual lead guitar harmonies, which call to mind the future work of bands like Thin Lizzy.
Nevertheless, the ‘country-rock’ label appeared to be making their appeal a little too ‘selective’ and the Eagles were looking to take a more rock, pop and soul approach to their sound by 1974. Having already impressed the band with his playing on Good Day In Hell, it was Leadon’s childhood friend Don Felder that got the call. Felder contributed a more contemporary rock feel with his muscular Les Paul tones on Already Gone. Interestingly, it seems Glenn Frey contributed some electric lead to the studio version of this too, though he usually provided electric rhythm on his trusty Les Paul Junior live.
It was during this period that The Eagles began to score regular hits with tracks such as Lyin’ Eyes, Take It To The Limit and One Of These Nights – a great example of Felder’s melodic and memorable soloing style. While this was the success many bands dream of, the toil of writing, recording and touring day after day, is not for everyone and Leadon decided to leave late in 1975. Of course, this left a big hole, but the perfect replacement – especially in the light of the band’s desire to become ever more rocky and funky sounding – was found in the shape of Joe Walsh.
Already an established name in his own right, Walsh brought his distinctive funky, bluesy rock style to The Eagles, and one has to say it combined beautifully with Felder’s. Their amazing chemistry can be heard on their next album, Hotel California. It seems trite to say ‘the rest is history’, but it’s truly justified here. These musical examples take you through the timeline of the band, inspired by the styles of the key players in each era. From bluegrass-influenced picking, layered acoustic guitars, loud funky riffs and melodic soloing, I hope we’ve covered it all – and that you enjoy it! RIP Glenn Frey.