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.

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY | COUNTRY ROCK -

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.

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