On to album three from the Eagles, today’s album is “On The Border”. For this record, the band began to make changes in their lineup, their sound, and even their production. The primary goal of these changes was to evolve their sound to a harder edged, rock and roll album after the western-based, country sound of “Desperado”. To do so, they added guitarist Don Felder for some of the tracks, and ultimately as a full-time member of the band, and removed Glyn Johns as their producer. Glenn Frey and Don Henley continued to cement their leadership role in the band, both on vocals as well as for songwriting.
Overall, I would rate the results of this evolution as positive. The album opens with “Already Gone”, a Frey-led rocker that is definitely one of my all-time favorite Eagles hits. From that high point, we hit the lowest point on the album with a Henley snoozer, “You Never Cry Like a Lover”. In addition to being a dull, uninteresting song, the name is painful as well. As my son said yesterday about the word “lover”, “I hate that word more than most racial slurs”. It makes for a great Saturday Night Live Skit, but terrible rock and roll. Next comes a banjo-laden song featuring Randy Meisner, “Midnight Flyer”, and I can still say that after three albums, I’m still not really into any of the band’s songs that feature him or Bernie Leadon. Side one ends with the title track, which is a much better effort from Henley and the band.
Side two opens with another Glenn Frey rocker, “James Dean”, which also features the distinctive Eagles harmonies that find their way to most of the songs. I think my favorite find on the album is “Ol’ 55”, a song I don’t recall hearing before. One, it is just a really good song that once again has those lush harmony backing vocals, but what I also really like about this track is that it features at separate moments, alternating lead vocals by Henley and Frey. I think bands with multiple lead vocalists should do this more often, dating back to songs like “A Day in the Life” by Lennon and McCartney, or “Pinball Wizard” or “Baba O’Riley” featuring Daltrey and Townshend.
The duo sings together, in more of a joint harmony on “Good Day in Hell”, which I like a lot, and the album ends with a classic Henley ballad, “Best of My Love”. Overall, I rate the changes and growth in the band positively, and I enjoyed this album more than their first two releases.