Sorry about the low-budget, text-only appearance of this page. I just kind of quickly threw it together. Maybe later I'll go back and try to spiff it up a bit.
The recent sad news of Glenn Frey's death, in addition to making me realize that I'm getting old and all my favorite musicians are starting to pass away, made me go back and revisit the Eagles catalog. I've been a huge Eagles fan since back in high school - for a while I listened to almost nothing but Eagles and ELO. Screw anything that didn't start with "E". I'm kind of surprised that I didn't also get into Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the time (that came later).
For the last couple decades, it seems like it's been fashionable to hate on the Eagles. The Dude in the Big Lebowski got kicked out of a cab for complaining about them, and it seemed like you never heard their name unless someone was badmouthing them. To be fair, the band brought some of it on themselves with their infighting through the 80s, their tepid to downright awful attempts at new songs in the 90s and their eventual decision to just tour as an oldies act with hugely inflated ticket prices in the 2000s. And the massive overplaying of their hits on classic rock radio over the decades didn't help. But despite it all, it's hard to deny that when the Eagles were in their prime (i.e. mostly the Desperado through Hotel California albums), they put out some of the most popular (and in my opinion best) pop songs of the 70s.
If you're reading this page, there's a good chance you might own the band's first two greatest hits collections, Greatest Hits (1971-1975) and Greatest Hits Vol 2. Those two albums contain most of the band's best-known songs and a few deeper cuts amongst their 20 tracks. But unless you went further and bought all their studio albums, there may be a bunch of great Eagles songs that you've never heard. So in case you were thinking of downloading a few tunes to round out your collection, here are my recommendations of what should have been on The Best of the Eagles, Vol 3 had that album ever come out. I'll go album-by-album from the original releases:
Eagles - this debut album, in my opinion, is one of the band's weaker efforts. They hadn't really gotten their game together yet on this one, or maybe it's just a bad production job or something. The best song on it is "Take It Easy", and they borrowed that one from Jackson Browne. The other great track from this one is "Peaceful Easy Feeling", but both of those songs are already on the first hits collection, along with "Witchy Woman". If I was going to pick another track from this album, I might go with "Train Leaves Here This Morning", but even that one's not worth putting in a top 10 overlooked songs list. So I'm just skipping the first album completely.
Desperado - this one is kind of painful to try to pick just a song or two from. It is already represented on the first hits album by the title track and "Tequila Sunrise", but nearly every song on this one is good enough for a "best of" list. This is easily the band's second best album, after Hotel California. The problem is that it's a country-rock concept album about life in the old west, so it's hard to divorce any of these songs from the context of the album. For my top 10 list, I'll pick "Saturday Night" (which the band liked enough to include on their first live album), but I could just as easily have gone with the mood-setting "Doolin-Dalton", the blistering "Out of Control", or a few other tracks.
On the Border - after the previous album, this one was a bit of a step down, but it still has a bunch of good songs on it. "Already Gone" and "The Best of My Love" made the official hits album, but my picks would be "Ol' 55" and "James Dean". Maybe it's because my local classic rock station played those songs a lot when I was growing up, but I just think they're both great tunes. It was years before I found out that "Ol' 55" was written by Tom Waits - I've seen people say that original is far superior, but I've heard Waits' version and while it's good, I much prefer the weeping steel guitars, vocal harmonies and emotional tug of the Eagles version. And "James Dean" is just a cool rock song, with the fantastically tasteless line "along came a spider, picked up a rider and took him down the road to eternity". I'll put in runner-up nominations for the title track and "Good Day in Hell".
One of These Nights - maybe it's just the black cover with its creepy steer skull, but this has always seemed like the Eagles' darkest album to me. And it's chock full of great songs. "Lyin' Eyes", "Take It to the Limit" (possibly my single favorite Eagles song), "After the Thrill is Gone" and the title track all made the two hits compilations. But I'd throw the wistful "Hollywood Waltz" and the instrumental "Journey of the Sorcerer" onto my hits album. The latter is as close as the Eagles got to an art rock song (sort of country prog) and was used as the theme music for the British TV version of "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". Apparently author Douglas Adams was a big Eagles fan (as well as a Dire Straits fan).
Hotel California - by far the band's biggest and best known studio album, most of side one of this record (the title track, "New Kid in Town" and "Life in the Fast Lane") was already included on the second hits collection, along with "Victim of Love". But it's still rife with other great songs. They should have put all of side one on Greatest Hits Vol 2 by also including the heart wrenching "Wasted Time", so I'll start with that one. There are a bunch of great tunes on side two, but I'll go with the Joe Walsh song "Pretty Maids All in a Row". I was somewhat stunned to read some reviews of Hotel California where people pointed that out as their least favorite track. It's about as honest, moving and melancholy a song as Walsh has ever penned and it contains some great guitar work. But the masterpiece track of the album is the closer, "The Last Resort", Don Henley's lament about how mankind tends to overrun and ruin any place deemed a "paradise". The whole album is loosely about the down side of California life, and this song sums up that theme in a perfect ending track (as well as being probably the best thing Henley ever wrote).
The Long Run - This album often gets trashed by fans who, I'm guessing, were disappointed that it wasn't Hotel California part 2. Admittedly, it's a pretty big step down from what was their crowning achievement, and the band members were fighting like cats and dogs while it was being written and recorded (to the point where it took years before it was finally released), but it's really not that bad an album. I'd take it over the debut disc. It also contributed four songs to the second greatest hits package - the title track, "Heartache Tonight", "I Can't Tell You Why" and "The Sad Cafe". To be fair, that greatest hits was basically constructed out of just two albums (this one and Hotel), but those are still pretty solid songs. My additional pick from this disc would be "Those Shoes" - I just really like the insistent, machine-like drum track of that song. I was tempted to pick the Joe Walsh song "In the City", but his original (which was done as a solo song for the soundtrack to the cult movie The Warriors) was the better version. I also like "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks", but most people seem to hate that song because they apparently don't have a sense of humor.
Since Greatest Hits Vol 2 includes a song from the band's first live album, the simply named Eagles Live, I was tempted to put the live version of "All Night Long" on my list. But again, that was a Joe Walsh song that was originally from the soundtrack to the movie Urban Cowboy, and the original was better than the kind of jokey Eagles performance, so I skipped it.
So for the last song of my list, I'll throw in the Eagles remake of "Please Come Home For Christmas" which was released as a single. It's one of my favorite Christmas songs, and it must have some staying power because just this year my daughter yelled at me for singing along with it in the car and "ruining one of her favorite holiday songs".
I decided to limit this to just the band's pre-reunion music because that's when the two greatest hits albums came out. OK, I'm lying, it was because most of what they've released since then has sucked. If I had to pick something more recent, I'd go with either "No More Walks in the Woods" or the title track from Long Road Out Of Eden, although neither of those are really up to the band's earlier standards. Definitely none of the studio tracks from Hell Freezes Over, those are just dire. Where does perpetual complainer Henley get off singing a song called "Get Over It"? Maybe I can kinda see where those Eagles haters are coming from.
Anyway, my final track listing for "Best of the Eagles Vol 3" would be: