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Hotel California
Eagles

Asylum 1084
Released: December 1976
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 107
Certified Platinum: 12/15/76

Randy MeisnerJoe WalshDon FelderGlenn FreyDon HenleyHotel California showcases both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situated rock, but more strikingly its lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself. Don Henley, handling five of the eight vocal tracks, expresses well the weary disgust of a victim (or observer) of the region's luxurious excess.

Yet the record's firm musical bases cannot be overlooked. Bernie Leadon departed and Joe Walsh arrived; the Eagles have abandoned most of their bluegrass and country & western claims in favor of a more overt rock stance. Walsh's exact effect isn't always obvious, but his record does have subtleties and edges that have sometimes eluded the group. The title cut, for example, incorporates a pinch of reggae so smoothly that it's more felt than heard. "Life in the Fast Lane," propelled by Walsh's guitar and Glenn Frey's clavinet, rocks like it really means it; "Victim of Love" works similarly, though at a slower tempo. Henley is superb on all three.

Eagles - Hotel California
Original album advertising art.
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The frequent orchestration, however, doesn't always fit. "Pretty Maids All in a Row" employs glistening, high-pitched string synthesizer to good effect, adding a reserved tension to the slowly paced arrangement; but the approach fails on "Wasted Time," an overarranged wash embodying the worst of rock-cum-Hollywood sensibilities. What does work is the elegant fullness of "The Last Resort," whose concluding words sum up Hotel California: "You call some place Paradise...kiss it goodbye."

- Charley Walters, Rolling Stone, 2/24/77.

Bonus Reviews!

This long-awaited album of new Eagles material more than lives up to its highest expectations, as hundreds of thousands of concertgoers who heard the L.A. quintet in person this summer and fall performing songs from the upcoming LP can attest. The casually beautiful, quietly intense, multileveled vocal harmonies and brilliant original songs that meld solid emotional words with lovely melody lines are all back in full force, keeping the Eagles at the acme of acoustic-electric soft rock. At least three of the cuts are among the group's best ever and would seem likely to make memorable singles, if preliminary album-cut airplay is any reliable indication. With the exception of the lengthy Procol Harum-type title cut, the group isn't trying out any new departures here. But the album proves that there's a lot more left to explore profitably and artistically in the L.A. countryish-rock style. And Joe Walsh's hard rock lead guitar adds just enough extra impetus on a few effective change-of-pace uptempo tunes. However, the Eagles are still best on pretty ballads that grab the ear by smooth sound textures, and there's plenty of this on the LP, which ships platinum. Best cuts: "New Kid In Town," "Wasted Time," "Hotel California," "Try And Love Again," "The Last Resort."

- Billboard, 1977.

Speaking strictly as a nonfan, I'd grant that this is their most substantial if not their most enjoyable LP -- they couldn't have written any of the songs on side one, or even the pretentious and condescending "The Last Resort," without caring about their California down deep. But though one strength of the lyrics is that they don't exclude the Eagles from purgatory-on-earth, Don Henley is incapable of conveying a mental state as complex as self-criticism -- he'll probably sound smug croaking out his famous last words ("Where's the Coke?"). I'd also be curious to know what Mexican-Americans think of the title tune's Spanish accent. B

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

Don Henley once called this best-selling of all Eagles' albums "the zenith of our career." On this album the Eagles lineup consisted of Henley, Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Randy Meisner. Hotel California generated two US number one singles, the title track and "New Kid in Town," and spent eight weeks on the top of the LP chart. "Life in the Fast Lane," a moderate hit single, reinforced the use of its title phrase to describe a particular seventies lifestyle. Henley and Frey's "The Last Resort" was a major extended piece.

"We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest," Henley said of the Eagles. "'Hotel California' was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles. It was meant to be a metaphor for the United States, for the excesses this country has always been known for. It wasn't meant to be just about California or Beverly Hills. It was more or less taken that way, but we had broader intentions than that. When you love something, you have to point out the things that are going wrong."

In 1987, Hotel California was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #48 rock album of all time.

- Paul Gambaccini, The 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.

Rock history records, as indeed to the sleeve notes, the painstaking care in the writing and recording of this money-spinning softly rocking classic. Compact Disc now reveals the intricacies and qualities of a recording that is said to have taken eight months of studio time. Compact Disc has pushed out into the frequency extremes with electric bass guitar and cymbals now reproducing with a focus and precision unheard from the average LP pressing.

Current Polygram UK pressings have lost a brittleness and boxy quality heard on early pressings. The clean easy-on-the-ear sound provides a window on the full dynamic range of these tapes -- the title track having a new hard-driving determination. Joe Walsh's gutiar now fair burns through your system in "Life In the Fast Lane." Again only a slight softening of bass lines and the faintest tape hiss gives the game away about the age of the masters.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

The addition of Joe Walsh brought a harder, more rock edge to the band's material which made this their strongest album statement. Gone are the gunslingers of the past; it's tough enough to stay alive on the mean streets of Beverly Hills. In the end, it's a pretty hard look at the seamier side of success, still packaged for the adoring mass audience, and it works. They may not have been sincere, but they were pros; and Henley and Frey were among the era's better writers. The CD's sound, while sometimes a bit bright in the vocals, is big, spacious, detailed, and a decided improvement over the LP. B+

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

A concept album about the dissipated life of Southern California rock stars, from being the "New Kid in Town" to living "Life in the Fast Lane" to holding up in the "Hotel California" fearing it's all been "Wasted Time" and turning to "The Last Resort." This album and Pink Floyd's The Wall are aural versions of A Star is Born for the rock generation. * * * * *

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

Hotel California made the most of the momentum of the Eagles' 1975 singles collection Their Greatest Hits, 1971-75, an album that established them as one of rock's top groups of the time. Bolstered by the addition of Joe Walsh's stinging guitar solos and a collection of poignant, pointed songs, Hotel California is as much a cultural barometer as a great rock 'n' roll album. * * * * *

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Regarded by many people as the epitome of dusty California cool, Hotel California proved paradoxical in a number of ways. The easy feeling displayed on the record is not, in any way, reflective of the dynamic of the band at the time. Glen Frey and Don Henley had angered bassist Randy Meisner, whose marriage was collapsing. This unsteady nucleus was spiked further by the addition of a new, already famous Eagle, Joe Walsh. Eventually completed in October 1976, Hotel California was rush-released on 8 December, just in time to catch the Christmas rush. Powered by its three opening hits, the title track, "New Kid In Town" and "Life In The Fast Lane," the album proved to be a swansong for that particular brand of West Coast rock music.

- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.

The album that took the LA out of Shangri-La, this snide aside on the California lifestyle rocks more than previous efforts, thanks to the triple-threat guitar attack from Don Felder, Glenn Frey and new member Joe Walsh, who play a game of one-upmanship, and Don Henley's ability to paint a picture, especially on the sultry title track. Like the great line "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave" (who hasn't looked for that creepy hotel?), this masterpiece attaches itself forever. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.




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Single Review:
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Single Review:
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Hotel California represents the epitome of mid-seventies "laidback" laissez faire El Lay easy livin'. From the fandango-like opening strains of the title cut to wistful dying gasps of "The Last Resort" (get the obvious pun) this is amongst the pre-eminent "concept" albums of the seventies. Although the Eagles have oft been criticized for being victims of the soul-destroying corporate rock gravy train, Hotel California is actually a somewhat ironic commentary on the whole Hollywood myth-making process, as reflected by the anthem "Life in the Fast Lane," often mistaken as pure burn-out rock by the party hordes of the late seventies, but actually a cynical look at all that was superficial about that era (particularly in Los Angeles where the Eagles called home). It was the L.A. of Warren Beatty and Jerry Brown, and it was a world the Eagles knew well. Hotel California epitomizes that world, and for this reason, it's a perfect snapshot of the fondue cocaine culture and the best L.A. album of all time.

Hotel California was voted the 38th greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.

- Arthur D. Segundewitz, VH1's 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.

In pursuit of note-perfect Hollywood-cowboy ennui, the Eagles spent eight months in the studio making Hotel California, polishing the vocals and guitars in take after take after take. As Don Henley recalled, "We just locked ourselves in. We had a refrigerator, a pingpong table, roller skates and a couple of cots. We would go in and stay for two or three days at a time." With guitarist Joe Walsh replacing Bernie Leadon, the band backed off from straight country-rock (glorious exception: "New Kid in Town") in favor of the harder sound of "Life in the Fast Lane." The highlight is the title track, a monument to the rock-aristocrat decadence of the day and a feast of triple-guitar interplay. "Every band has their peak," Henley said. "That was ours."

Hotel California was chosen as the 37th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

The Eagles moved still further from their early country roots and cranked up the guitars to produce their most rock-flavoured material yet on Hotel California. With the addition of guitarist Joe Walsh to the line-up as a replacement for the more country-leaning Bernie Leadon, the band turned out a harder-edged sound for what represents the creative and commercial peak of their incredibly successful career.

Standing, too, as a definitive statement on 1970s American rock, Hotel California was the result of six months' work in Miami's Criteria Studios with expectations only swelled ahead of its release by a gap of almost a year and a half since their last studio effort, One Of These Nights. However, the stop-gap Greatest Hits 1971-75 had ensured their name remained at the top of the charts.

The new album provided a metaphor for the excesses of certain aspects of American society and, in particular, California life, not least on the epic six-and-a-half-minute title track, made all the more distinctive by the duo guitar solos from Walsh and Don Felder. The track, one of five numbers here sung by Don Henley, gave the band a fourth Hot 100 number one just 10 weeks after fellow album cut "New Kid In Town" had reached the top. Spread across four separate runs, the album accumulated eight weeks at Number One Stateside in early 1977, while it achieved a Number Two spot in the UK.

As of 2004, Hotel California was the #6 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

Released in December 1976, Hotel California depicts the emotional burnout of the West Coast scene after peace and love hardened into cynical hedonism. The soundtrack of decadent times, it went on to sell more than 16 million copies. It is a mature work from a band whose reflections on the cost of excess had been formed the hard way -- by five years of hit records and touring. As founder member Glenn Frey said, the album "explores the underbelly of success, the darker side of paradise."

Part delirious road trip, part murder ballad, the title track's lilting tempo and stinging guitar lines evoke a place where evil lurks behind potted palms and welcoming smiles; the searing lead duel between Joe Walsh and Don Felder is one fo the most memorable in rock. Shifting focus from widescreen excess to close-up portraits of the damage done is one of the album's hallmarks. "Life In The Fast Lane" sends us on a dirty boogie down the freeway with a callous pair of socialites -- only to encounter their smoking wreckage in the next track, "Wasted Time," a grandly orchestrated ballad of compromised, disappointed lives.

The band's country roots are present throughout, most notably on "New Kid In Town," where Walsh's electric piano evokes the sleepy sadness of a Mexican cantina amid vocal harmonies as lush as a manicured Hollywood lawn. In many ways Hotel California represents everything that punk came to destroy; glassily perfect production, harmonized guitar solos, and "themes." But like many musical styles in their last bloom, West Coast country-rock reached a refinement in Hotel California never equaled again.

- Jamie Dickson, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

The hit-making operation known as the Eagles was riding the biggest album of its career, the pleasant (if molasses-slow One of These Nights, when guitarist and songwriter Bernie Leadon announced in December 1975 that he was leaving the group. Normally, personnel changes for bands of this stature are cataclysmic. This one was different: Replacing Leadon, who wrote the group's single "Witchy Woman," was guitarist Joe Walsh, whose banshee wail and theatrical solos sparked the James Gang and such solo singles as "Rocky Mountain Way."

Almost overnight, the band known for peaceful easy feelings acquired a pronounced rock swagger. The timing was perfect: The Eagles had pretty much exhausted the cactus-and-tequila iconography of country rock as practiced by the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Walsh's biting guitar -- and the hard, edgy sound favored by producer Bill Szymczyk -- put principal writers Don Henley and Glenn Frey in touch with a rock-star audacity they'd been missing. Together and separately, they came up with a confluence of muscular music and acidic lyrics that are unlike anything else the Eagles had done to that point. Henley later said that the album, released during the U.S. bicentennial celebration, was the band's comment on American decadence.

Hotel California begins with the premise that all of America is interested in what happens at the SoCal fantasy factory; its songs invite listeners inside the never-ending music business bacchanal, which was at a particular high point in the mid-'70s. And then, as they chronicle dark appetites and dependencies, the Eagles poke holes in all the cherished backstage myths. Here's addiction viewed from the perspective of a brutal morning after ("Life in the Fast Lane," the album's super-energized rock moment) and celebrity excess drawn with such skill it becomes a surreal grotesque.

The album, which stands as the Eagles' überstatement, belongs to a long line of conceptual works about the perils and perks of rock stardom. Though others are more intense (see Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here), few have offered such detailed portraits of dissipation in progress, right down to the pink champagne on ice. Being entertainers, the Eagles offset these caustic observations with more accessible mterial -- the gently sung ballad "New Kid in Town," the retro "Victim of Love," and a plaintive country-rock ode that's the album's often-neglected masterstroke, "Try and Love Again."

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

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