Friday, 15 July 2016

"On The Border" by EAGLES (1991 CD Remaster Inside 2013's 'The Studio Albums Collection 1972-1979' 6CD Warner Brothers Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...You Get The Best Of My Love..."

Since Glenn Frey's dreadfully sad passing in January 2016 (aged only 67) – like many I’ve been playing the EAGLES 70ts back catalogue with a strange mixture of wonder and genuine loss – loving the melodies but also wallowing in many longhaired memories – songs that I pulled girls close to – and songs that even eased a heartache or two at times. I suppose it’s that all our heroes are passing...and I for one would rather they were still playing, singing and inspiring us.

So I thought it would be a good idea to return to this dinky 6-album EAGLES collection that so ably sums up why these melodic Desperado's shifted so many millions of albums between 1972 and 1979. They were just so bloody good. And those Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Don Felder and Bernie Leadon harmonies slaughtered all in their path.

But while the lion’s share of their legacy always seems to be "Hotel California" and "One Of These Nights" – I've always loved their brilliant but overlooked third album "On The Border" - where the ten-track mixture of rockers and ballads balances itself out so well across both sides – a full listen. I'd also argue that this is one of those occasions where a multiple purchase will serve your musical needs better than a stand-alone CD. In other words get the album within the 2013 Box Set "The Studio Albums Collection 1972-1979”. Here are the Midnight Flyers...

UK released March 2013 – "On The Border" by EAGLES is contained within "The Studio Albums Collection 1972-1979" on Warner Brothers/Asylum 8122 7967468 (Barcode 081227967468) - a 6-CD Mini Box Set in which Disc 3 plays out as follows:

Disc 3 – "On The Border" (40:25 minutes):
1. Already Gone [Lead Vocals, Glenn Frey]
2. You Never Cry Like A Lover [Lead Vocals, Don Henley]
3. Midnight Flyer [Lead Vocals, Randy Meisner]
4. My Man [Lead Vocals, Bernie Leadon]
5. On The Border [Lead Vocals, Don Henley]
6. James Dean [Lead Vocals, Glenn Frey]
7. Ol' 55 [Lead Vocals, Glenn Frey & Don Henley] – Side 2
8. Is It True? [Lead Vocals, Randy Meisner]
9. Good Day In Hell [Lead Vocals, Glenn Frey & Don Henley]
10. Best Of My Love [Lead Vocals, Don Henley]
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 3rd album "On The Border" – released March 1974 in the USA on Asylum 7E 1004 and May 1974 in the UK on Asylum SYL 9014. "Already Gone", "James Dean" and "Best Of My Love" were all issued as successful US 45s in April, August and November 1974 ("Best Of My Love" would their first US No. 1). Al Perkins of Stephen Stills' Manassas plays Slide Guitar on Tom Waits' "Ol' 55" – the only cover version amongst the originals.

The clamshell box pictures all six albums on the rear and inside you get singular card sleeves with no booklet. So the gatefold and inner of "Eagles" is missing, the textured feel to the front and back cover of "On The Border" isn’t there, the Embossed "One Of The Nights" front cover and it’s inner sleeve is not here, the gatefolds, inners and varying posters that came with "Hotel California" and "The Long Run" are all AWOL too. Shame someone couldn’t have taken a leaf from the Japanese when it comes repro artwork. However – in a nod to the period - each of the CD's label designs reflect their original design (white Asylum for the first two, Boxed Cage logo for number three and so on). They’ve even printed each album’s original vinyl catalogue number printed on the disc too. But that's it. No lyrics, no booklet, no photos, no appraisal or history – which is a damn shame. Cheap and cheerful I suppose...

The Remasters are those carried out by TED JENSEN in 1999 when the catalogue was reissued and they sound really great (always did). But it’s the consistency of the music... What hammers you time and time again as you wade through the albums is the sheer quality of the tunes – hit after catchy hit – and none of it feels maudlin or dated forty years after the event. Ok this is so American West Coast – but man is it good. Even when they made a 2CD "Best Of" compilation there a few years ago – there was still plenty of room for those album nuggets in-between the hits. I've highlighted who sang lead vocals on what – Frey and Henley getting the lion's choice – but in truth the Meisner, Leadon and Felder tracks all impress too.

It opens on the rollicking "Already Gone" (written by Jack Tempchin and Robb Strandlin) – Glenn Frey and Don Felder squeaking out those high guitar notes during the solos. One of the albums hidden gems is the sweet ballad "You Never Cry Like A Lover" – a Don Henley and John David Souther song – Henley slyly caressing the words like he's 'both' hissing and in pain. Country time with the banjo-picking "Midnight Flyer" (written by Paul Craft) featuring a genuinely fantastic Glenn Frey slide guitar solo towards its end and fade out. Bernie Leadon's beautiful "My Man" was a tribute to Gram Parsons the leader of the Country-Rock outfit The Flying Burrito Brothers who had died in September of 1973 (only six months before the Eagles' third album was released). It's the kind of effortless warmth they often achieved in ballads – the type of song I used to play into the ground and ruminate on (deep baby deep). Side 1 ends on Rock brilliance. You can just about make out Glenn Frey's whispered "Good Night Dick" as the title track "On The Border" fades out – a caustic jab at President Richard Nixon's impending doom amidst the infamous Watergate scandal and cover-up (Tricky Dicky finally resigned in shame in the Autumn of 1974).

Side 2 opens with "James Dean" penned by the foursome of Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and John David Souther. While Bernie Leadon does a great solo – it’s never been one of my favourite of theirs. The mighty tunesmith and Bukowski-type hero Tom Waits probably made more money out of his "Ol' 55" on Side 2 than he did from the royalties of his entire first two albums on David Geffen's Asylum label which went criminally unnoticed for years. "Is It True?" sees Randy Meisner take Lead Vocal on his own song - while Frey and Henley unleash their bitterness in "Good Day in Hell" – Don Felder's slide shining throughout. But it's the album finisher "The Best Of My Love" (a US No. 1 single) that practically defines what made them so huge – stunning melody – Henley's fabulous voice – that effortless melodic brilliance that has so stood the test of time.

You could of course simply buy the album "On The Border" as a stand-alone CD remaster for probably three or four quid – but this is a group worthy of the whole package and "The Studio Albums Collection 1972-1979" is the place to get it - musically comprehensive, attractive to behold and sounds damn cool too.

What a glorious sound the EAGLES made for that whole brilliant decade – and what a sad loss to music is Glenn Frey’s passing. Dig in, enjoy and remember him this way...

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