Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! We’ve got a big album this week and one that I’ve been looking forward to covering for a long time, Hotel California by the Eagles. I’m a big fan of the Eagles and Hotel California is one of their most complete albums. The whole album was designed as a concept album for the American Bicentennial and attempted to show some of the darker underpinnings of America, represented by a state that stood for America on a global scale due to the entertainment industry, California. Hotel California has a few major themes running through it, primarily criticism of excess and loss of innocence, all punctuated by a more traditional rock sound than the country rock sound that defined earlier Eagles albums.
Hotel California might be one of the best albums ever released. It had stiff competition in 1976, barely losing the Grammy for Album of the Year to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (another legendary album!). Despite this, Hotel California is the perfect representation of a classic rock album, and I can’t think of many albums that could give it a run for its money. The lyrics are crafted masterfully and make you tune in more to the songs. I’m not normally a ‘lyrics guy’ but I was hooked from the title track. There are a lot of highlights on this album and even a few songs that don’t get so much attention that deserve more in my mind. Hotel California is one of the greats in the classic rock genre, so take some time and give it another listen. Enjoy!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Hotel California: What a way to start an album. It doesn’t get any better than “Hotel California.” As soon as you hear the iconic guitar picking and the pounding drums, you know exactly what you’re listening to; there’s no mistaking it. Musically, “Hotel California” is practically perfect. The guitar solo that plays the song out is legendary and one of the best executed guitar solos ever put to vinyl. What always strikes me about “Hotel California” is the contrast between the softer picking guitar paired with the vocal harmony compared to the harder electric guitar in the background. You almost don’t notice the electric guitar until it becomes the focal point of the song at the end. That shows great balance and awareness from the musicians not to overload the song and lets the listener focus more on the lyrics of the song. It’s almost impossible to have a better song start an album. Well done. Dad’s Rating 10/10
New Kid in Town: This is a big shift from “Hotel California,” but “New Kid in Town” manages to capture a lot of the magic of “Tequila Sunrise” from 1973’s Desperado. “New Kid in Town” is a good ballad with solid vocal performances and a charming guitar. My only fault with the song is the backing keyboard. It seems like it’s not mixed well in a lot of places and pulls me out of the song. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Life in the Fast Lane: My second perfectly rated song on the album, “Life in the Fast Lane,” receives full marks for how classic it is and how good of an example of a blues-rock inspired song it is. The production value on this track is one of the best parts of the song. Listen to the vocals and notice how they’re a little fuzzy. It plays so well into the sliding guitar and bass heavy sections of the song. That same sliding guitar and heavy bass through the choruses are iconic, and I love it every time I listen to it. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Wasted Time: I combined both the first “Wasted Time” and the reprise that starts the B side into one song since they are parts of a whole. “Wasted Time” was a real hidden gem for me. It’s a slower song, and I’ve already said that I have problems with ballads since they usually put me to sleep, but there’s something special about “Wasted Time” that actually keeps my attention. The piano and crooning vocals are beautifully simple. I know we talk a lot about Don Henley’s voice, but this might be his best performance for the Eagles. The rest of the band stayed back and let him do his thing and it sure paid off! The crescendo through the song, adding strings and a backing chorus gives “Wasted Time” such an epic feeling, on par with a song like “Desperado.” This might be one of my new favorite Eagles songs. If you haven’t listened to this one much before, I highly recommend giving it a second chance. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Victim of Love: “Victim of Love” is one of my favorite songs on this record. The instrumentals have so much power that are able to punctuate the song with ferocious chords and accented nicely by Henley’s comparatively softer vocals. This is a great rock song that features a great ending refrain. The last 20 seconds of the song are some of the best once the vocal harmony amps up and the guitar is unleashed. Truly an example of how to do a rock song the right way. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Pretty Maids All in a Row: What is it about the Eagles and ballads that they manage to keep my attention?! If I had to guess, I would say that it’s a high degree of competent musicianship, interesting song composition, and a soft country rock sound. I’m a sucker for a country rock sound and “Pretty Maids” delivers on that front, particularly on the guitar solos where we get some slide guitar. The soft vocal harmony at the end of the song might be one of my favorite moments on the album. It’s so touching and perfectly executed that you can almost hear the band singing to the ‘Pretty Maids.’ Dad’s Rating 7/10
Try and Love Again: “Try and Love Again” is probably the most forgettable song on the record, buried on the B side after a really good ballad. Having said that, it’s still a good, classic Eagles, soft rock song. The vocal harmony is tight if not as spectacular as other songs. The instrumentation is good if nothing to write home about. “Try and Love Again” is a good song all around, but I won’t remember it after this review. Dad’s Rating 6/10
The Last Resort: We finish off Hotel California with the last ballad of the album. “The Last Resort” (appropriate considering that this is the last song on the album titled Hotel California) is more than it would initially appear to be. This seven-minute long song builds into an orchestral finish that fades out with only instrumentation. There are lots of interesting pieces throughout the song, but the highlight is again Henley’s vocals. Hotel California was where he was in some of his best form and the pureness of his voice shines through on “The Last Resort.” This track feels like a very fitting ending to an epic album. Dad’s Rating 7/10
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