Album in Depth: Hotel California by The Eagles

Hello, y’all. Just wanting to let everyone know what was going through my life. A quickie just to clarify some things:

First of all, I completed 10 Album in Depth, which was the marker I was expecting when I first started. In fact, looking back, there were some things that I liked and some things that I wasn’t fond of and abandoned along the way. I really enjoyed writing the 10 Album in Depth that preceded this one and these 2 months and some days that I’ve been, even in small issues, a member of the TGWTG community. However, this is the first blog I post from home. Even though I study Monday to Friday in another city where I don’t have a regular access to internet, my house was reforming, so even on weekends I wasn’t going to my house, but to my uncles’ house. It was very cool and all, but it wasn’t my home and I wasn’t listening to the albums in my pick-up. So, from today on, all of my blogging material will be performed at home, not that it cares too much as what I am about to sadly say.

When I moved out because of the reform, I knew that most things would be damaged, so I tried to take with me the most albums, mangas and games humanly possible, and I actually could move all my games (an n64 console and 20 cartridges), most of my manga (yu yu hakusho, D. Gray-Man and some others) and only 20 to 30 of my albums, which made me really sad at the time. But I did not consider than when I got back, I would get to my chest to discover that it was pushed around… just to make the image cleared, it was vertical, instead of horizontal. It stayed that way for at least six months, as my computer is accusing. As I opened it to seek the damage, yeah, some albums were destroyed… including some of the ones considered by me my favorites. Just to name a few, Thick as a Brick is a complete wreck, A Night at the Opera was completely chipped, and just to make things worse, Back in Black got folded. Some other minor ones got hit too, including the copy of Tea for the Tillerman I left home and some Brazilian stuff that I don’t like but my father stuffs in with my stuff, but even so, vinyl is vinyl. The damage was practically only that and most of it is replaceable, but even so, it was some cherished stuff that I collected through the years and wished I could share now with you guys. So, enough about that, no use crying over split milk… or split long plays…

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. The main reason why I started doing these reviews was to get to know more and more bands and more and more albums. And actually, it has been working even with the low feedback: since I started doing these, I got to know an DragonForce album, the very first Dio album, White Lion, whose review isn’t even drafted, Plastic Beach, Frank Zappa, and some other minor inexperienced stuff. And I’m enjoying the hell out of it: for good or for worse, knowing new bands and new albums is always a great deal.

However, there is still one more side that I enjoy as well being an album reviewer, which is getting an album that most people only know one song and say a little more about it. I really would like to, in future installments, talk about Colour by Numbers by Culture Club, that contains the huge one hit wonder Karma Chameleon, or about Metal Health by Quiet Riot. So, as that being, why not talk about one of the greatest hits ever, Hotel California by The Eagles?

So, who are the Eagles and what does this album means? A little background is required:

The year is 1976. Rocky won the Best Picture Academy Award and Star Wars, when it didn’t even have a subtitle, started productions. Abba decides what is their new logo and the Sex Pistols prove they are completely stupid by swearing on public television. Warner bought Atari for 28 million dollars and Apple Computers is founded.

Eagles were already trailing the path of success. They got the very first platinum certificate ever with a Greatest Hits Album and had other four original material albums that are really worth checking if you like their style. Their first album kind of helped the miscegenation of the style known as Country Rock. After their third fourth album, 1975’s One of These Nights, founding member Bernie Leadon left the band for health issues, being replaced by Joe Walsh, who is still with the group to the date. From the Hotel California formation, only Randy Meisner was replaced since, being the rest of the band, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Joe Walsh, still together until 2010, their last recording session. Also, this was the last album Randy Meisner put his bass lines on.

By the way, lucky me: Don Henley himself said that this album is a concept album! So, yey, another concept album and another overstatement to analyze! Let’s check this fact as we go!

From the outside of the album, the cover is just generic. I’m guessing it must be a picture of California with the sun setting, but I could be wrong. I mean, I saw some generic album covers, but the sunset with some palm trees and a building, maybe to resemble the Hotel California. I don’t know. Actually, it is the Beverly Hills Hotel, but what difference does it make? The album is 43 minutes long which is actually a pretty decent running time, with the shortest song elapsing 1:23 and the longest being 7:28, which is a big song, but not an immensely insufferable time. The quality of my copy is pretty decent, as the ink has not failed anywhere and the photo is well preserved.

This album got 16 platinum certifications and was number one on the billboard album charts on the year of its release, even knowing that it only got a 10th position of the country charts. So, let’s get this over with: Hotel California by The Eagles.

1st track: “Hotel California” – This song is special in his own way. It may be one of the most well done songs ever, with a bizarre twisted story that may or may not mean a thing; the guitar accompanies the dark mood of the whole music with elegance, to the point where three guitars are presented; the bass works it efficiently through the song, making it an indispensable feature to hear; the percussion is really well taken care, not a show stopper, not a show ruiner either. The lyrics are really, REALLY, well done. It’s the kind of lyrics that everyone has a theory and the creator – obviously – doesn’t reveal what the hell the song means, much to his own avail. My theory for this song is that it is about what people normally do when looking through the prism of insanity, which in this case is the first person on the song, who is stuck in an insane asylum, but that’s just me: most people will agree that it is a metaphor to the US. Even Henley himself told that it all was a sociopolitical statement; I disagree. He also told that explaining the lyrics would diminish the songs literacy, but I believe it is because he doesn’t know what the hell the song means. Most people wrote lyrics while under influence of certain substances in the seventies and this seems to me as a huge example.

2nd track: “New Kid in Town” – This is the major problem of having a really kick ass song in your album: no matter how hard you try it, you’ll never be able to do a follow up. The song takes the country route more than any rock ‘n roll route they could’ve taken. The song reminds me of much later “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” by Brian Adams. The lyrics are really generic, as so is the music, but then again, all that only if you compare it with the title track of this album: as a standalone, this song is pretty decent. I didn’t see any connection between Hotel California and this one, but as Hotel California has a plethora of meanings, I’m going to consider the thing that is the closest: hotel California is the US, so the songs will talk about situations in the US, as being the New Kid in Town and no one appreciating you.

3rd track: “Life in the Fast Lane” – This song reminds me of “Get Down Make Love” by Queen, of the News of the World album of 1977, so maybe it’s the other way around. The song has a real rock ‘n roll feel, in contrast with the previous song. The guitar is ingeniously well done, but then again, it’s the only redeemable feature, as not even the bass is well used. The vocals and back vocals on the chorus are really interesting, but not enough to make this an excellent song. The lyrics talk about a bad guy with a bad girl metaphorically shitting fuck up, really. I believe it is a metaphor, as it describes them both riding a motorcycle on the fast lane: it’s the typical metaphor for people living perilously. I think they die at the end, as everything points to that. So, how does it connect with the others? Well, it could be any couple on America, as it could be any couple in the world, so I don’t think it connects that well. With some hard use of imagination, I can see a connection.

4th track: “Wasted Time” – The ballad track. Even though most of the ballads track of the world are just cheap ways to tear jerk the listener and make they relate with some love of the past, this one connects wonderfully well: smart lyrics, kick ass melody, a piano that catches you by surprise in the midst of the album and a Bryan Adams type of vocals (I spoke of two entirely different “Bryan Adams” in the same album, that can’t be right). I can’t see why this song never achieved success, as it can be one of the best ballad songs that I ever heard, getting ahead of such classics as “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” and “I Guess Why They Call it the Blues”. Even the strings sessions throughout the song mixes well with the whole idea: a great song, in the end. The lyrics talk about a woman who can’t keep his man, a really country music subject, but well played in the ballad context. I can see this happening in somewhere, but that doesn’t make sense in concept album context, as the theme shifted left and right.

Side one is over. Flip it over, Side Two!

5th track: “Wasted Time (Reprise)” – Really? A reprise of the song we just heard? That is stupid. That’s just a way to fake the concept album tag onto it. However, even so all of my bitching, it is a beautiful instrumental track, consisting only of strings, I believe. It’s the shortest track on the album, but it is beautiful: really worth checking out, even more than the original version. No lyrics, no connection.

6th track: “Victim of Love” – If “Life in the Fast Lane” reminded me in a little bit of “Get Down Make Love”, this one reminds me entirely of it. The construction is basically the same. I think, lyric wise, it talks about a girl who has been used by a guy until he left and she’s is a victim of love, hence the title. However, the lyrics are predictably dull and musically, it fails. After a 5 good music streak, this one takes it all to the toilet. The guitar is boring, the drums are dull and the vocals are incredibly annoying. Also, it doesn’t connect in any way to the concept, unless the concept is “peoples relating in America”, because that’s vague as hell.

7th track: “Pretty Maids All in a Row” – Strange title, but real cute ballad. Reminds me of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. The piano tries to be as surprising as in Wasted Time, but fails. Lyrically, I can’t say if the title is a metaphor or some sort of western slang, but I didn’t get it, so it sounds really misplaced. It tells the tale of two lovers reuniting, maybe friends, but not reuniting as a couple, just meeting again after some time, with different directions being taken. As a standalone, it is kind of good, but as a part of this album, it only exceeds the previous track.

8th track: “Try and Love Again” – This is exactly what I think about something named “Country Rock”. Unfortunately, I hate country, but fortunately, I love rock ‘n roll! Well, with that said, it’s just generic country, with your ever theme of loneliness and “please love me”. The lyrics aren’t creative and the rhythm trying to be ballad makes the song really boring. I have to say, for the number of compliments I already gave this album, I’m not happy with the outcome. Really, it’s a shame. So, I guess it kind of fits in with “Victim of Love” and “Pretty Maids All in a Row” theme of country love, but whoever think can convince me that these songs and fucking Hotel California have a common theme I would love to hear the theory. Really would.

9th track: “The Last Resort” – This is a protest song, and a powerful one at that. With some creative piano and some kick-ass vocals, this song could easily be used by any vegetarian hippie out there. It talks about how the Americans took the land of the Indians and called it a paradise while people are suffering, mainly Native Americans, since the term Indians sounds a little misplaced. It also uses the well before handed theme that most resources used for technological growth are finite resources, getting really close to the “oil” theme that they could 34 years ago, which needs some visionary attributes. The bridge is clean, the song is just well made and to top it off, is just the excellent finisher, as it doesn’t make you want it to end early or wishing the next album or another track, but instead, makes you want to listen to the album again. If I saw someone listening to this album in repeat ad eternum, I wouldn’t blame him, as the only reason I got to listening to this album without blowing my head off was because of this track, followed by Hotel California. However, I can’t stress this enough: if there are two songs that are completely and utterly disconnected, is these two songs.

So how does it all hold up? Well, as a concept album, it falls flop on his belly. This, to me, is not a concept album in any way. It may have a theme, maybe it’s songs about California, I wouldn’t know, but as far as I’m concerned, as an ignorant in Californian and Western America issues, this album is not a concept album. However, as an album, it has a pretty solid side 1 and a soft touch on the side 2 that doesn’t make me want to go there anymore. The final track, however, could possibly elevate the bar high enough to make it almost as good as Side 1, but not so much. If you are already sick of the song “Hotel California” and want to venture through the lands of the Eagles library of songs, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Wasted Time” really are worth checking out, but I wouldn’t recommend this album to anyone with a hard rock taste in music.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

Follow me on twitter: @jotakapf

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3 Responses to Album in Depth: Hotel California by The Eagles

  1. Nice post! GA is also my biggest earning. However, it’s not a much.

  2. Concept Album might be the most overused phrase of all time.

  3. Pingback: Top 100 Album Review: #37 – Hotel California, The Eagles (1976) – The Top 100 Reviews

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