Somewhere between “Dylan” and “Elvis” on my shelves rest quite a few albums by a band called “Eagles.” Though the song “Hotel California” from the album of the same name, an anthem of the excesses of modern West Coast life, is probably what comes to mind when you mention the band, the first two albums– Eagles, and Desperado, are something quite different.
(I play Hotel California about as often as I play Stairway to Heaven. Neither represents the breadth of these bands or their roots, but those are the songs to which their legacy attaches).
The first album, simply entitled Eagles, has hits including “Take it Easy,” “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” The album is laid back, countrified rock. It was a great debut.
An early copy, above; below, a later recut of the first album, which I understand may have been pressed at Monarch:
Their follow up, Desperado, is probably my favorite, despite the whole “concept” thing of evoking the Dalton gang, down to the photo line-up of captured outlaws on the back cover, which emulated a famous photo of the aftermath of a shoot-out with the gang.
(In real life, the photos were of corpses, but even in the wildest days of the record business, that wouldn’t have gotten too far).
The album did not do as well commercially as expected at the time, but seems to have endured.
Both albums were produced (and engineered) by Glyn Johns, a UK producer-engineer of no small repute. Johns’ recent autobiography, Sound Man, tells of his graceful exit after making these records as the band deliberately shifted away from a countrified sound in favor of a bigger, harder “rock” sound. Members eventually left. Adding Joe Walsh didn’t hurt. But, these first two albums are nothing like the later stuff.
My copies of these first two albums are both relatively early ones:
This one is a Monarch pressing, known for its punch.
For what it’s worth, Desperado is supposed to be the last Asylum record distributed through Atlantic, before the reshuffling of the companies under the Warner umbrella. See note 1 here.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to escape without some mention of Hotel California. The pressing to look for is probably the Lee Hulko-mastered one. (Sterling in the deadwax, with the initials “LH” in tiny print).
The one to buy, beyond that, is Hell Freezes Over, a mostly live double album with most of the hits, including Hotel. I prefer it, and some of the performances on it, to the numerous copies of the Hotel California album that are on my shelves.
Elliot Scheiner was involved in the production and engineering of Hell and it is a pretty impressive listen.
The only problem- at least for now- is that is not easy or cheap to find on vinyl. There was a Euro-release on Geffen, and a Simply Vinyl reissue, both of which fetch big money on the used market. There is also apparently an “unofficial” vinyl version that was pressed in the EU 2014 about which I know nothing.
I happened to be in the audience at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when these guys were inducted- Joe Walsh, wearing a suit that looked like it was made of “bricks,” managed to crank out every note of the song “Hotel California” as if it were the record playing, and made it look completely effortless. While the band may forever be known for“Hotel California,” I don’t think you can fairly assess what the Eagles contributed without having the first two albums in your collection.
 Most of the gang died in the infamous Coffeyville shoot-out. The back cover of the album emulates a famous photo of their corpses in repose. Emmett Dalton, though severely wounded, survived and after a long stint in prison, relocated to California, where he wrote about his exploits, and appeared in a few films. Like many notorious figures of the “Old West,” considerable Internet bandwidth is devoted to the Dalton gang.
 Despite being associated with the LA scene at the time, both Eagles and Desperado were recorded in England.