"Your smile has been disguised"
Eagles are one of those bands that split opinion. For some they are the absolute epitome of bland, coke-blasted, West Coast Album Orientated Country-flecked Rock. To others they are an act of rare quality, whose big hit and mega-selling album sadly eclipsed the fact that they were one of the finest rock bands of the 70s. While it is Hotel California which sold in eye watering numbers, Eagles fans tend to point to 1973’s Desperado as the band’s most fulfilling long player. Laudable though that album is, for me an equally album is 1975’s One of These Nights, an album which balances well known big hits and compilation mainstays with more obscure work, and also happens includes one of the finest instrumental tracks of a decade not short on killer vocal-free tunes.
Opening with the almost under-water sounding bass line of the title track, which also happens to be One of These Nights’ big hits and one of the Eagles’ signature tunes, you are reminded that Eagles musical virtuosity was never in doubt, it was always the smooth delivery which put off the naysayers. Indeed, “One of These Nights” could be considered rather bland soft rock, were it not for the weird rhythm to it. That’s always been the thing with the music of Eagles for me, they were always talented enough for their patented country-rock to be interesting enough for the rock fans to find something to admire, but still accessible enough for those who just wanted to hear something pleasant to listen to on the radio. For sure, this approach might have wound up those that found this considered approach to be a little ‘safe’, but it ensured that the bands albums sold well, and that they had regular hit singles that got huge amounts of radio play.
The other big hits on One of These Nights were “Lyin’ Eyes”, a pretty standard lover-done-me-wrong ballad, albeit one with a solid melody and a memorable chorus, and “Take it to the Limit”, another ballad, albeit much more of a slow-burner which leans heavily on Randy Meisner’s vocal delivery. Neither of them are bad songs, they just don’t have a vast amount of grit to them, which if anything just eased their way to becoming huge radio hits.
It’s outside of the big hits where One of These Nights hits its stride. Neither “Too Many Hands” or “Hollywood Hands” could be classed as bland filler, and are both smartly executed slices of 70s pop-rock. “Visions” is an upbeat number, the likes of which the AOR stations in the USA salivated over in the mid to late 70s, while “After the Thrill is Gone” and “I Wish You Peace” are mature failed romance narratives. It’s all expertly executed stuff, that manages to remain both skilfully played, and shamelessly commercial, yet just rock and roll enough for the long hairs to buy in as well. It’s all intelligently done, but there’s also the distinct feeling that it was carefully crafted to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible to maximise sales.
The one risk that One of These Nights really takes is the six and a half minute instrumental, “Journey of the Sorcerer”, a tune that fans of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy radio series will immediately recognise. It’s arrangement sees multiple changes of pace and some well judged use of strings. It’s the Eagles getting as close as they ever would to prog rock, and you know something? It works. It’s a great tune and one of the few times that Eagles strayed away from the sound that saw them become the huge unit shifters of legend.
If you’re going to stray beyond the various Eagles greatest hits collections, and feel emboldened to investigate their studio albums, then One of These Nights is one of the options with the most replay value. Whether you continue from there is your own decision, but even for a relatively lightweight fan like myself, Desperado and One of these Nights are both worth a punt.