Ever wonder what record was almost as iconic as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours?
Yep, Hotel California, by the Eagles. Just barely nudged out of the “Best Album” honor by Rumours in 1978, the title track did win “Record of the Year” and would go on to sell 16 million copies in the US. The title track, “New Kid in Town,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Victim of Love” also went on to major success as singles. Not too shabby after all.
Recorded in 1976 when Warner/Elektra/Asylum was flush with cash, and no expense was spared on the follow up to the Eagles highly successful One of These Nights. The Eagles become one of the world’s biggest bands in the mid to late 70’s until they disbanded in 1980. Only Don Henley would go on to achieve major success as a solo act, with albums in 1984 (Building the Perfect Beast) and 1989 (The End of The Innocence), though the rest of the group did manage to get their solo efforts in as well.
Considering the success of the Eagles Hell Freezes Over, (a record highly overused at most hifi shops and shows) is Hotel California worth revisiting in 2012? While an off the shelf CD will more than likely leave you cold, if you don’t have a white label promo or an early stamper on LP, HD Tracks recent remaster, available as a 24/96 download does this rock warhorse justice. As there were both DVD-a and SACD reissues of this title, it is unknown which digital master was used for the 2012 HD Tracks release. Those craving even higher resolution can also download the file in 24/192.
Like driving a well-sorted vintage sports car, Hotel California remains a good listen, even after 36 years, especially if the album’s biggest hits aren’t too burned into your aural memory after the saturated airplay this record received for many years. One of the 70’s great concept albums, the songs and the musicianship in Hotel California are first rate and where the original CD is crunchy, compressed and flat on top, with precious little bass energy, the 24/96 download sounds as if a subwoofer has been added to the mix – evident from the first bass riff in the title track. Joe Walsh’s guitar playing is ever vibrant and the high resolution format adds a dose of impact sadly lacking in the currently available digital versions. Percussion is clean and crisp (every now and then, a tad too crisp, reminding you that this is digital) where even the standard LP version is muffled, with not only a lot more space around the instruments, but much better rendition of vocal harmonies. The record ends with Don Henley taking the lead vocal on “The Last Resort,” a foreshadowing of his work as an environmental activist.
Hotel California captures the Eagles as young, vital musicians at the peak of their creativity. For those of you that have only been listening to Hell Freezes Over, it may be an interesting exercise.