A year after their astonishingly good Self-Titled debut, the Eagles returned with Desperado; an album arguably leaning more towards a country-styling, than their debut, as they focused on the old west in American culture. Considering Desperado as a concept album, one can't help but see a correlation between Desperado and Elton John's similarly themed 1970 released Tumbleweed Connection. Perhaps the Eagles copied that concept, but if that was ever an element, it has never been discussed to my knowledge. Either way, as a fan of the old west, when the theme is done well, as it is in this case, it can be extraordinarily rewarding for the listener.
As a life-long fan of the Eagles, Desperado was always going to be a must-own release for my collection and the copy I am fortunate enough to own is the 2014 vinyl reissue. Sonically, it is a beautiful reproduction that is dynamically pleasing with an incredible soundstage that is as wide as it is deep. I love it when the speakers disappear, and I become immersed in the music. Part of the immersion can also be attributed to the album artwork that is striking in its presentation and this particular reissue has a textual cover, reportedly the same as the original 1973 vinyl release. At least it isn’t a fingerprint magnet like those albums released by Music On Vinyl (MOV); they look stunning and are very well pressed, but over time the fingerprints weaken the artwork. While the red text, on the near-black background looks a little washed out and therefore more difficult to read, it is a major improvement over the Self-Titled debut whereby the text was basically unreadable.
While the re-issue was marketed as replicating the original artwork, the album label is different to the original releases I’ve seen whereby they had the plain white background, this edition has the clouds background. It isn’t really an issue, but I do appreciate authenticity. It would have been incredible for the record label to match the texture of the record sleeve but I'm not even sure if that can be technically achieved, as the labels are applied during the heat/moulding stage, but it is nevertheless cool to think about.
The record itself comes in a lovely static free inner sleeve, black in colour with a clear centre. While the music itself is paramount, both sides of the album are mastered and pressed perfectly. This is certainly a re-issue that I would recommend to any fan of the Eagles.
Doolin-Dalton is incredibly compelling. That harmonica just reaches into my soul every time I listen to this masterpiece. It’s also important to note that it is less harsh on the vinyl version when compared directly to any of the digital counterparts.
Twenty-One is too ‘country’ for my liking. The banjo is an acquired taste and while I don't dislike it, I feel it is played too fast for this song and subsequently it’s as though I’m listening to two different songs when Twenty-One starts playing.
Out Of Control is a solid rock song that I feel would have sounded better on On The Border, just as James Dean does. If you didn't know, James Dean was recorded for Desperado but held back at the time as it didn’t match the album perfectly.
Tequila Sunrise, as I've said before, is a beautifully relaxing song that gets better the more often I hear it. I don't know as I could ever tire of this song as it uses every part of the soundstage to ensure you're enveloped in sound. Amazing!
Desperado, having not been released as a single, has become a fan favourite and is one of the Eagle's very best recordings. Vocally it is a little rough around the edges, but that gives the song character and I couldn't imagine it with any more spit and polish.
Certain Kind Of Fool is fantastic. The perfect guitar strum. The perfect tempo. The perfect vocal delivery. Certain Kind Of Fool is a hidden gem that casual fans would likely miss but is undoubtedly one of the best songs on the album.
Doolin’ Dalton (Instrumental) is a distraction and while it flows well into Outlaw Man, Desperado would have been fine without this deviation. Interestingly, this instrumental track has never been listed on the back of the record sleeve. It is written on the record label, however. Other than a typo that has remained consistent throughout the years, I can’t help but wonder why this may be the case.
Outlaw Man is a killer song with a spectacular soundstage and while positioned on the B-side of the album, it’s an A-side in my opinion. I love it! On a side note, this song would have been perfectly suited to Fleetwood Mac; Rumours era.
Saturday Night is a lovely ballad. Perfect harmonics and just an all-around great song. As good as some of the tracks on Side One are, it is really the second side that makes Desperado a must-own album. Astonishingly good!
Bitter Creek is one of my all-time favourite Eagles songs. You may not have heard it before as it is unlikely to be played live and doesn’t appear on any of the Eagles’ career perspective releases, but there is something very special here. The simplicity of that guitar strum and intermingling vocal, interspersed with the harmonies, is nothing short of amazing.
Doolin-Dalton (Reprise) is enjoyable but I would have been extremely happy if Bitter Creek was the final song on the album. I’ve never been much of a fan of the reprise, as I would generally prefer to hear the original track again, however, I do enjoy the electric guitar tracking instead of the harmonica as it creates a unique experience that works remarkably well.
Similarly, Desperado (Reprise) builds upon the original song without disrupting the magic that made the original so special. It’s a perfect way to close the album, ensuring I’ll listen again and stay within the Eagles’ catalogue.
Desperado is an album of hidden gems, combined with a few hits and a couple of misses. However, it all comes together in a coherent album that is thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of the Eagles.