On the Border is the third studio album by American rock group the Eagles, released in 1974. Apart from two songs produced by Glyn Johns, it was produced by Bill Szymczyk because the group wanted a more rock‑oriented sound instead of the country-rock feel of the first two albums It is the first Eagles album to feature guitarist Don Felder. On the Border reached number 17 on the Billboard album chart and has sold two million copies.
Three singles were released from the album: “Already Gone”, “James Dean” and “Best of My Love”. The singles peaked at numbers 32, 77 and 1 respectively. “Best of My Love” became the band’s first of five chart toppers. The album also includes “My Man”, Bernie Leadon’s tribute to his deceased friend Gram Parsons. Leadon and Parsons had played together in the pioneer country rock band Flying Burrito Brothers, before Leadon joined the Eagles.
This is the first album by the Eagles to be released in Quadraphonic surround sound. It was released on Quadraphonic 8-track tape and CD-4 LP. A hidden message carved into the run out groove of some vinyl LPs reads: “He who hesitates is lunch”.
The album was initially produced by Glyn Johns and recorded at Olympic Studios in London, but during the making of the album, disagreement arose between the Eagles and their producer. As the band tried to lean towards a more hard rock sound, they felt that producer Glyn Johns was overemphasizing their country-influenced rock sound. Johns however felt that the Eagles were not capable of that the band wanted and told the band: “You are not a rock-and-roll band, The Who is a rock-and-roll band, and you’re not that.” The band—Glenn Frey in particular, but not Don Henley—were also unhappy with the no-drug policy of Johns during the recording; furthermore they did not feel at home recording in London. The band was concerned about the lack of success of the previous album Desperado, and were more assertive in wanting more input into the album, which Johns was unwilling to allow. The Eagles spent six weeks recording in London, with both the band and the producer becoming frustrated with each other and frequent arguments between Johns and Frey. The band then took a break, decided to find a new producer and discarded all the recordings except for two usable tracks, “Best of My Love” and “You Never Cry Like a Lover”.
The band relocated back to California and hired Bill Szymczyk, who had produced The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get by Joe Walsh—who was also managed by their manager Irving Azoff and who would go on to join the Eagles in late 1975—that interested the band. The band recorded the rest of the album at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. They were allowed more input in how the album was made and enjoyed more freedom with Szymczyk in the making of the album. Szymczyk suggested they bring in a harder-edged guitarist to add slide guitar to the song “Good Day in Hell”. Bernie Leadon suggested his old friend Don Felder, whom they had met and jammed with on a few occasions. The band was so impressed that they invited Felder to become the fifth Eagle. The only other track on this album on which he appeared was “Already Gone”. They credited him as a late arrival on the album’s liner notes.
On the difference in sound between Johns’ and Szymczyk’s productions, Henley said: “There’s a lot less echo with Bill, for one thing. There’s more of a raw and funky presence. Glyn had a stamp he put on his records which is a deep echo that is really smooth like ice cream”. He thought that the production on the two songs that Johns produced was good and necessary. Frey, however, found that L.A. country-rock records were “all too smooth and glassy”, and wanted a “tougher sound”. Their friend and collaborator J. D. Souther ascribed the change of producer to “Eagles’ desire to get more of a live, thin sound on the albums”.
The first two singles released were more rock-oriented; Frey was reluctant to release the Johns-produced “Best of My Love” as a single, and held off its release for some months. However, when it was finally released, the label had truncated the song–without the band’s knowledge or approval–so that it would be more radio-friendly. “Best of My Love” would become their biggest hit thus far, and their first No. 1 on the charts.
“Already Gone”, “James Dean”, and “Best of My Love” were released as singles from the album.
In an early review, Janet Maslin of Rolling Stone found the album “competent and commercial”, but was disappointed that it did not live up to the potential for bigger things shown in Desperado. She also thought that with three guitarists in the band, there were “just too many intrusive guitar parts here, too many solos that smack of gratuitous heaviness. Many of the arrangements seem to lose touch with the material somewhere in mid-song.” Overall, she judged the album “a tight and likable collection, with nine potential singles working in its favor and only one dud (“Midnight Flyer”) to weigh it down,” and that it’s “good enough to make up in high spirits what it lacks in purposefulness.”
The album became the band’s most successful album of the three released thus far. It debuted at number 50 on the US Billboard 200 chart in its first week of its release, peaking at number 17 in its sixth week on the chart. On March 20, 2001, the album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of 2 million copies.
The Eagles began recording their third album in England with producer Glyn Johns, as they had their first two albums, but abandoned the sessions after completing two acceptable tracks. Johns, it is said, tended to emphasize the group’s country elements and its harmonies, while the band, in particular Glenn Frey and Don Henley, wanted to take more of a hard rock direction. They reconvened with a new producer, Bill Szymczyk, who had produced artists like B.B. King and, more significantly, Joe Walsh. But the resulting album is not an outright rock effort by any means. Certainly, Frey and Henley got what they wanted with “Already Gone,” the lead-off track, which introduces new bandmember Don Felder as one part of the twin guitar solo that recalls the Allman Brothers Band; “James Dean,” a rock & roll song on the order of “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” and “Good Day in Hell,” which is strongly reminiscent of Joe Walsh songs like “Rocky Mountain Way.”
But the album also features the usual mixture of styles typical of an Eagles album. For example, “Midnight Flyer,” sung by Randy Meisner, is modern bluegrass; “My Man” is Bernie Leadon’s country-rock tribute to the recently deceased Gram Parsons; and “Ol’ 55” is one of the group’s well-done covers of a tune by a singer/songwriter labelmate, in this case Tom Waits. The title track, meanwhile, points the band in a new R&B direction that was later pursued more fully. Like most successful groups, the Eagles combined many different elements, and their third album, which looked back to their earlier work and anticipated their later work, was a transitional effort that combined even more styles than most of their records did. (by William Ruhlmann)
Glenn Frey (vocals, guitar, guitars, piano)
Don Henley (drums, vocals)
Bernie Leadon (vocals, guitar, banjo, pedal steel-guitar)
Randy Meisner (bass, vocals)
Don Felder ( guitar;slide guitar on 01., + 09. – credited as “late arrival”)
Al Perkins (pedal steel guitar on 07.)
01. Already Gone (Tempchin/Strandlund) 4.15
02. You Never Cry Like A Lover (Henley/Souther) 4.01
03. Midnight Flyer (Craft/Meisner) 3.58
04. My Man (Leadon) 3.31
05. On The Border (Henley/Leadon/Frey) 4.26
06. James Dean (Henley/Frey/Souther/Browne) 3.39
07. Ol’ ’55 (Waits/Frey/Henley) 4.22
08. Is It True? (Meisner) 3.14
09. Good Day In Hell (Frey) 4.24
10. Best Of My Love (Henley/Frey/Souther) 4.31