This is both my favorite Eagles song, and one of my least favorite albums. One of These Nights, released in 1975 saw the band’s stock rise, started a transition of members, and marked a profound shift in their vision.
Officially, the band consisted of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon and Don Felder. This was the first full album for guitar player Felder who joined during the late stages of the last album, On the Border, to give the band’s sound a heavier guitar. This album was founding member Leadon’s last with the band, he was reported unhappy with the focus away from country-rock to a grittier rock sound.
The album had three big hits and a couple of other solid tunes, and what I consider to be weaker some filler. The overall album has a less acoustic sound, a more somber and serious vibe and a texture that feels the songs were built instrument by instrument instead of performed as a group. Every album going forward would mirror a craftsmanship and high-polish reflecting months of studio perfection. The fun and imperfection of On the Border was a thing of the past.
Where On the Border lacked the group of major hits, it also was a more consistent album, each song seemed to fit with the rest and the overall quality was high. One of These Nights is a highly polished album of playing, in fact, it is superb, but it cannot cover up several weak songs.
One of These Nights was a huge seller and was their highest charting album to date. Nominated for four Grammy Awards, it won for Best Performance for “Lyin’ Eyes.”
One of These Nights also was a change in the group’s vision. These guys were enjoying success, but they wanted more. An album with a hit single or two was nice, but they wanted their albums to be deeper and to focus on more consistent material throughout. This also involved shifting way from the country and bluegrass influences to a straighter rock sound. Strangely, this album, while incorporating a harder edged sound, also included a couple of unusual songs, Bernie Leadon songs, that did not go with this new vision. The group was becoming less democratic, as Henley and Frey were writing the hits and taking stronger leadership of the band’s direction. The democracy of the band gave bass player Meisner writing and singing opportunities, as well lead guitarist Leadon, and even Felder got time in the spotlight. This was about to change. Hotel California would be a group album, but it was pretty clear who was calling the shots.
“One of These Nights” writers: Don Henley / Glenn Frey. For me, the greatest Eagles song. The “disco” bass of the song, which I do not consider true disco, is a great rhythm for the song. It sounds more R&B, with a hard rock edge. The lead guitar is what always attracted me to the song. Credit Felder with the tasty guitar licks. The most commercial hard-rock song they ever wrote and showed these guys meant business. This song gave them credibility as true rockers instead of country-rockers who used electric guitars once and awhile. Mainly written by Frey, he composed it on the piano, which he plays on the song. The song reached number one on the chart.
“Too Many Hands” writers: Randy Meisner / Don Felder. Double lead guitars by Felder and Frey, lead vocal by Meisner. A heavy rock song with Meisner’s bass almost playing lead. One of the so-so songs on the album, not a classic but not filler either. The guitar work is nice.
“Hollywood Waltz” writers: Henley / Frey / Bernie Leadon / Tom Leadon. This is a nice, gentle country-rock ballad, complete with steel guitar and mandolin. It has a sweeping feel to it, carrying you along, with nice harmony vocals.
“Journey of the Sorcerer” writer: Bernie Leadon. An instrumental, and one of the strangest songs the band has ever recorded. It is a curiosity and the musicianship is quite good. A progressive-rock instrumental with orchestration featuring a banjo.
“Lyin’ Eyes” writers: Henley / Frey. Smooth, dreamy acoustic song. A hit on both the pop and country hits. A steady beat, exquisite guitar fills, and great harmony vocals. A story song with those great Eagles vocals, this song got massive airplay. Hats off to producer Bill Szymczyk to arranging and giving it just enough of a country-rock lilt that was perfect for AM radio. Henley and Frey showed their sophistication as lyric writers.
“Take It to the Limit” writers: Henley / Frey / Meisner. The third hit from the album, mostly written by Meisner, who sang lead. In concert, it was one of the band’s best received songs by audiences. Only Meisner could hit those really hit notes. Very nicely produced with piano and strings, and keeping it from being schmaltzy.
“Visions” writers: Henley / Felder. A hard rocking song, courtesy of new member Felder. There are numerous guitars loose on this track. A rare lead vocal by Felder. Hardly a classic, but not a bad song, it has its moments.
“After the Thrill Is Gone” writers: Henley / Frey. Sort of an R&B country song, if there is such a thing. Steel guitar in the background, descending chords, and ringing guitars. “Not quite lovers, not quite friends.” Great lyric.
“I Wish You Peace” writers: Leadon / Patti Davis This might be the worst song every recorded by the band. Leadon and his girlfriend, Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, were a couple and she was given co-writing credit. The Eagles featured soft ballads from time to time, like “Desperado,” but that is a classic. This song is beyond weak. If you skip over it, you are doing yourself a favor. Sorry, Bernie.
In the Eagles musical legacy, where does this album belong? In 50 years, they have only seven studio albums. I did not count Hell Freezes Over, a live album, contained four new tracks, but we can if necessary.
Here’s my list, starting with best and working down in order:
On the Border
One of These Nights
The Long Run
Hell Freezes Over
Long Road Out of Eden