The mid to late 1970s was an interesting era for music. Whilst punk was gaining momentum, the mainstream of music was distorted in what it offered. Disco was about to be unleashed and the dinosaurs of progressive rock were still floating around. It was a rather bad time for the representation of real music within the music industry by the time 1976 came around.
This release in that year is a gold standard classic. Ironically, it came to represent virtually everything punk loathed: perfect harmonies; structured guitar parts and glossy production. The Eagles were very much a supergroup as well, which punk detested the idea of. Despite all this, the album is a rewarding and refreshing listen. It’s a deserved classic today.
The opening title track Hotel California is a blissful and radio-ready pop song. In fact, the real meaning of the song and album is not about a nightmare paradise. It’s actually a cynical stab at the poisonous nature of the music industry. It has such beautiful guitar parts, a reggae beat, and concisely written lyrics. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Brutal.
The following song New Kid In Town tells the tale of a newcomer who is openly and readily accepted by his peers, only to lose it all in the end. It’s a fairly relaxed sound setting and has beautiful instrumentation. It’s just as good as it was in 1976.
Life In The Fast Lane is yet another story, but the guitars are at the fore here. A Fender Telecaster style riff kicks it off, with a cool and catchy song about people who live the high life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The characters in it know they will hit a brick wall eventually in their lives, and this is where the next song comes into play.
Wasted Time is a continuation of the previous song, making this album a possible concept album. It’s a sad lament about the lives lost and questions whether or not it was necessary to spend so much time with people after all. The string section is absolutely beautiful. It’s a nice tearjerker ballad and an excellent piece.
The following piece is the beautiful Wasted Time (Reprise). It fits the album nicely and is a purely emotional string section to boot once again. Not bad at all.
The poppy Victim Of Love comes next and discusses falling in love and all that is involved in it. It has a wicked guitar solo in it, and asks “What kind of love have you got?” A nice tune.
Pretty Maids All In A Row is a nice slow dance sort of song. It lacks energy compared to some of the other songs on the album but is nice for a change. Beautiful.
Try And Love Again sounds very country and talks about never giving up on love. That is a great statement in itself and shows how flexible The Eagles were musically, especially as they came from a country-rock background.
The final track on the album The Last Resort is wonderfully pretty but has darker lyrics referring to God. It almost stops in the middle with a beautiful piano part, before ending this pretty and interesting album on a high note.
This album went mega commercially, particularly in the United States. It sounds so well done musically and production-wise, even today. In fact, so much so that most punk rock bands never matched this recording. It asks the question to those punk rock bands: Was it worth it compared to this? The clear answer is no. Hotel California is a wonderful, sometimes dark album that any classic rock fan should find a place to call home.