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4½ stars. A powerful concept album
on 28 December 2002
The songs on "Desperado" sometimes sounds as though they were written for two or three different albums. Bernie Leadon's "Twenty-One" is a traditional country-work out, banjos and everything. Henley's and Frey's "Out Of Control" is a hard-rocking, guitar-driven slice of seventies rock n' roll. And "Desperado" is a gentle, string-laden ballad.
But somehow the Eagles make it work, even when the banjo-picking on "Twenty-One" bleeds into Glenn Frey's opening power chords on "Out Of Control".
"Doolin-Dalton" is one of the Eagles' best songs, an acoustic ballad which should really have been used for the soundtrack of a western movie. Glenn Frey and Don Henley trade lead vocals, and Bernie Leadon plays a great harmonica, invoking just the right sense of lonesome praerie!
"Tequila Sunrise" is a classic as well, and one of the singles off the album. Glenn Frey strums the instantly recognizable rhythm guitar pattern, and Bernie Leadon plays great slide dobro fills.
"Desperado" was never released as a single, yet it is one of the Eagles' best-known songs, and one of Don Henley's best vocal performances.
Randy Meisner sings "Certain Kind Of Fool", a folkish country song which rocks pretty well, and the Eagles then cover David Blue's "Outlaw Man" with fine results.
"Saturday Night" is a charming ballad with a lovely mandolin solo, and another great lead vocal from Don Henley. Bernie Leadon then takes the lead on his own "Bitter Creek", a slow, acoustic ballad which is somehow neither country nor folk, but a little of each.
And finally the highlight of the entire album : The Eagles reprise "Doolin-Dalton" and "Desperado", adding an extra verse to both, and doing some of the greatest and most melodious vocal performances I have ever heard. Don Henley sings the lead vocals, and trades off lines with the other three Eagles in beautiful harmony.
This album is very different from the Eagles' multi-million seller "Hotel California", and a much more traditional one, but a great one none the less.