Eagles Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

The Eagles emerged from California in the early 1970s, initially as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band for her album Silk Purse. They were massively successfully, with a string of chart-topping singles and albums. In particular, their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is one of the highest-selling albums of all time.

It’s appropriate that the Eagles’ most successful release was a singles compilation. Their hit songs are classic rock staples; the twin guitar soloing of ‘Hotel California’, the disco-crossover of ‘One of These Nights’, and sweet country-rock like ‘Best Of My Love’. Meanwhile, their albums aren’t discussed as much as those by contemporaries by Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. But their albums chart a fascinating journey from the country-rock of the early 1970s to the stadium rock of the late 1970s.

The Eagles had a deep talent pool – the leaders were the Don Henley, whose sandpaper voice graced most of their hits, and Glenn Frey, who wrote sturdy tunes and was a capable multi-instrumentalist. The pair sang together beautifully, and the group’s harmonies are often beautiful. The group had a strong cast of supporting players; Don Felder and Joe Walsh are excellent guitarists, and Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmitt are strong bassists and vocalists. Early member Bernie Leadon could play country licks on anything with strings.

Eagles Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

I’m only ranking the Eagles’ studio albums – their two live albums are inessential. 1980’s Eagles Live houses their magical a capella version of ‘Seven Bridges Road’, while the four new tracks on 1994’s Hell Freezes Over mostly sound like solo projects.


#7 The Long Run

The Eagles had run out of steam by their last 1970s album, and The Long Run contains wretched filler like ‘The Disco Strangler’ and ‘The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks’. The Long Run starts solidly with the Henley-fronted title track before new bassist Timothy B. Schmitt sweetly croons his way through the R&B flavoured ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’, and Joe Walsh

#6 Long Road Out Of Eden

The lineup of Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmitt returned to the studio for the first Eagles album in almost three decades. It’s overly long, but it contains moments of surprisingly strong material. There’s lovely harmonising on ‘No More Walks in the Wood’ and the group sound energised on their cover of vintage J.D. Souther track ‘How Long’. Henley continues a strong tradition of social critique on the title track, and Walsh shines on ‘Last Good Time in Town’.


#5 Eagles

The Eagles’ debut album effectively melds the soft-rock and country-rock trends of the early 1970s, spawning the mellow hits ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’. The band’s at their most democratic, as the dominant axis of Don Henley and Glenn Frey wasn’t yet established, and all four members share equal billing. It’s their least coherent album – the Bernie Leadon and Don Henley composition ‘Witchy Woman’ is spooky and excellent, but Frey’s ‘Chug All Night’ is the least impressive song the band ever released.


#4 Desperado

The band’s sophomore effort was a concept album, equating the Eagles with wild west outlaws. Henley stated later that “the metaphor was probably a little bullshit. We were in L.A. staying up all night, smoking dope, living the California life, and I suppose we thought it was as radical as cowboys in the old West.” It failed to meet the moderate success of its predecessor, although Henley and Frey’s first compositions, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and the title track, are among the band’s best-loved tracks. It’s still inconsistent, but Leadon’s mournful ‘Bitter Creek’ is one of the band’s best deep cuts.


#3 One Of These Nights

The Eagles were mega-stars by 1975, and Henley’s lyrics began to wrestle with questions of fame and decadence. The band take on disco on the excellent title track, while Leadon’s instrumental ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ was later used as the theme music for The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. But while most of the individual songs are strong, the album gets bogged down in slow tempos and long tracks after the first couple of songs – the singles ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ and Meisner’s showpiece ‘Take It To The Limit’ are among the offenders.


#2 Hotel California

The Eagles’ best-known album is similar to One Of These Nights; long-winded songs wrestling with fame and debauchery. Bernie Leadon had left the band and was replaced by James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh. Walsh supplied the muscular guitar riff for ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ and moved the band further away from their country roots. The three big hits (the title track, ‘New Kid in Town’, and ‘Life in the Fast Lane’) are sequenced at the start of the record. The rest of the album drags a little with slow tempos and long running times – even the rocker ‘Victim Of Love’ is slow.


#1 On The Border

The Eagles third album is an underrated gem. After Desperado failed to make the top 40, it was the single ‘Best Of My Love’ from On The Border that reached number one and set the Eagles on the path to mega-stardom. It captures the band in a state of flux between their early country-rock and the harder edge of their later work. The single ‘James Dead’ is corny, but there are charming album cuts like the power-pop of Meisner’s ‘Is It True?’, Leadon’s heartfelt Gram Parson’s tribute ‘My Man’, and the inventive country-rock hybrid ‘Midnight Flyer’. Incoming guitarist Don Felder adds punch to ‘Already Gone’ and ‘Good Day In Hell’.

How do you feel about the Eagles? Do you like them enough to have a favourite Eagles album?

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  1. I really dig the Eagles for combining great melodies with harmony singing that I feel can compete with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which is perhaps the best band when it comes to harmony vocals. In general, I’m more drawn to their rock-oriented phase with Joe Walsh, who may be a bit nuts but undoubtedly is a kick-ass guitarist.
    I feel with every band you have songs that vary in quality, even when to comes to my favorite band of all time, The Beatles. Revolution 9? 🙂
    Except for “Hotel California,” which I have on vinyl and which because of the title song and “Life In The Fast Lane” already makes it one of the best 70s records in my book, I haven’t fully explored the other Eagles albums from first song to last.
    I like pretty much all of the tunes from their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) and Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 compilations. I feel that’s plenty of material and plenty of reason to dig this band. I was also fortunate to see them live once in 2015 – one of the last shows with Glenn Frey. It was definitely one of the most memorable concerts I’ve been to.

    • The Beatles do have a couple of albums where every song is strong though – I think Sgt Peppers and Revolver are both solid all the way through. The Eagles feel like a second tier album band to me – kind of like The Doobie Brothers or something – but who got top tier fame and popularity. They’re more of a singles band, and it’s fair enough that their highest selling album is a compilation.
      I’d pick The Beach Boys as the best harmony band. So many beautiful individual voices, especially Carl.

  2. Can’t say I’ve really bothered much with The Eagles. Used to spin a couple of those albums in the record shop in the 70s, but wasn’t really tempted to take them home.
    Having said that, I like a couple of the hits (though not with you on ‘New Kid’, eetch! Sorry!), some of Joe Walsh’s contributions, and love ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’, Bernie Leadon’s instrumental that I first heard as the theme music for ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ radio series (as you pointed out above).
    And just to demonstrate the inconsistency that often permeates such off the cuff responses, I have a great big soft spot for ‘Peaceful easy feeling’. So there.

    • I like New Kid a lot, even if that final tag goes on for way too long. Feels like their later, sharper lyrics married to their early sound. I love Felder’s guitar near the end, and Walsh’s Fender Rhodes, and the lyrics are about Springsteen.
      Doesn’t surprise me that Journey would be your favourite Eagles track, and that you’re not a huge fan over all. I went through a really mainstream phase in my early teens where the only music I knew was on mainstream retro radio, and that’s where I got to know stuff like Billy Joel and the Eagles. My tastes got more adventurous once I got the internet in my late teens.

      • Makes sense. They were all over FM radio — for the first time!! — in the 70s, hence my reasonable level of exposure and perhaps why (this revealed with a slight wince) The Eagles DO appear on the VC shelves. Hotel, Nights, a Best of and a 2 CD boot from their 90s superannuation tour. Amazing what you find when you look. I’m going to spin HC now as penance and sing along (I expect) to most of it.
        Cheers Graham!

  3. The only record I ever purchased by the Eagles was the “Already Gone” 45. So I will defer to your worst-to-best judgement, which seems pretty sound. They are the ultimate pros and cons band, I agree with Vinyl Connection about having a soft spot for “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” I thought it kind of ironic when the Eagles-hating Dudein “The Big Lebowski” got kicked out of a taxi for asking the cabbie to change the station when he heard that. That’s their tune that I always turn up!

    • I’ve looked at a bunch of lists by other people and they’re all over the place – there’s not a whole lot of consensus. To my ears it seems obvious that they improved as Henley and Frey took charge and once they got Felder on board, but there’s little agreement on what albums are best, although Hotel California is generally liked and The Long Run often regarded as one of their weaker efforts.

  4. Look man, I had a rough night and I hate the f):$:n Eagles
    That said I dislike the mellow lost hippie in 1973 LA vibe of the early big hit singles and like the rock phase with Walsh and Felder dueling guitars.
    Im not sure if I like or admire Henly as a person but he’s written a few of the best songs of the 80’s as a solo artist.

  5. I’m with The Dude. Just never liked them. You hit the nail on the head… commercialised and watered down. But, that said, I do enjoy some of Joe Walsh’s contributions.

  6. I like that +/- look at the different sides of The Eagles debate.
    I find I’m typically neither pro or con, with the odd exception, beyond admiring their technical proficiency as musicians, I tend to be indifferent to the actual music!

  7. I must say I agreed wholeheartedly with your appraisal, I feel I almost have to be positive about the band and that takes a bit of a dive if I actually have to listen to them. Their music to me conjures up parched lawns and interminable school holidays listening to Radio 1. There’s a fantastic beginning to that very long documentary about them where they just launch into a seemingly spontaneous accapela number and my jaw hit the floor, compensates for the dull drumming.

  8. hotel california is an overrated album. it hasnt aged well. i still hear it on yacht rock radio but whos covering it its glorifying drugs really really hasnt aged well. fleetwood mac did at least as many drugs but they didnt blame anyone but themselves.

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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person. It features album reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

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Graham Fyfe has been writing this website since his late teens. Now in his forties, he's been obsessively listening to albums for years. He works as a web editor and plays the piano.

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