4 Out Of 5 Stars
In the documentary, "History Of The Eagles," band members repeatedly griped that their first two albums, produced by Brit Glyn Johns, were being held back from the band's desire to rock. That lead to the ditching of Johns after two songs for "On The Border," and bringing in Joe Walsh's producer, Bill Szymczyk for the rest. Then came the real magic touch when the band gained Don Felder as an additional guitarist. The chemistry clicked and "On The Border" became Eagles' first album to convincingly rock.
When I say that, I believe that the band may have wanted to think of themselves as rockers, but up to "On The Border," had yet to write a convincing rock song. Say what you want about Glyn Johns, but "Chug All Night" and "Out Of Control" from the first two albums were songs so generic that any bar band in America could've written them. "James Dean" (written by Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and J.D. Souther) and "Already Gone" (which the band did not write) changed that completely. With the addition of Felder, they had a new twin guitar attack that kicked the songs into a higher gear than before. So yes, Eagles finally got their wish. They rocked.
They rocked for exactly two songs. The rest of "On The Border" still captured the country rock leanings of the first two albums, with Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon turning in a banjo powered bluegrass rocker for "Midnight Flyer" and Leadon's "My Man" (alleged to be written about the late Graham Parsons) is pure country. They also made the interesting choice to cover Tom Waits' "Ol' 55." Then, even with their slagging of Johns, the album's biggest hit and the band's first number one single was countrified ballad "The Best of My Love," one of the two songs John's produced. Then, as a precursor to both "One Of These Nights" and "Hotel California," the title track uses a funky bassline and a political lyric to set itself apart from any prior Eagles' song.
All of this makes "On The Border" a transitional album for the Eagles. The new line-up and producer partnership would yield serious fruit a year later when "One Of These Nights" made its debut. But for now, "On The Border" stepped one up from the "Desperado" concept and made the Eagles feel more like a band than ever before.