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Take it Easy, But Take it From Somewhere

By Frederick Boyd

It's become clear that rock 'n' roll has reached a crossroads. The music has developed to a point where innovation within the genre no longer really matters.

Within the last month in England re-releases of Mary Welle's "My Guy released in 1964 and Little Eva's Locomotion from roughly the same era each occupied places on the top ten. The Monday Blues's "knights in White Satin" was number one in Boston My favourite AM hat was a hybrid of The Breathless early period and vintage Free called "Go All the Way" sung by a group from Cleveland called Raspherries Meanwhile three powerful progressive artists Van Morrison Rod Stewart and the Band had each released new albums.

Stewarts Never A Dull Moment saw him settle into a comfortable groove. The Band's Rock of Ages (on one listen) but greatest hits, done New Oricans style thanks to Allen Toussaint's arranging Morrison's "Saint Dominic's Preview" was a return lyrically and musically, to music he had made nearly four years ago on Astrol Weeks.

Broader trends show much the same thing: A massive resurgence of energy laden hard rock, the three-chord style, led by the J. Geils Band, the finest-chord rock band playing music. The startingly reactionary nature of white rock in Detroit a genre whose foundation rests on a move away from both the slickness of Motown and the innovative qualities of late sixties progressive rock. (A complete assessment of white rock in Detroit is in order, one will appear in this space soon. In short, rock in holding fast, or retreating, or simply in limbo, on each of its fronts.

So along come Eagles. "The News Buffalo Springfield." Even with the success of the Springfield offspring Poco, Loggins and Messina, the time is still somehow ripe for another Buffalo Springfield. And Eagles seem to fit They're torn from the Los Angeles tradition. The four members have done time with the Bvrds Dillard Clark as well as LA's second wring folk rock hand the ones that never made it past saloons. Scraped from these ruins each member knowing another from less successful days. Eagles have one man in common. David Gellen head of Asylum Records Geffen sent the band to play four sets a might for four weeks in a saloon in Aspen Gellen gave them the best-studio time in London and master engineer Glyn Johns--as well as virtually as much of a schedule as was necessary for the production of that first album. Which makes Eagles one of a growing number of patronotics bands whose success is attributable to much more than talent.

In any case the time spent has paid off. Take it Easy soared to the top of the AM charts and the album followed. The rock press treated Eagles very well and fours have cemented the band's place as one to be reckoned with. The album is interesting primarily for its uniquely southwestern orientation. There is a form fusion of folk-rock and straight country, and it meets in Colorado. (Which makes their warm up gigs in Aspen that much more interesting.)

Yet there is much derivative in Eagles's album. Most everywhere are hazy reminders of the Springfield, a chord, or a snatch of guitar. The whole band has come under the influence of Steve Stills. The three songs most reminiscent of his work were composed by each of the four band members, "Witchy Woman" is typically early period. Stills, the song about the mysterious lady; it's right out of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." The guitar solo, though, has strong Springfield influences, particularly in tone and direction of attack. "Take the Devil" is similar. A trapped wanderer song, this shares with "Witchy Woman" many of the same desert images, as well as the same sense of attack on the part of the lead guitarist, either Glenn Frey or Bernie Leadon. The slow single note solo is again reminiscent of Springfield, as well as the fuzz toned chord progression. The Indian music feel of both songs is somewhat exploitative.

"Most of us are Sad" is Springfield pulled through Poco with the primary difference that its mournfulness is more western than country and western Roughly it recalls Richie Furays "Kind Woman" as done by Poco but the former's country feel is lacking Eagles tries to make a connection with a vibrato solo that comes close to the sound of the debre. Overall another Stills styled song.

The consistent use of fuzz second, and often third guitar betrays the influences of Moby Grape. Chug All Night" exhibits Eagles best use of guitars. The fuzz guitar was a Grape trademark, and the use of three guitars on the break solidifies the connection. (The use of rhythm guitars for percussive or rhythmic uses, rather than to achieve the effect of horns, is a purely West Coast rock phenomenon. Part of the Grape's appeal was their tendency to fill the sound with guitars.) The album's only real rocker, its strength is in the basic progression.

The songs on side two more nearly typify Eagles music. "Train Leaves Here This Morning," originally a Dillard & Clark Expedition song, aims at a country sound, particularly through a slide guitar solo, so soft and laden with vibrato, that it seems to be pedal steel. But its words are western. The same can be said for "Earlybird" whose "The eagle flies alone. He is free," is par for Eagles's songwriting. Musically, the simplicity of the bass line, the thin sound of drums, and in "Earlybird: the banjo and the faraway slide guitar, lend to a total sound that is remarkably unadorned.

"Peaceful, Easy Feeling," summarizes it all restful and uncomplicated lives, faithful women, self-sufficiency, and a life with both feet on the ground. Nothing is complex, there's the same simple rhythm from bass and drums, a precise lead, followed by that same faraway slide guitar.

Leasing Jackson Browne's "Take it Easy," and "Nightingale." Essentially the same song, they stand apart from the other, more derivative songs. And yet, because they're both by Jackson Browne, the implications are clear Eagles have no direction. They've drawn what they needed from what went before, and are seemingly unable to fuse for themselves a sound.

At least not knowingly, I'm convinced that Eagles's original purpose was actually to be another Buffalo Springfield. And in this they've failed, because Springfield was as much a case of hitting the industry at the right time as it was a case of a good innovative band. Eagles simply appears to overlead a genre probably sainted by the success of Poco and Loggins and Messina.

Eagles has managed to fuse the country and the folk rock into a sound from the southwest. I can't fault derivation; most of my favorite rock bands are derivative--the whole concept of rock music is, ultimately, derivative. But Eagles's music is derivative of a genre that has gone out of style. I loved the Springfield five years ago, but, music being what it is, they wouldn't do me much good now.

Last week I had lunch with some earnest media businessmen, the kind who deal with music in terms of "product." One of them wondered aloud to our host, from Atlantic Records, if another Buffalo Springfield retrospective would be released. The time was right, he said. It'd make a great product.

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