Critical respect has been a long time coming for the Eagles, who didn't help their cause much with last year's mediocre double disc, Long Road 0ut of Eden, which, despite (or maybe owing to) being available only at Wal-Mart, wound up as one of 2007's top-selling albums. The quintessential Americana band long before there ever was such a term, the Eagles played songs that sparked a sea change in country music with the 1994 tribute album Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, and did at least as much as John Fogerty and Credence Clearwater Revival to lay the groundwork for what would (much) later become alt-country (listen closely to songs such as "Already Gone" and "Life in the Fast Lane"). And while the tag certainly fits, calling the band members mere country-­rockers completely glosses over Glenn Frey's deep Detroit R&B roots, which helped the group turn out "Take It to the Limit," "Lyin' Eyes," and "Tequila Sunrise," some of the best ballads of the 1970s. As evocative, sinister, and resigned now as in 1976, "Hotel California" deserves its spot as one of the most iconic songs in rock history; it's the West Coast equivalent of "Stairway to Heaven." And last but far, far from least, there's the inimitable Joe Walsh, who, as one of rock's preeminent goofballs, routinely steals the Eagles' live shows with his ceaseless mugging and wickedly precise guitar leads.


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