Limited to 10,000 numbered copies, pressed on dead-quiet MoFi SuperVinyl at RTI, and mastered from the original analog master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s ultra-hi-fi UltraDisc One-Step 180g 45RPM 2LP collector’s edition pays tribute to the record’s significance and enhances the experience for generations to come. Playing with reference sonics that elevate an effort revered by audiophiles, it provides a lively, dynamic, transparent, and intimate view of a release whose contemporary importance continues to grow. The opportunity to zero in on the particulars of the Eagles’ golden harmonies, distinct vocal timbres, and cohesive interplay has never been better.
Visually, the premium packaging and gorgeous presentation of the UD1S On the Border pressing befit its select status. Housed in a deluxe box, it features special foil-stamped jackets and faithful-to-the-original graphics that illuminate the splendor of the recording. No expense has been spared. From every angle, this UD1S reissue exists as a curatorial artifact meant to be preserved, touched, and examined. It is made for discerning listeners that prize sound quality and production, and who desire to fully immerse themselves in the art – and everything involved with the album, from the iconic Navajo cover painting to the meticulous finishes.
And with On the Border, there’s plenty to take in and soak up. Declared by famed critic Robert Christgau as “[the Eagles’] best album,” the 1974 set claims a rich backstory. Initially recorded amid tumultuous sessions with producer Glyn Johns in London shortly after the release of the group’s sophomore Desperado set, On the Border took a new turn after the band elected to scrap most of the prior work, return to its native California, and team with producer Bill Szymczyk to give the material less of a smooth, polished sheen and more toughness. Szymczyk also afforded the Eagles more input and freedom in the arrangements, and suggested adding another guitarist to play on “Good Day in Hell.” Felder got the call, and so won over the Eagles with his skills, he quickly became the fifth member of the band.
While the late-arriving Felder only plays on one other album cut, “Already Gone,” his mates more than prove their muster on the remainder of a double-platinum affair that established the Eagles as a force whose range transcended the calmer country-leaning style it perfected on their first two LPs. Primarily written by Jackson Browne and shelved during the Desperado sessions due to its higher-energy nature, the throttle-twisting “James Dean” ricochets with barbed riffs and rebellious swagger. Listen without limits to how Szymczyk’s raw production stamps the song with a leather-and-jeans cool befitting its protagonist. Similarly rugged, the slide-guitar-fueled “Good Day in Hell” boasts its own mean streak. And the funk-laced, boot-stomping title track cautions “don’t you tell me ’bout your law and order.” Throughout On the Border, the Eagles are in no mood to mess around.
Not that the band skirts sentimental territory. On one of the era’s finest covers, the Eagles nail the bittersweet feelings and bring high-definition detail to the vivid scenery of Tom Waits’ “Ol’ ’55,” a song the group makes its own. The rustic ballad “My Man” serves as a tribute to the recently deceased Gram Parsons, with singer-guitarist Bernie Leadon taking the lead on the microphone as he pours his heart out to his former Flying Burrito Brothers mate. And when it comes to romance, is it possible to top “Best of My Love”? Graced with Henley’s honey-dipped vocals, refined wordless group harmonies, brushed drums, and the gentle strum of acoustic guitars, the Johns-produced cut soared to Number One and set the stage for what would soon be the Eagles’ reality: global dominance.