The first time I recall hearing any Eagles music was in 2002 when I was at a Sony retail store and the sales clerk auditioned a mini Hi-Fi system using The Very Best Of The Eagles CD. It was on that day that I first heard Hotel California and I would forevermore be a fan of the Eagles.
No, I didn’t buy that mini Hi-Fi system but I have continued to use Hotel California as part of my audition playlist when demoing new audio hardware.
This past weekend, on a family drive, I decided that instead of relying on my cellular connection and iPhone, I would take a CD with me. The Very Best Of The Eagles seemed a perfect choice and is interestingly absent from Tidal et al anyway. Yes, there are other compilations by the Eagles that I could have selected, but I am quite familiar and fond of this album. That said, while my home usage of music streaming services is continually growing, I’m becoming tired of trials and tribulations of streaming music in the car.
I should note that it isn’t the fault of the streaming services, but the associated playback hardware that infuriates me. Firstly, when I connect my iPhone 5s, via USB, the Apple Music app launches and starts streaming the last played song or music video. In my case, it plays Ed Sheeran’s The A Team (Live) performance from the iTunes Festival in 2012. It’s a great performance, but I want control over what will be played and when. Also of concern is the cellular data use, still a premium service in Australia, that streaming this video consumes each time I’m away from Wi-Fi. I have tried numerous times to fix this problem within the settings for both the iPhone and MyLink software that runs on the car stereo, but to no avail. Unfortunately, neither technology offers a solution to this problem and it is a known issue that Apple Inc. has simply not addressed. Perhaps some people enjoy the fluidity this feature provides, but it drives me insane. All I need is a switch to disable this behaviour and I will be happy.
I have also tried to utilise Bluetooth in the car, but it too is convoluted. Bluetooth is a flawed technology when it comes to audio, yet I am surprised at how many audio manufacturers continue to adopt it. I acknowledge it as a universal standard, and the only real option for connecting devices when not connected to a Wi-Fi network, but the technology needs to be re-engineered. While some work is being done in that area, existing Bluetooth integration remains problematic. The most infuriating limitation I have come across is when trying to listen to music from TIDAL Hi-Fi via Bluetooth to the car stereo. The Bluetooth decoder is simply incapable of correctly recompiling the music and what you get is a song with a serious stutter. Yes, I am aware that TIDAL Hi-Fi tracks exceed the Bluetooth 4.0 protocol and the iPhone still does not support any form of aptX, but the iPhone is capable of down sampling music so that it can be transferred over Bluetooth. I should note that this playback method works flawlessly with my Bose Soundlink Mini and aptX is not available in the car anyway. Therefore, it is somewhat verifiable that the car stereo is the cause of the problem. Of course, the service department re-flashed the firmware, but the problem still exists. Thankfully, our 2016 manufactured car still supports the 3.5mm audio input jack and CD playback.
That got me to thinking, perhaps I should start expanding my CD collection of compilation albums. While I have all the Eagles albums on vinyl, there are times when I just want to listen to a broad range of their most popular works. Sometimes it is refreshing to put the CD into the player and not worry about multipurpose digital devices and connection woes. I find that it brings me closer to the music and while I’m not sure how I will proceed, I think that there is a time and a place for streaming and physical music alike. Perhaps the car is the latter.
Of important note is that The Very Best Of The Eagles can also apply to the 1994 release, that saw a different cover and tracking order. The edition featured in this review, however, is the 2001 remaster. I have owned the 1994 release in the past, but you may recall from my other reviews, I was smitten with the digitization of my collection and subsequently sold much of my CD collection for the promise of 1,000 songs in your pocket. Such a silly move, but at least I can learn from my foolishness. My hope is that you, dear reader, will see the error of my ways and avoid your own mistakes for the promise of convenience. Yes, convenient access to music is a wonderful thing, but it is often littered with conditions that are outside of the consumer’s control. One example of this is the fact that this CD I am reviewing is not available on any streaming music network, nor it is available for purchase on iTunes. However, it is readily available on CD and therefore it’s unavailability is not an issue of the compilation being out of print and discontinued. Most likely the omission from digital stores and streaming services is due to ever-changing license agreements between artists, music labels, and associated digital delivery services. There is simply no way to guarantee that an album will be available on TIDAL et al at some point in the future. TIDAL Hi-Fi may well be the CD store in your house, but it should be considered as an ancillary service to a well-curated collection.
Of course, in classic remaster form, the dynamic range of the 2001 remastered release dropped to an average of 10, versus 15 on the 1994 release. While it doesn’t sound bad, it is not as atmospheric as the vinyl equivalent. Interestingly, there is also a HDCD release of this album, but it was only sold in China and dynamic range information isn’t available. As is often the case, mastering information is not available in the liner notes, thereby limiting any further comparisons between the sources used and the mastering engineer of choice for the compilation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mastering engineer, for some of these ‘remastered’ releases, is not a faceless computer program that automatically amplifies the music as consumers are clearly incapable of turning the volume up. That said, I find that the mastering is uniform across the entire compilation and I certainly appreciate that aspect of this release.
The artwork of the compilation is sufficient, but the stark orange CD takes a little getting used to. The original 1994 release had a much more appealing desert landscape. When Warner reissued the album with newer liner notes, they also included an orange bar that connects to the CD aesthetically but serves no purpose otherwise. As is the case with many compilation releases, the liner notes are barebones at best. While you’ll find basic song credits, and the original album a song was released on, individual vocal duties are overlooked. While fans of the band will likely know the lead vocalist, for each song without a problem, a compilation album is by its very nature targeting a casual or new listener and this information is imperative when a band shares lead vocal duties amongst all members. Interestingly, Don Henley’s I Can’t Stand Still and Inside Job are advertised within the liner notes, alongside the regular Eagles catalogue. Most likely this promotion is due to Henley’s contract with Warner Music at the time. However, I find it in bad taste that his solo efforts be promoted merely because of recording contracts. That said, I do acknowledge Henley as a founding member of the Eagles and a key element to the identity of the band. Truth be told, I dislike the legal hoopla that is associated with recording contracts.
One Of These Nights is a fantastic song to start the compilation with as it sets the scene for the accompanying tracks to follow and highlights the musicality and intertwining vocals that the Eagles are renowned for. I adore the guitar solo midway through the song as it isn’t overreaching, but serves its purpose while blending perfectly with the backing acoustics.
Take It Easy is a perfect song for a country drive. While I wouldn’t class the Eagles as a country band, this song certainly highlights several country music elements and can easily be accepted in both the rock and country music scene. Take It Easy beckons listener involvement and you will feel compelled to sing-a-long. As with One Of These Nights, the guitar solo is off the charts and a welcome relief from the lyrics.
Hotel California is the epitome of the perfect song. While I don’t have a top 10 list of my favourite songs, this would certainly be on that list if it existed. However, I find that listening to this song in this compilation is a bit of a letdown. It isn’t as sonically spacious as my vinyl edition of Hotel California. Most likely this is due to the vinyl edition having a dynamic range of 15, versus 9 out of 20 for this compilation CD. Mastering does matter and while the song is still enjoyable, it is nowhere near as consuming as the vinyl release. As I’ve stated several times before, this has nothing to do with the argument of CD vs Vinyl as CD is more than capable of reproducing a 15 on the dynamic range scale. If Warner used the same master, there would be no perceivable difference between the formats.
New Kid In Town isn’t one of my favourite Eagles songs. I’m just not sold on the tempo and don’t feel that it is a song that I can sing along to, even in my own mind. I have always felt that the song is missing something, yet I can’t put my finger on it. Eventually one must accept that it is okay to not like every song by a favourite artist. A song needs to resonate with one’s soul and this track simply doesn’t.
Heartache Tonight has an addictive but simple beat that will have you toe tapping, head bopping, or hand slapping as you drive down the open road. You will find yourself joining in on the solo, completely out of key, in your karaoke attempt to be the lead vocalist for a moment in time. It is an exceptional song!
Tequila Sunrise is a beautiful song that is relaxing and a perfect follow-up to the more upbeat Heartache Tonight.
Desperado reminds me of Billy Joel’s music with the piano elements. I love how this song progressively builds and becomes a sonic wonderland that highlights the incredible vocals of Don Henley. It is exceptional and one of their best songs.
Best Of My Love has a gorgeous acoustic guitar strum throughout. As I listen to this song, I’m struck by the realization of just how exceptionally talented the Eagles were. While modern music is different, and shouldn’t be compared to the classics, I can’t help but wonder when we will see another group of individuals that can revolutionise music as significantly as the Eagles has.
Lyin’ Eyes is another country/rock-infused song whereby the tempo is relaxing, yet energetic. I love it!
Take It To The Limit is a song where I feel the mix is unbalanced. I find Randy Meisner’s vocal to be too distant in the mix and it bothers me everything I listen to the song. I want to enjoy this song though and I would love to hear a remixing of the song that brings Meisner’s vocal further forward in the soundstage.
I Can’t Tell You Why has a moody brooding feeling that I love. While Meisner’s vocals may be distant in Take It To The Limit, Timothy B. Schmit’s vocals, and the corresponding backing vocals, are perfectly placed in this song. Interestingly, Schmit replaced Meisner in the Eagles line-up and subjectively I feel he was a stronger vocalist and brought a new dynamic to The Eagles.
Peaceful Easy Feeling makes me want to learn the acoustic guitar. It is a lovely song but that guitar twang, mid-song, is just a little too high pitched for my liking. This is especially the case when listening on headphones.
James Dean is not one of my favourite tracks. The instrumental introduction is excellent, but I cringe as soon as the vocals hit. It isn’t the meaning behind the song, but the delivery of the vocals that I dislike. In comparison to the rest of the compilation, this song just feels out of place and I find that I simply want to hit the next track button.
Doolin-Dalton has a lovely harmonica-based introduction. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love the harmonica sound. Overall, Doolin-Dalton is a lovely song and a welcome mellow sound in comparison to James Dean.
Witchy Woman is very musical and I love the atmospheric approach to the song. The tempo changes throughout and while the song cannot be pigeonholed, it is never dull and predictable; although having listened to it extensively, I know all the small shifts. Boy bands often get a raw deal, especially the modern-day ones, but the Eagles had the perfect interweaving harmony vocal that can only be achieved in a band. Yes, you could post-produce this effect with modern recording technologies, but the advantage was the Eagles could perform this song live.
The Long Run is a song that I neither like nor dislike. It merely exists and while I don’t look to skip the song, I don’t actively seek it out either.
Life In The Fast Lane is a perfect song to conclude the compilation. I always like a final track that will encourage me to listen to the album again. Life In The Fast Lane certainly ticks that box and showcases a number of core musical elements that are present in the unique soundstage created by the Eagles.
Overall, there is very little that one can say about the Eagles that hasn’t already been said. They are simply one of the greatest rock bands in the history of the world and while Glenn Frey is no longer with us, therefore putting the Eagles permanently into retirement, their music will live on in our hearts and souls for generations to come.
While this compilation was released prior to Hell Freezes Over and Long Road Out Of Eden, it misses out on the possible inclusion of newer songs such as the enjoyable Love Will Keep Us Alive and No More Cloudy Days. That said, The Very Best Of The Eagles is without a doubt their very best work and would be a welcome addition to any music collection.