The Very Best Of [2003]

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The problem with assembling an Eagles collection in 2003 is that there already is a perfect Eagles collection: 1976's Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Although it spanned a mere ten songs and summarized only the first five years and four albums of their career, it pulled off a nifty trick by making the albums it summarized -- and by extension, the band -- seem better than they actually were. By concentrating on big hits and substituting album track "Desperado" for "Outlaw Man," a single that didn't receive much chart action, the collection captured the band's peak, making a convincing case for the band's strengths while providing a compulsively enjoyable listen. Of course, the Eagles continued to have hits after the 1976 release of Their Greatest Hits, scoring the biggest proper album of their career that very year with Hotel California. After that, egos and infighting hampered the band, leading to just one more album in 1979's The Long Run before a disbandment in 1982, which was followed 12 years later by a reunion, charmingly dubbed Hell Freezes Over, since most pundits predicted that's when the band would reunite. This isn't much new ground to cover for a compilation, as the spotty 1982 The Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 illustrated, but even with a box set like 2000's Selected Works, there was room for a collection that contained all their big hits on one or two discs: hence the birth of Warner Strategic Marketing's 2003 double-disc Eagles collection, The Very Best Of.

There's little question that The Very Best Of does its job well, containing nearly all of the group's charting singles -- including the non-LP seasonal tune "Please Come Home for Christmas" and omitting the purposely ignored "Outlaw Man" along with a couple of reunion-era singles that didn't make much impact -- and filling out the margins with album rock staples such as "Doolin-Dalton," "Ol' 55," "Victim of Love," "In the City," and "Those Shoes." It's a good collection, eliminating the need to own actual Eagles albums by containing all the key songs from each effort, including the highlights from Hell Freezes Over. If there are quibbles, the biggest is that the first disc isn't nearly as compulsively listenable as Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which covers the same ground, with the second being that after Hotel California the collection runs out of steam a little bit, as the Eagles sound more like a collective of solo performers instead of a band -- but that's the run of their career, too. In any case, The Very Best Of is an excellent way to get all the Eagles' songs that matter on one collection. [The Very Best Of was also released as a limited-edition three-disc set with the third disc being a bonus DVD containing the video for the new song "Hole in the World," as well as a making of the video featurette and "Backstage Pass to Farewell 1."]

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