If anything ever summed up Steve Coogan’s magnificent character Alan Partridge, it was when he was asked which Beatles album was his favourite. “Tough one,” replied Partridge. “I think I’d have to say, ‘The Best of The Beatles’.” Not ‘Revolver’ or ‘Sgt Pepper’, neither of which Partridge had probably ever heard but a made up compilation album. When fiction becomes reality, you have to worry.
Rolling Stone magazine has reported that the best selling album in America is now ‘The Best of the Eagles 71 to 75.’ Not ‘Desperado’, their eponymous first album or ‘On The Border’. Most people prefer this compilation to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.
Given that the Eagles have only made seven studio albums in 47 years and the first four were released during the period 1972 to 1975 (even though the compilation suggests they released albums in 1971: they didn’t), their best of album is actually quite brilliant. As with most compilations, as opposed to bona fide original records, it doesn’t exactly flow but the sheer quality of the music more than makes up for that.
Their first four albums were ‘Eagles’, ‘Desperado’, ‘On the Border’ and ‘One of These Nights’. The following year, they released their classic ‘Hotel California’, followed in 1979 by the hugely disappointing The Long Run. Creatively, they were done by 1976. ‘Hotel California’ was not flawless and without filler but with the title track and, in my opinion, their greatest song ‘The Last Resort’, they reached heights they would never reach again.
A version of the Eagles still tours, with Don Henley the only original member. He is still accompanied by long time Eagles Joe Walsh and Timothy B Schmit and the son of the late Glenn Frey, Deacon. In the eyes of this long time fan, this is a highly lucrative touring Eagles jukebox which I would not cross the road to watch. However, nostalgia sells tickets and who can blame Henley and co for riding the wave while they still can?
2007’s ‘Long Road from Eden’ was the band’s nadir, the only notable tunes being JD Souther’s 1970s relic ‘How Long’ and Souther and Walsh’s ‘Last Good Time in Town’, everything else being forgettable filler.
So maybe it’s right that the ‘Best of the Eagles 1971-75’ is not just their best selling album, but the best selling album ever? But me? I’d rather listen to the albums in full, at least up to ‘Hotel California’. And with the music as good as it was in the early to mid 1970s, it’s hardly surprising they never got near these creative highs again.