This album came out two decades ago. Here’s what I had to say about it back then (with some minor editing):
Eagles have some nerve.
OK, so that’s not exactly a stop-the-presses newsflash. But even for a band whose reputation for rock-star excess earned them the nickname Egos, this seems like a new stretch: Even though they’ve already sold somewhere in the neighbourhood of a bajillion copies of their two Greatest Hits records — not to mention the mega-million units they’ve shifted of their six studio albums — the boys have issued a career-spanning, greatest-hits box set to sell people the same tracks all over again. It’s gotta be the ultimate act of music-biz hubris.
Or at least that’s how it would seem at first. Truth is, Selected Works: 1972-1999 is far from the cheap cash-grab you might think. For one thing, those old Greatest Hits discs only held 10 songs apiece, hardly a decent retrospective for a band as universally beloved as these California musicians. For another, they — and the rest of Eagles’ CD catalog — were all issued back in the early days of compact discs, and have never really been sonically upgraded. Finally, neither of those old hits sets incorporates material from their on-again, off-again “resumption.”
Selected Works covers all those oversights over the course of four CDs containing 53 tracks. Unlike the chronological presentation typical in box sets, it opts for a thematic breakdown. Disc 1 covers The Early Years, when the original lineup — Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Don Felder and Randy Meisner — were a country-rock outfit churning out breezy roots-pop fare like Take It Easy, Already Gone, Witchy Woman and Peaceful Easy Feeling. Disc 2 features The Ballads, with a baker’s dozen of Bic-lighter lite-rock anthems including Lyin’ Eyes, Desperado, Best of My Love, New Kid in Town and Take it to the Limit. Disc 3, The Fast Lane, features the band’s later lineup — Leadon and Meisner out, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit in — and more edgier, rockier and darker fare like Heartache Tonight, In the City, Life in the Fast Lane, King of Hollywood, The Long Run and, of course, Hotel California. Finally, Disc 4, The Millennium Concert, is the one that justifies the 1999 in the title. Its dozen tunes were recorded at the band’s L.A. show last New Year’s Eve, and would make a perfect soundtrack to your party this year. Along with a version of Hotel California that you can’t tell from the studio track but for the hard ending and applause, there’s a fun, varied set list that includes Tom Waits’ Ol’ 55, Walsh’s Funk 49, Henley’s Dirty Laundry and All She Wants to do is Dance, the holiday cut Please Come Home for Christmas and even a Hendrix-style guitar solo version of Auld Lang Syne. What more could you want?
Well, now that you mention it, the box has one disappointment: Because the band never started anything they didn’t finish, there are no real surprises here. No long-lost rarities, no classic live tracks, no brilliant covers. The handful of outtakes consists of a mildly funny radio appearance clip, a one-riff John Lee Hooker parody and two sonic collages of leftover Long Run licks and studio-chatter silliness. It’s neat to hear — mainly because it’s hard to imagine Eagles ever enjoying themselves for any reason — but it really only whets your appetite for more.
And no, despite being a four-CD set, Selected Works still doesn’t have every single Eagles track you might want (I was kinda surprised not to see Teenage Jail and Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks, for instance). But hey, they had to draw the line somewhere. Let’s face it, the only perfect Eagles hits box would be an eight-disc set of all their albums in their entirety. Even Eagles haven’t had the nerve to try that. Yet.