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A pair of new discs from a pair of classic rock acts


The Eagles, "Hotel California: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" (Asylum, two discs)

Elton John, "Diamonds" (Rocket Universal, two disc; also available in large three disc box)

Let us now praise a few rock critics -- especially the first generation of passionate, often reckless American rock critics who often wrote in gleeful excess and lived the same way, no matter what the charts and cash registers said. Quite a few of them had the Eagles' number right at their '70s beginning. Robert Christgau of the Village Voice greeted them by calling them "reactionary." It got worse. Before he was finished, he pointed to their "on the road misogyny" and their partiality to "lotsa malaise with their mayonnaise." "Auteurs of laid-back sexism" Dave Marsh called them and wrote about their "richboy whines" and "paltry and inept attempts at rock and roll."

None of which stopped from selling the bejabbers out of records or writing the occasional decent song. "Hotel California" is often considered their best album (after, of course, the monstrously successful Greatest Hits packages) and the title song is certainly a radio perennial. But in the cold light of day in 2017, their brand of country rock makes for a kind of a lousy, mealy album when you hear it fresh again.

Fortunately, the 40th anniversary deluxe edition comes with another disc of a live concert in L.A. recorded just before the record was released. They unveiled "Hotel C" at that concert and did good versions of "New Girl in Town" and "Witchy Woman." You won't find "Desperado" there but then their version of the song was pretty much a demo for Linda Ronstadt anyway.

Elton John's ascendance preceded the Eagles by a couple years in the '70s and has lasted, more or less, to our time. (He's still proudly billboarded on TV music award shows.) His best, especially, has a way of triumphing over the wallow in sentimentality and bathos. He's been, for many decades now, a full service lyrical rocker and his songbook with Bernie Taupin abounds in exemplary standards of both art and schlock.

The downside of Elton John/Bernie Taupin is that their music is so brazenly idiosyncratic that apart from "Your Song" and a couple of others, most other singers are reluctant to cover them. There are several different versions of "Diamonds" available -- one a large box with three discs, a blue ray disc and a large book. For all I know, that one might allow for Elton and Bernie to come over and brew you a pot of tea. Even so, this new two disc "Ultimate Greatest Hits" collection will quite suffice for most of us not striving that hard to make a point.

2 1/2 stars (out of four) for the Eagles

3 1/2 stars (out of four) for Elton John

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