Eagles: Hotel California - 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Ah, the ’70s—the literal age of excess, as documented by the “everything, all the time” lifestyle credo personified by pop-music superstars like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. And yet, amidst all that glamour, glitz, and high drama also resided some damn fine music, too. Listen closely, and you’ll clue into a good bit of prescient social commentating by artists very much aware of the pitfalls of their experimentations, even while they basked in the afterglow.

Indeed, could there have been a more flawless representation of those gritty Bicentennial times than the Eagles’ 1976 masterpiece, Hotel California, one of the best-selling albums of our time? (The current official tally: over 16 million units sold in the U.S. alone, and 32 million worldwide and counting.)

Hotel California’s continuing aural and cultural impact is now being properly feted in a three-disc 40th anniversary deluxe edition (technically speaking, said box actually commemorates the album’s 41st anniversary, since it was released in October 1976). Disc 1 is a remaster of the album proper, and a nice reminder that, besides their vaunted harmonies and songwriting prowess, the Eagles are also underrated masters of the fade-in (“Pretty Maids All in a Row”) and fade-out (“Try and Love Again”).


Disc 2 contains 48 minutes culled from three shows at the L.A. Forum on October 20–22, 1976. The Eagles’ true live muscle would become evident much later in the tour, but this edited set does show the five-man band in the midst of learning how to stretch their collective wingspan onstage.

Naturally, the true nest egg of this box is Disc 3, the Blu-ray containing the 96-kHz/24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix done by original producer Bill Szymczyk and longtime Eagles studio compatriot Elliot Scheiner for the 2001 DVD-Audio release. Said surround mix is stellar, to say the least. The only knock here is that the DVD-A offered individual menu screens for each song, while the Blu-ray has only one static image for the entirety of the playback. Not only that, but the DVD-A also boasted a pretty cool and informative video extra—an interview with Szymczyk behind the mixing board, sharing such pearls as, “The Eagles were known perfectionists” and “What I wanted to do [with the 5.1] was put the listener in the middle of the band.”

That’s a damn good Hotel mission statement, in fact, as the joint Scheiner/Szymczyk surround mix essentially does just that by keeping the essence of the band and each song’s bed track in the front channels—vocals and drums centered and/or panned to stereo, and the guitars on either side—while peppering the bulk of keyboard, guitar, and percussion accents and other supplementals in the rears.


Naturally, the title track itself is a wonder to behold in 5.1, whether it’s Don Henley’s deft cymbal work moving clockwise through the channels in the intro section or the epic guitar duel between Don Felder (in the left quadrants) and Joe Walsh (on the right) that dominates the song’s final 2:10.

That said, one editing decision continues to frustrate my ear. It occurs about halfway through at 3:27, when Henley gets to the very end of the line, “bring your alibis.” There, you can hear the hard-stop clipped edit at the very moment the bass tone behind his voice and his inflection of the last “s” are abruptly cut off with a millisecond of silence before the next line, “Mirrors on the ceiling,” commences. It’s a jarring edit in hi-res, one I’ve confirmed is also on the DVD-A, remastered CD, and digital download. Make no mistake, though—this moment is no deal-breaker. It’s just one of those things from the days of hands-on physical tape editing that would likely not happen with a modern DAW Pro Tools edit.

Regardless, Hotel contains other 5.1 marvels like the galloping, rear-left percussive chug during the back half of “Life in the Fast Lane,” the majestic swells of the string section on “Wasted Time (Reprise),” and the full-channel growl of “Victim of Love.”


But the essence of Hotel is embodied by the final track, “The Last Resort,” which could also be subtitled “The Immigrant Song” and/or “California Broken-Dreamin’.” Henley has often claimed he wanted to achieve a James Michener–like scope with its lyrics and felt he failed, but I would proffer his observations land square in prime left-coast-transplanted John Updike/John Cheever territory. Henley’s vivid imagery of So Cal decay is perfectly suited for the splendor and panorama of the surround mix, with requisite volume swells (the strings) and somber subtleties (a small center-channel piano figure) in tow.

The bottom line is, this box’s 5.1 mix bears repeated listening, adding an unmistakable depth to songs you’ve likely spun hundreds (if not thousands) of times. And that’s the thing about Hotel California, isn’t it—once your ears check in to the very grandeur of it all, you can never leave.

CD & Blu-ray
Label: Asylum
Audio Formats: 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CD), 192-kHz/24-bit PCM Stereo (Blu-ray & download), 96-kHz/24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Blu-ray)
Number of Tracks: 28 (19 on 2 CDs, 9 on 1 Blu-ray)
Length: 2:14:42 (1:32:09 on 2 CDs, 43:33 on 1 Blu-ray)
Producers: Bill Szymczyk (original album, live material); Elliot Scheiner with Bill Szymczyk (5.1 mix); Don Henley, Richard F.W. Davis (live material); Jason Day, Bill Inglot, Steve Woolard (box set)
Engineers: Bill Szymczyk, Allan Blazek, Ed Marshal, Bruce Hensal (original album); Jeff Balding (live mix); Matt Coles, Zack Johnson, Kelly Kotero, Allan Blazek, Tom Scott (live material)