Billy Joel – The Complete Albums Collection (2011/2014) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Billy Joel – The Complete Albums Collection (2011/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 11:14:08 minutes | 13,9 GB | Genre: Rock, Pop
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Q0buz| Front Cover | © Columbia – Legacy

Although Billy Joel never was a critic’s favorite, the pianist emerged as one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the latter half of the ’70s. Joel’s music consistently demonstrates an affection for Beatlesque hooks and a flair for Tin Pan Alley and Broadway melodies. His fusion of two distinct eras made him a superstar in the late ’70s and ’80s, as he racked an impressive string of multi-platinum albums and hit singles.

Billy Joel – Cold Spring Harbor (1971/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 30:24 minutes | 648 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

A few short months after abandoning the heavy organ-and-drums duo Attila – partially because their sole record flopped, partially because he stole the drummer’s wife – Billy Joel reinvented himself as a sensitive singer/songwriter. He had shown signs of McCartney-esque songcraft on Hour of the Wolf, the last Hassles album, but his debut album, Cold Spring Harbor, is where these talents blossomed. The record was uneven but very charming, boasting two of his finest songs – the lovely “She’s Got a Way” and the bitterly cynical “Everybody Loves You Now” – and a score of flawed but nicely crafted songs that illustrated Joel’s gift for melody, as well as his pretensions (the mock-gospel in “Tomorrow Is Today,” a classical stab entitled “Nocturne”). In its own way, Cold Spring Harbor was a minor gem of the sensitive singer/songwriter era; Joel may have been in his formative stages as a craftsman, but his talents are apparent, and he never made an album as intimate and vulnerable ever again. Ironically, it didn’t sound right upon its original release. Through a bizarre mastering error, the tapes were sped up – legend has it that upon hearing the completed album, he ripped it off the turntable, ran out of the house, and threw it down the street. It wasn’t until 1983 that Columbia released a corrected reissue. The speed wasn’t the only thing changed – some songs were edited drastically (“You Can Make Me Free,” one of the standouts, was chopped by nearly five minutes) and instruments and backing vocals were stripped away from numerous tracks. It may be a bastardization of the original release, but it’s an acceptable one, since these changes only accentuate the intimacy and vulnerability of the recording.

01 – She’s Got a Way
02 – You Can Make Me Free
03 – Everybody Loves You Now
04 – Why Judy Why
05 – Falling of the Rain
06 – Turn Around
07 – You Look So Good to Me
08 – Tomorrow Is Today
09 – Nocturne
10 – Got to Begin Again

Billy Joel – Piano Man (1973/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 43:34 minutes | 1020 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Embittered by legal disputes with his label and an endless tour to support a debut that was dead in the water, Billy Joel hunkered down in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, spending six months as a lounge singer at a club. He didn’t abandon his dreams – he continued to write songs, including “Piano Man,” a fictionalized account of his weeks as a lounge singer. Through a combination of touring and constant hustling, he landed a contract with Columbia and recorded his second album in 1973. Clearly inspired by Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, not only musically but lyrically, as well as James Taylor, Joel expands the vision and sound of Cold Spring Harbor, abandoning introspective numbers (apart from “You’re My Home,” a love letter to his wife) for character sketches and epics. Even the title track, a breakthrough hit based on his weeks as a saloon singer, focuses on the colorful patrons, not the singer. If his narratives are occasionally awkward or incomplete, he compensates with music that gives the songs a sweeping sense of purpose – they feel complete, thanks to his indelible melodies and savvy stylistic repurposing. He may have borrowed his basic blueprint from Tumbleweed Connection, particularly with its Western imagery and bluesy gospel flourishes, but he makes it his own, largely due to his melodic flair, which is in greater evidence than on Cold Spring Harbor. Piano Man is where he suggests his potential as a musical craftsman. He may have weaknesses as a lyricist – such mishaps as the “instant pleasuredome” line in “You’re My Home” illustrate that he doesn’t have an ear for words – but Piano Man makes it clear that his skills as a melodicist can dazzle.

01 – Travelin’ Prayer
02 – Piano Man
03 – Ain’t No Crime
04 – You’re My Home
05 – The Ballad of Billy the Kid
06 – Worse Comes to Worst
07 – Stop in Nevada
08 – If I Only Had the Words
09 – Somewhere Along the Line
10 – Captain Jack

Billy Joel – Streetlife Serenade (1974/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:55 minutes | 839 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Piano Man gave Billy Joel his long-desired big hit, but it also somewhat threw him for a loop. He had been driven on Piano Man, determined to deliver an album that established him as both a serious artist and a commercial contender. Having achieved at least one of those goals (critics never gave Joel much credit), he had to release another album quickly if he wanted to keep his profile high, which he did. The problem is, Joel had put all of his best songs on Piano Man, leaving him with a shortage of material. Furthermore, promotional duties ate up his time, leaving him little to write new songs. As a result, Streetlife Serenade, the crucial third album, was a bit of a slump. Stylistically, it was a reiteration of its predecessor’s Tumbleweed Connection obsessions, spiked with, of all things, Rockford Files synthesizers and ragtime pulled from The Sting. That isn’t a facetious reference, either – it’s no coincidence that the record’s single and best song, “The Entertainer,” shares a title with the Scott Joplin rag that provided The Sting with a main theme. Joel is attempting a grand Americana lyrical vision, stretching from the Wild West through the Depression to “Los Angelenos” and “The Great Suburban Showdown.” It doesn’t work, not only because of his shortcomings as a writer, but because he didn’t have the time to pull it all together. There are no less than two instrumentals, and even if “Root Beer Rag” (yet another sign of The Sting’s influence) is admittedly enjoyable, they’re undeniably fillers, as is much of the second side. Since he has skills, he’s able to turn out a few winners – “Roberta,” a love song in the vein of Cold Spring Harbor, the mournful “Streetlife Serenader,” and the stomping “Los Angelenos” – but it was the astonishingly bitter “The Entertainer,” where he not only disparages his own role, but is filled with venom over “Piano Man” being released in a single edit, that made the subtext clear: he’d had enough with California, enough with the music industry, enough with being a sensitive singer/songwriter. It was time for Billy to say goodbye to Hollywood and head back home to New York.

01 – Streetlife Serenader
02 – Los Angelenos
03 – The Great Suburban Showdown
04 – Root Beer Rag
05 – Roberta
06 – The Entertainer
07 – Last of the Big Time Spenders
08 – Weekend Song
09 – Souvenir
10 – The Mexican Connection

Billy Joel – Turnstiles (1976/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 36:51 minutes | 806 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

There’s a reason Turnstiles begins with the Spector-esque epic “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” Shortly after Streetlife Serenade, Joel ditched California – and, by implication, sensitive Californian soft rock from sensitive singer/songwriters – for his hometown of New York. “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” was a celebration of his move, a repudiation of his past, a fanfare for a new beginning, which is exactly what Turnstiles was. He still was a singer/songwriter – indeed, “Summer, Highland Falls” was his best ballad to date, possibly his best ever – but he decided to run with his musical talents, turning the record into a whirlwind tour of pop styles, from Sinatra to Springsteen. There’s little question that the cinematic sprawl of Born to Run had an effect on Turnstiles, since it has a similar widescreen feel, even if it clocks in at only eight songs. The key to the record’s success is variety, the way the album whips from the bouncy, McCartney-esque “All You Wanna Do Is Dance” to the saloon song “New York State of Mind”; the way the bitterly cynical “Angry Young Man” gives way to the beautiful “I’ve Loved These Days” and the surrealistic apocalyptic fantasy “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” No matter how much stylistic ground Joel covers, he’s kept on track by his backing group. He fought to have his touring band support him on Turnstiles, going to the lengths of firing his original producer, and it was clearly the right move, since they lend the album a cohesive feel. Turnstiles may not have been a hit, but it remains one of his most accomplished and satisfying records, clearly paving the way to his twin peaks of the late ’70s, The Stranger and 52nd Street.

01 – Say Goodbye to Hollywood
02 – Summer, Highland Falls
03 – All You Wanna Do Is Dance
04 – New York State of Mind
05 – James
06 – Prelude / Angry Young Man
07 – I’ve Loved These Days
08 – Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go out on Broadway)

Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 42:30 minutes | 910 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Billy Joel teamed with Phil Ramone, a famed engineer who had just scored his first producing hits with Art Garfunkel’s Breakaway and Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years for The Stranger, his follow-up to Turnstiles. Joel still favored big, sweeping melodies, but Ramone convinced him to streamline his arrangements and clean up the production. The results aren’t necessarily revelatory, since he covered so much ground on Turnstiles, but the commercialism of The Stranger is a bit of a surprise. None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as “Just the Way You Are”; he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as “Only the Good Die Young”; and the glossy production of “She’s Always a Woman” disguises its latent misogynist streak. Joel balanced such radio-ready material with a series of New York vignettes, seemingly inspired by Springsteen’s working-class fables and clearly intended to be the artistic centerpieces of the album. They do provide The Stranger with the feel of a concept album, yet there is no true thematic connection between the pieces, and his lyrics are often vague or mean-spirited. His lyrical shortcomings are overshadowed by his musical strengths. Even if his melodies sound more Broadway than Beatles – the epic suite “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” feels like a show-stopping closer – there’s no denying that the melodies of each song on The Stranger are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the album. Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.

01 – Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
02 – The Stranger
03 – Just the Way You Are
04 – Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
05 – Vienna
06 – Only the Good Die Young
07 – She’s Always a Woman
08 – Get It Right the First Time
09 – Everybody Has a Dream

Billy Joel – 52nd Street (1978/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 40:42 minutes | 914 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Once The Stranger became a hit, Billy Joel quickly re-entered the studio with producer Phil Ramone to record the follow-up, 52nd Street. Instead of breaking from the sound of The Stranger, Joel chose to expand it, making it more sophisticated and somewhat jazzy. Often, his moves sounded as if they were responses to Steely Dan – indeed, his phrasing and melody for “Zanzibar” is a direct homage to Donald Fagen circa The Royal Scam, and it also boasts a solo from jazz great Freddie Hubbard à la Steely Dan – but since Joel is a working-class populist, not an elitist college boy, he never shies away from big gestures and melodies. Consequently, 52nd Street unintentionally embellishes the Broadway overtones of its predecessor, not only on a centerpiece like “Stiletto,” but when he’s rocking out on “Big Shot.” That isn’t necessarily bad, since Joel’s strong suit turns out to be showmanship – he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances. He also knows how to make a record. Song for song, 52nd Street might not be as strong as The Stranger, but there are no weak songs – indeed, “Honesty,” “My Life,” “Until the Night,” and the three mentioned above are among his best – and they all flow together smoothly, thanks to Ramone’s seamless production and Joel’s melodic craftsmanship. It’s remarkable to think that in a matter of three records, Joel had hit upon a workable, marketable formula – one that not only made him one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers. 52nd Street is a testament to that achievement.

01 – Big Shot
02 – Honesty
03 – My Life
04 – Zanzibar
05 – Stiletto
06 – Rosalinda’s Eyes
07 – Half a Mile Away
08 – Until the Night
09 – 52nd Street

Billy Joel – Glass Houses (1980/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 35:06 minutes | 817 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

The back-to-back success of The Stranger and 52nd Street may have brought Billy Joel fame and fortune, even a certain amount of self-satisfaction, but it didn’t bring him critical respect, and it didn’t dull his anger. If anything, being classified as a mainstream rocker – a soft rocker – infuriated him, especially since a generation of punks and new wave kids were getting the praise that eluded him. He didn’t take this lying down – he recorded Glass Houses. Comparatively a harder-rocking album than either of its predecessors, with a distinctly bitter edge, Glass Houses still displays the hallmarks of Billy Joel the pop craftsman and Phil Ramone the world-class hitmaker. Even its hardest songs – the terrifically paranoid “Sometimes a Fantasy,” “Sleepin’ With the Television On,” “Close to the Borderline,” the hit “You May Be Right” – have bold, direct melodies and clean arrangements, ideal for radio play. Instead of turning out to be a fiery rebuttal to his detractors, the album is a remarkable catalog of contemporary pop styles, from McCartney-esque whimsy (“Don’t Ask Me Why”) and arena rock (“All for Leyna”) to soft rock (“C’etait Toi [You Were the One]”) and stylish new wave pop (“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” which ironically is closer to new wave pop than rock). That’s not a detriment; that’s the album’s strength. The Stranger and 52nd Street were fine albums in their own right, but it’s nice to hear Joel scale back his showman tendencies and deliver a solid pop/rock record. It may not be punk – then again, it may be his concept of punk – but Glass Houses is the closest Joel ever got to a pure rock album.

01 – You May Be Right
02 – Sometimes a Fantasy
03 – Don’t Ask Me Why
04 – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
05 – All for Leyna
06 – I Don’t Want to Be Alone
07 – Sleeping With the Television On
08 – C’etait toi (You Were the One)
09 – Close to the Borderline
10 – Through the Long Night

Billy Joel – Songs In The Attic (1981/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 48:29 minutes | 1,08 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Having scored three multi-platinum hits in a row, Billy Joel took a breather, releasing his first live album, Songs in the Attic, as he worked on his ambitious follow-up to Glass Houses. Joel wisely decided to use the live album as an opportunity to draw attention to songs from his first four albums. Apart from “Piano Man,” none of those songs had been heard by the large audience he had won with The Stranger. Furthermore, he now had a seasoned backing band that helped give his music a specific identity – in short, it was an opportunity to reclaim these songs, now that he had a signature sound. And Joel didn’t botch the opportunity – Songs in the Attic is an excellent album, ranking among his very best work. With the possible exception of the Turnstiles material, every song is given a fuller, better arrangement that makes it all spring to life. “Los Angelenos” and “Everybody Loves You Now” hit harder in the live setting, while ballads like “She’s Got a Way,” “Summer, Highland Falls,” and “I’ve Loved These Days” are richer and warmer in these versions. A few personal favorites from these albums may be missing, but what is here is impeccable, proving that even if Joel wasn’t a celebrity in the early ’70s, his best songs of the era rivaled his biggest hits.

01 – Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go out on Broadway)
02 – Summer, Highland Falls
03 – Streetlife Serenader
04 – Los Angelenos
05 – She’s Got a Way
06 – Everybody Loves You Now
07 – Say Goodbye to Hollywood
08 – Captain Jack
09 – You’re My Home
10 – The Ballad of Billy the Kid
11 – I’ve Loved These Days

Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain (1982/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 41:51 minutes | 958 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Billy Joel hit back as hard as he could with Glass Houses, his bid to prove that he could rock as hard as any of those new wave punks. He might not have proven himself a punk – for all of his claims of being a hard rocker, his work inevitably is pop because of his fondness for melody – but he proved to himself that he could still rock, even if the critics didn’t give him any credit for it. It was now time to mature, to move pop/rock into the middle age and, in the process, earn critical respect. In short, The Nylon Curtain is where Billy Joel went serious, consciously crafting a song cycle about Baby Boomers in the Reagan era. Since this was an album about Baby Boomers, he chose to base his music almost entirely on the Beatles, the pivotal rock band for his generation. Joel is naturally inclined to write big melodies like McCartney, but he idolizes Lennon, which makes The Nylon Curtain a fascinating cross between ear candy and social commentary. His desire to record a grand concept album is admirable, but his ever-present lyrical shortcomings mean that the songs paint a picture without arriving at any insights. He occasionally gets lost in his own ambition, as on the waterlogged second side, but the first half of the song suite – “Allentown,” “Laura,” “Pressure,” “Goodnight Saigon,” “She’s Right on Time” – is layered, successful, mature pop that brings Joel tantalizingly close to his ultimate goal of sophisticated pop/rock for mature audiences.

01 – Allentown
02 – Laura
03 – Pressure
04 – Goodnight Saigon
05 – She’s Right on Time
06 – A Room of Our Own
07 – Surprises
08 – Scandinavian Skies
09 – Where’s the Orchestra

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (1983/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 40:37 minutes | 961 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Recording The Nylon Curtain exhausted Billy Joel, and even though it had a pair of major hits, it didn’t rival its predecessors in terms of sales. Since he labored so hard at the record, he decided it was time for a break – it was time to record an album just for fun. And that’s how his homage to pre-Beatles pop, An Innocent Man, was conceived: it was designed as a breezy romp through the music of his childhood. Joel’s grasp on history isn’t remarkably astute – the opener “Easy Money” is a slice of Stax/Volt pop-soul, via the Blues Brothers (quite possibly the inspiration for the album), and the label didn’t break the pop charts until well after the British Invasion – but he’s in top form as a craftsman throughout the record. Only once does he stumble on his own ambition (“This Night,” which appropriates its chorus from Beethoven). For the rest of the record, he’s effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles, from the Four Seasons send-up “Uptown Girl” and the soulful “Tell Her About It” to a pair of doo wop tributes, “The Longest Time” and “Careless Talk.” Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man. He can’t stop writing about her throughout the album – only three songs, including the haunted title track, aren’t about her in some form or fashion. That giddiness is infectious, helping make An Innocent Man an innocent delight that unwittingly closes Joel’s classic period.

01 – Easy Money
02 – An Innocent Man
03 – The Longest Time
04 – This Night
05 – Tell Her About It
06 – Uptown Girl
07 – Careless Talk
08 – Christie Lee
09 – Leave a Tender Moment Alone
10 – Keeping the Faith

Billy Joel – The Bridge (1986/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 40:36 minutes | 886 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Riding high on the blockbuster An Innocent Man and with a new jet-setting bride at his side, Billy Joel took full advantage of the high life, as is clear from The Bridge, an album that unwittingly celebrates the excesses of the Reagan years. While he hasn’t quite settled into middle age, Joel is ready to take advantage of his wealth and status, recruiting a hero (Ray Charles) and a new wave kid (Cyndi Lauper) for duets, turning to Sting for inspiration (“Running on Ice”), fronting a big band (“Big Man on Mulberry Street”), writing a song for a movie (“Modern Woman”), and picking up the guitar (“A Matter of Trust”), just for the hell of it. You could say that it’s eclectic, but it’s scattershot, because it’s just Joel showing off his musical skills. He’s done this before, to great effect on Turnstiles, but this is all about hubris and, as such, it sounds exactly like its time. From its processed, distorted guitars to its hollow synthesizers, The Bridge sounds dated and it’s his most uneven since Streetlife Serenade. Even on the hits, he sounds as if he’s stretching – “This Is the Time” is labored compared to “Just the Way You Are” (not to mention considerably more vulgar); “A Matter of Trust” never hits upon a solid riff like “Sometimes a Fantasy”; “Modern Woman” is catchy but fluffy; “Baby Grand” is weighed down by Joel’s vocal affectations. In context of the album, they’re fairly enjoyable, but they hint at the dry spell that was just around the corner. Nevertheless, Joel still has enough panache and is riding on so much exuberance that The Bridge remains an entertaining listen, especially if it’s viewed as a Reagan-era artifact. It just doesn’t compare to what came before.

01 – Running on Ice
02 – This Is the Time
03 – A Matter of Trust
04 – Modern Woman
05 – Baby Grand
06 – Big Man on Mulberry Street
07 – Temptation
08 – Code of Silence
09 – Getting Closer

Billy Joel – Storm Front (1989/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 45:00 minutes | 1,07 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

When he went for a masterpiece on The Nylon Curtain, Billy Joel worked with his band and producer Phil Ramone, crafting a Beatlesque song suite that was perfectly in step with Turnstiles. For Storm Front, he decided it was time to change things. He fired Ramone. He fired everyone in his band, save longtime drummer Liberty DeVito. He hired Mick Jones, the architect behind Foreigner’s big AOR sound, to man the boards. He wrote a set of sober, somber songs, save “That’s Not Her Style,” a weirdly defensive song about his model wife, Christie Brinkley. He was left with an album that is singularly joyless. Joel makes no bones about his ambitions for Storm Front – when you lead with a history lesson as your first single (the monotonous chant “We Didn’t Start the Fire”), it’s clear that you’re not interested in fun. That wouldn’t have been a problem if his melodic skills weren’t in decline. Joel packed all the strongest numbers into the first half of Storm Front, from the rocking “That’s Not Her Style” and “I Go to Extremes” to the fisherman’s plight “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” and the power ballad “Shameless,” which Garth Brooks later made a standard. Compared to the murky second side, which perks up only mildly with “Leningrad” and “And So It Goes,” it’s upbeat, varied, melodic, and effective, but when it’s compared to his catalog – not only such high-water marks as The Stranger or Glass Houses, but with a record as uneven as The Bridge – it pales musically and lyrically. The five singles (“Fire,” “Style,” “Extremes,” “‘Alexa’,” “Goes”) were catchy enough on the radio to propel the album to multi-platinum status, but in retrospect, Storm Front sounds like the beginning of the end.

01 – That’s Not Her Style
02 – We Didn’t Start the Fire
03 – The Downeaster “Alexa”
04 – I Go to Extremes
05 – Shameless
06 – Storm Front
07 – Leningrad
08 – State of Grace
09 – When in Rome
10 – And So It Goes

Billy Joel – River Of Dreams (1993/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 49:16 minutes | 1,16 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Billy Joel had never taken as much time to record an album as he did with River of Dreams, and its troubled birth is clear upon the first listen. Never before had he recorded an album that sounded so labored, as if it was a struggle for him to write and record the songs. With River of Dreams, he’s surrounded himself with ace studio musicians and star producer Danny Kortchmar, all of whom have the effect of deadening an already self-consciously serious set of songs. There are no light moments on the album, either lyrically or musically – all the songs are filled with middle-age dread, even the two best moments, the gospel-inflected title track and his song to his daughter, “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel).” Those two songs have the strongest melodies, but they’re not as natural as his best material. Everywhere he tries too hard – the metaphors of “The Great Wall of China,” the bizarre vocal intro to “Shades of Grey,” minor-key melodies all over the place. He may be trying different things, but he doesn’t sound comfortable with his detours, and by the end of the record, he sounds as exhausted as the listener feels. By that point, the closing track, “Famous Last Words,” seems prophetic – River of Dreams feels like a sad close to an otherwise strong career, and from all indications he’s given in the press, Joel claims it is indeed the last pop album he’ll ever make. It’s an unworthy way to depart.

01 – No Man’s Land
02 – The Great Wall of China
03 – Blonde Over Blue
04 – A Minor Variation
05 – Shades of Grey
06 – All About Soul
07 – Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)
08 – The River of Dreams
09 – Two Thousand Years
10 – Famous Last Words

Richard Joo – Billy Joel’s Fantasies & Delusions: Music For Solo Piano (2001/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 76:16 minutes | 1,43 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

It was pretty clear that Billy Joel had run out of steam by 1993’s River of Dreams. He had shown signs of wearing on its predecessor, Storm Front, but his trademark melodic gift disappeared on River of Dreams and his words, even performances, were bone-tired – he even called the last song “The Last Song (No More Words).” So, it was no great surprise that he did not rush to record a follow-up, and when he started murmuring toward the end of the decade that perhaps he wasn’t interested in pop music anymore, nobody who paid attention could have been surprised. And it wasn’t a surprise that he decided to turn toward classical music since, by that point, it had become a cliché for pop musicians who wanted to be taken seriously. What is a surprise is that the resulting project, Fantasies & Delusions, is pretty successful – it’s a nice collection of pleasingly modest, melodic solo piano pieces, mainly sonatas, written by Joel and performed by Richard Joo. Joel succeeds because he kept his ambitions reasonable and was smart about presentation. He didn’t compose symphonies, he wrote piano pieces and passed them off to somebody who could play them dexterously in the way they were meant to be played. It’s actually charming, since it’s possible to hear Joel diligently working within the forms of classical music while retaining the recognizable melodic flair of his pop work. These are still not pieces that you’ll wind up humming, but as pop/classical crossovers go, this is among the best in recent memory – better than McCartney’s operettas and symphonies, better than Joe Jackson’s stilted work. And it’s a hell of a lot more rewarding than River of Dreams.

01 – Reverie (Villa D’Este)
02 – Waltz # 1 (Nunley’s Carousel)
03 – Aria (Grand Canal)
04 – Invention in C Minor
05 – Soliloquy (On a Separation)
06 – Suite for Piano (Star-Crossed): Innamorato
07 – Suite for Piano (Star-Crossed): Sorbetto
08 – Suite for Piano (Star-Crossed): Delusion
09 – Waltz # 2 (Steinway Hall)
10 – Waltz # 3 (For Lola)
11 – Fantasy (Film Noir)
12 – Air (Dublinesque)

Billy Joel – Collected Additional Masters (2011/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 66:16 minutes | 1,36 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

The bonus disc for this box set features some rarities and non-album recordings.

01 – Hey Girl
02 – You’re Only Human (Second Wind)
03 – The Night Is Still Young
04 – Elvis Presley Boulevard
05 – To Make You Feel My Love
06 – Light As The Breeze
07 – I’ll Cry Instead
08 – House Of Blue Light
09 – Nobody Knows But Me
10 – Heartbreak Hotel
11 – In A Sentimental Mood
12 – You Picked A Real Bad Time
13 – All Shook Up
14 – Where Were You On Our Wedding Day
15 – Don’t Worry Baby
16 – When You Wish Upon A Star
17 – All My Life



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