Sunday, 8 December 2013

Album Review: Billy Joel: The Complete Hits Collection 1973-1997

I'd really like to give you a blog about an artist I listen to a lot, and that is Billy Joel.

I bought his Complete Hits Collection God knows how long ago now, but it would be the most bashed album I have. It's been played through good and hard times and keeps giving even now.

My simple theory is this: get a greatest hits and find songs you like the most, THEN go and buy the album it came from and see where it takes you. It makes you perhaps a selective listener but usually only serious musos will tell you to listen to everything!

I'll give you a few of my faves off this album and some of the knowledge I have acquired from looking into a track. This is a 52 roughly track album, being three CDs worth.

Now, I'll give you two and see how you like it- this IS my first blog :)

1. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. From "The Stranger", 1977.

This being a piece with more than one theme, much like an ABA form, or ternary form gives you a lot of interesting ideas. Joel has a few songs in his arsenal like this with more than one central theme, musically speaking.

We start and end in an Italian eatery trying to choose your wine. Much like Vienna, it has a European flavor. It sets the scene and gives a grand sense of scene, table, chairs, your lovely lady and wine and it then leads to the main meat of the song- which Joel named fondly during writing as the Ballad of Brenda and Eddie. This is when it really gets going:

"Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the King and the Queen of the prom, riding around with the car top down and the radio on..."

The lyrics give a couple in the heights of youth, plenty of eagerness and tension with everything to gain, who cares about the consequences with the life-like lady holding the purse strings. And it's this that really brings down the pair in the end.

The melody with all Joel's creativity binding with really wonderful lyrics, as per the two lines given above.
It's fun, it's lively as I've just said- youth, vigour and anticipation of a rich future with "...deep pile carpets and a couple of paintings from Seers (a US department store I imagine) a big waterbed that they bought with the bread they had saved for a couple of years." This rhythm has zing! It's got bite, and anyone having moved out and started a live-in relationship knows what this is all about.

If you don't try and learn this lyrics and attempt to sing along, you might as well stop the iPod in your car, lock the vehicle and walk. It's hard not to plus air drum and air piano. If you're a wanna be a muso, a bit of imagination can't hurt!!!

Throw in an accordian, sax, clarinet break a nice band into the mix, and this is full, red-blooded romance, look at life party-style. It brings a very well relatable subject matter: love and love lost and the money you throw at life . Please, grab this live at Yankee stadium, a few years ago now....Joel at his best!

Bring a bottle of rose...this is fun.

2. The Night is Still Young, From: "Greatest Hits Vols I & II", 1985. Not previously released as a single.

In this day and age, being 2013, more couples are meeting and/or marrying, settling down with children at a later stage in life, whether careers, or lifestyles govern them growing up...youth is young and staying young for as long as they see fit. I dunno, what do you think? Where are you these days?

So, Joel opens with the idea: "I'm still young, I have plenty of life in me, what the hell, I love you."

The Wiki people have Joel from the video as man on a business trip, leaving his wife behind. I haven't actually seen this video, so my interpretation is somewhat different from the my hearing what lyrics I can understand.

This song is somewhat dreamy in orchestration I think, It gives you a taste of Joel's old familiar harmonica as per "Piano Man". Simple octave (or two) dubbing of the verses gives an odd feel, more conversational in style. It nearly seems as if it's a near middle age man living with a still-young man's ideals. A pinch of reflection leading to his current position with his woman by his side: he's basically giving her credit for being his wife and as some do, a man who IS in his mid-life, is saying " a lot of catching up I gotta do, but the night is still young..."

I'm sure he's not the first or last to feel as if he needs to take stock of his life and state his intent and purpose. There is an accompanying video to go with this with Joel appearing as a lower class worker, blue collar and in his down to earth raggy way- it's easy to feel affection this style of visuals. He also appears driving a lorry where a young man with suitcase jumps on the back. One wonders if he's picturing himself as his lyrics give a hint towards possibly.

This is a song with a contemplative, typical honesty Joel offers-which I really love and respect in this man, in his music and lyrics. Joel is not afraid to put some growl into his voice. Showing again, as I tried to give you the feel for, a young man in an older man's body with the world at his feet- even though he might struggle to bend over to tie his shoelaces- but he's giving it all for his lady.

3. This is the Time, from "The Bridge", 1987.

I really wanted to give you a song off one of two significant albums to me- being The Bridge and Storm Front.

For now, This is the time is a nice life ideal to live by, involving the usual, Joel- type subject matter. He's for all intent and purpose talking to either his lady or if we might think, talking to us.

It's easy to give the love lyrics to his lady and take the lyrics of 'advice' when he neither says need you, or any lyric containing connotations to 'her'. Joel after all seems a very personal a person who, you might imagine, could enjoy giving his advice to anyone close, and if we spend the money, we can glean from his 'ancient heart' and knowledge and ideals.

This, being an album I was given by an uncle, uses all the keyboard electronics typical of 80's music. If you grew up in the era as I did, and some of my close friends, you'll recognise this. In thinking, even early 20's music fiends can easily recognise an 80's song, some with dissent - why I can't fathom! But I'm getting off topic slightly.

As this last review will conclude this blog, I'm sure you won't mind my indulgence- I picked this song because I like it. The first 2 were non sentimental- not so this one!

I think this song is nicely orchestrated, akin to "The Night is Still Young" - but after all, this is what art is all about: telling a story through a sensitive art-form such as music.

It has its crescendos and vice versa- meaning strong points and softer points. The lyrics do drive this piece.

"This is the time to remember, cos it will not last forever"

this sums up life in general.

Now, this actually takes practice and experience to have a sense of appreciation for. If you have not lost, you cannot find comfort. If you are not hungry, you won't appreciate food. If you're not cold, you might not value your clothes, shelter or house. The experience of hardship can indeed give you more value of that when you might have it return.

This might be the central theme to this song. It also has a touch of love involved -

"and these are the times you'll turn back to, and so will I..."

the romantic comes back from Joel again. That usual heart on the sleeve type, giving us his thoughts.

Until next time! Enjoy!

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