Music Review: Billy Joel’s Piano Man Stuns All Over Again with New Legacy Edition

Published on November 20th, 2011

November 21, 2011 – Just the mere mention of the name Billy Joel seems to create a sparkle in the eyes of any good music fan. And more often than not, they’ll be telling a personal story about “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” or reaching for one of his records in a matter of minutes. There’s something magical about songs from the Bronx-born legend that makes his name one of the best conversation starters ever. The big-time began for Joel in 1973 when “Piano Man” hit the shelves. And now, it’s on the shelves again in a new form with an expanded and unreleased live disc. The “Legacy Edition” of Piano Man is in stores as of November 8, and gives the seminal album a very deserving second look.

If you’ve never listened to Piano Man from start to finish, there will be some surprises along your journey through the two-disc set. As the liner notes confirm, one of the biggest surprises is how “twangy, with banjos, dobros and fiddles so much of it is.” And it’s true. Joel was not a piano purist, nor did he sell himself to a straight-up rock sound early on. A prime example is the first track. “Travelin’ Prayer” starts out with as much piano as you’d expect, but about a minute in the tune picks up pace and gains a southern flare.

“I never sat down and said I’m gonna write a hit record,” Joel says in retrospect. “I wouldn’t know a hit record if it bit me. I just wrote songs. I wrote them for me, I wrote them for the band, or I wrote a song for the women in my life. I was just writing songs for me. It’s music that I wanted to hear. If I didn’t hear certain kind of music on the radio, I realized, ‘Well, if I write and record this it’ll probably be on the radio and that’s what I’ll hear.’ That’s what I was thinking. Not so much about having hits, but about making music that I liked. I only really ever did it for me. That may sound selfish, but I’m the only person that I really know all that well.”

Unsurprisingly, 38 years later the title song retains all of its brilliance and then some. And the same can be said for the other nine songs. What Joel accomplished here was nothing short of spectacular, and the second live disc is a special treat. The Legacy Edition of Piano Man makes available, for the first time ever, Billy’s full performance at Sigma Sound, re-mixed from the original studio recording. The concert includes three Billy Joel songs–”Long, Long Time,” “Josephine,” and “Rosalinda”–which do not appear on any other albums.

What’s more is that Joel’s entire catalog – all 14 titles – have been remastered and newly packed into what can only be described as a fan’s ultimate treasure. Billy Joel – The Complete Albums Collection brings together for the first time, in one elegantly designed box, the artist’s complete catalog of 14 essential titles, from 1971′s Cold Spring Harbor through 1979′s Grammy-winning Album of The Year 52nd Street and 1981′s live Songs In The Attic to 2001′s Fantasies & Delusions, the first album of Billy’s classical compositions. Each album has been recently remastered in 24 bit audio for this edition and comes in cardboard jackets replicating the original album covers and sleeves.

It would seem that 2011 is the year of the Billy Joel studio renaissance, which means many fans are wondering when the next “live” rebirth will take pace. But there’s no answer to this question yet, so it’s time to put on the headphones and let the music do its magic.

Billy Joel Complete Albums Collection Includes:

1. Cold Spring Harbor (1971)
2. Piano Man (1973)
3. Streetlife Serenade (1974)
4. Turnstiles (1976)
5. The Stranger (1977)
6. 52nd Street (1978)
7. Glass Houses (1980)
8. Songs In The Attic (1981)
9. The Nylon Curtain (1982)
10. An Innocent Man (1983)
11. The Bridge (1986)
12. Storm Front (1989)
12. River Of Dreams (1993)
14, Fantasies & Delusions (2001)
15. Collected Additional Masters (1985—2007)

Billy Joel – Piano Man (Legacy Edition) Track Listing

The Original Album
1. Travelin’ Prayer
2. Piano Man
3. Ain’t No Crime
4. You’re My Home
5. The Ballad Of Billy The Kid
6. Worse Comes To Worse
7. Stop In Nevada
8. If I Only Had The Words (To Tell You)
9. Somewhere Along The Line
10. Captain Jack

The Sigma Sound Studios Performance
Travelin’ Prayer
The Ballad of Billy the Kid
She’s Got A Way
Everybody Loves You Now
Long, Long Time
Captain Jack
Tomorrow is Today

Recorded live in April 1972 at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA

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