50 Years Of The Piano Man, by Billy Joel
One of the more worthwhile things for music labels to do when their artists hit various thresholds in their career is to make retrospectives that allow for people to enjoy their back catalog. And it cannot be denied, not least by someone who has long been a fan of his work, that Billy Joel has an impressive back catalog and that it is no challenge at all to find 50 great songs from that body of work created over the course of decades in the music industry. While it is unclear what new song or takes on his songs are present in this compilation as opposed to the ones that already exist, one probably does not need too much of an excuse to listen to classic Billy Joel, so let us see if this is a worthy compilation of a truly excellent career.
As might be expected from a collection like this one, there are 50 songs to cover the 50 years of Billy Joel’s career, and this review can hardly be expected to cover them all in detail. We begin with the requisite “Piano Man,” and then race through a selection of hits and album tracks that includes “Uptown Girl,” “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” “Vienna,” “My Life,” “Just The Way You Are,” “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me,” “Only The Good Die Young,” “New York State Of Mind,” “The Longest Time,” “Zanzibar,” “Everybody Loves You Now,” “She’s Always A Woman,” “A Matter Of Trust,” “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway),” “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’,”, “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “The Entertainer,” “Pressure,” “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” “Keeping The Faith,” “Big Shot,” “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” “The Ballad Of Billy The Kid,” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” “The River Of Dreams,” “Allentown,” “Tell Her About It,” ” This Is The Time,” “Sometimes A Fantasy – Single Version,” “Prelude / Angry Young Man,” “You May Be Right,” “Captain Jack,” “She’s Got A Way,” “Baby Grand (with Ray Charles),” “An Innocent Man,” “I Go To Extremes,” a live version of “All About Soul,” “Goodnight Saigon,” “Honesty,” “Leave A Tender Moment Alone,” “Streetlife Serenader,” “All For Leyna,” “Where’s The Orchestra,” “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel),” and “And So It Goes.” The collection ends with live versions of “The Ballad Of Billy The Kid,” “Summer, Highland Falls,” “New York State Of Mind,” and “Souvenir.” Overall, it has to be admitted that the compilation contains a mix of live and studio, as well as a satisfying blend of very well-known songs, songs that should be better known and appreciated from Billy Joel’s back catalog, as well as a blend between the different approaches that the piano man has taken to songwriting over the course of a long and productive career.
If there is a bit of repetition here in that a couple of songs appear as both live versions and studio versions, this album is overall a solid choice. It plays a mixture of songs that are already available on one of Billy Joel’s many existing compilation albums with songs that have hitherto only been available on the studio albums, and the discoveries here are certainly worthwhile ones. If you’re a fan of Billy Joel, this album is an easy one to appreciate, and should probably be on your radar, especially if you want to stream nearly 4 hours of music by the piano man, and you probably should want to be doing that.