Billy Joel – Turnstiles – Listening in Depth

More Billy Joel

More Turnstiles

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

On side two Prelude/Angry Young Man were key test tracks. The biggest, richest copies with the most space consistently brought out the best in the songs and individual performances of the players.

Summer, Highland Falls is a great test — listen for breathy vocals, a full piano, a clear snare drum once it comes in and, most importantly, an energetic performance. You will need all four to score well in one of our shootouts. 

Note that the first track on side one has a tendency to be a bit brighter than those that follow.

Those of you who’ve been with us for a while know that we are big fans of Songs in the Attic, the live album Joel released in 1981 after The Stranger, 52nd Street and Glass Houses all went to the top of the charts.

More than half of the songs on SITA come from this very album: Say Goodbye to Hollywood, Miami 2017, Summer, Highland Falls, Say Goodbye to Hollywood and I’ve Loved These Days. These are the songs from his fourth album that Joel felt were unfairly overlooked and most wanted you to hear.

We were favorably impressed with just how good the sound can be on a great pressing like this (quite a bit better than Songs in the Attic for sure). We’ve played a ton of copies of this one over the years but most copies left us unmoved. Here you get real weight to the piano — essential for any Billy Joel album — and big, punchy drums.

Note that the orchestra was recorded at the famed Columbia 30th Street studios.

Heavy Vinyl

Mobile Fidelity did a version of this album not long ago but we couldn’t begin to tell you how it sounds. We simply cannot devote the resources required to play all the reissues coming out these days, especially considering how second rate most of them are. If you’ve picked one of the new pressings up we guarantee our Hot Stamper will beat it soundly or your money back.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

The Big Sound! You need a superb copy to get the full effect on this one — a wall to wall, floor to ceiling Phil Spector-inspired sonic blockbuster.

Summer, Highland Falls
All You Wanna Do Is Dance
New York State of Mind

Side Two

James
Prelude/Angry Young Man
I’ve Loved These Days
Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

AMG Review

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… It remains one of his most accomplished and satisfying records.

Background

Joel recorded Turnstiles in part as a celebration of his return to his native New York City. Three of the album’s tracks reference New York: “Summer, Highland Falls”, “New York State of Mind” and “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”.

It begins with “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” (inspired by The Ronettes song “Be My Baby”) and also includes “I’ve Loved These Days”, a tongue-in-cheek expression of regret at leaving behind Hollywood decadence.

The songs were first recorded at Caribou Ranch, with members of Elton John’s band (Nigel Olsson on drums and Dee Murray on bass) and produced by Chicago producer James William Guercio.

Dissatisfied with the results, Joel took over as producer and returned to New York, where he re-recorded the album in its entirety, with his own touring band, which consisted of Long Island musicians Richie Cannata and the members of the band Topper: Liberty DeVitto, Russell Javors, Howie Emerson, and Doug Stegmeyer.

Turnstiles marked the first time that Joel’s band played on one of his studio albums.

The album cover photo was shot in the Astor Place station on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line of the New York City Subway. According to Joel, each of the characters on the album cover was meant to represent a particular song (e.g., the girl in headphones for “All You Wanna Do is Dance,” the wealthy couple for “I’ve Loved These Days”).

Wikipedia