Billy Joel – Songs in the Attic – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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More Songs in the Attic

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

DEMO DISC LIVE ROCK CONCERT SOUND, Baby! This one has it ALL. The sound has so many wonderful ANALOG qualities when you get a good copy — the hash and hardness of the typical pressing just disappears, leaving surprisingly transparent and sweet sound on virtually every track. The WHOMP FACTOR here is off the scale. There are few studio recordings that have these kinds of dynamics. We forget how compressed most of them are. It takes a record like this to show you how much LIFE there is in LIVE MUSIC.

We played about a dozen different copies of this record this week (11/01/07), and some of them were OUT OF THIS WORLD! The comments we made recently (10/07) about Revolver are equally true for Songs in the Attic. Both records are exceedingly difficult to reproduce, and both have come a long way sonically since our last shootout.

Ch-Ch-Changes at Better Records

Over the course of the last year things have changed for the better. We’ve come up with a number of much more sophisticated and advanced cleaning techniques (which we will talk about at a later date so stay tuned). The ruler-flat, super-clean and clear Dynavector 17d replaced the more forgiving, less accurate 20x. The EAR 324 we acquired at the beginning of 2007 was a BIG step up over the 834p in terms of resolution and freedom from distortion slash coloration. And the third pair of Hallographs had much the same effect, taking out the room distortions that compromise transparency and three-dimensionality. With the implementation of a number of other seemingly insignificant tweaks, each of which made a subtle but recognizable improvement, the cumulative effect of all of the above was now clearly making a difference. The combination of so many improvements was nothing less than dramatic.

Then Play On

You know how you can tell when you have a Hot Stamper? It’s the record you let play all the way through. When the sound is right it makes you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled. Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound — what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive! (See the notes below for track-specific commentary.)

You Want to Turn It Up and You CAN Turn It Up

Besides wanting to listen to it all the way through, you also want to turn it up. This is the surest sign of a good pressing. You WANT to turn it up, and you CAN turn it up, because the mastering is right. The distortion levels are low and the tonal balance is correct at the extremes. Records with too much bass and especially too much top end can’t be played loud. The louder you play them the worse they get. Try playing the average MOFI at a loud volume. All that extra 10k starts to make your brain hurt. The CBS half-speed of this album is like that. It’s frustrating — the music makes you want to turn it up but the sound says forget it.

Billy Joel Agrees With Me

I was recently perusing the liner notes for this album and came across this Post Script from Billy Joel, which I had overlooked before.

I know you don’t have a P.A. system in your house, but if you want to get as close as possible to the real thing, invite your cranky neighbors over and play this record as loud as you can.

Can YOU Find One That Sounds Like This?

The kind of money we are charging for this record is ridiculous on at least one level: the album can be found in any used record store for cheap. It’s unlikely the price would ever be more than about $5, $10 tops. So the copy we are selling here obviously did not cost me a lot.

But can you find one that sounds like this? I would say you would have to find, buy, clean and audition at least ten and maybe as many as twenty copies to get one that sounds this good.

And of course, after you’ve bought four or five, cleaned them, and spent the better part of a day listening to them, you may have found one that sounds awfully good. Is it really as good as the one we are selling? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. (Maybe it’s even better! There’s always a Hotter Stamper that hasn’t been found yet.) Having played this record for close to twenty years, when I hear it sound like this, I know I am playing a very very special copy, one that’s not that easy to come by in my experience.

Billy Joel’s Best Album

Getting back to more important matters, without a doubt this is Billy Joel’s best album. These are the songs that didn’t get played to death on the radio. Here they get energetic and enthusiastic performances in a live setting, which makes his studio stuff sound canned in comparison. If you want one good Billy Joel album, either to start your collection or to just have the one, this is the one to have. The entertainment value is OFF THE SCALES. We guarantee your musical as well as sonic satisfaction or your money back!

This album features the original fold-open cover as well as a lyric sheet.


AMG Rave Review

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.