Top Artists – Billy Joel

Billy Joel – Turnstiles – Listening in Depth

More Billy Joel

More Turnstiles

xxxxx

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.  (more…)

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

More Billy Joel

More An Innocent Man

xxxxx

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this copy of Joel’s ninth studio album
  • Dynamic and open, with driving rhythmic energy – this early pressing brings this great batch of songs to life
  • Jam packed with hits: An Innocent Man, The Longest Time, Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, Leave a Tender Moment Alone, and more – seven singles in all
  • “Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man.” — Allmusic

Both of these sides have the huge soundstage and startling clarity and immediacy that characterizes this album, but they also add an ingredient missing from most we heard — a full, rich, musical midrange!

On many pressings, the vocals can get hard and harsh on the uptempo tracks (“Uptown Girl” is a notable offender, and never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album), but this copy manages to fix that problem (mostly) without sacrificing transparency or top end.

This was a monster in its day, generating a Number One hit and seven total single releases out of the ten songs that comprise it. Seven out of ten, not a bad track record. We couldn’t find a weak song on the album either, which is surely one of the reasons it sold seven million copies in the states alone.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Billy Joel record. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Easy Money 
An Innocent Man 
The Longest Time 
This Night 
Tell Her About It

Side Two

Uptown Girl 
Careless Talk 
Christie Lee 
Leave a Tender Moment Alone 
Keeping the Faith

AMG Review

… he’s effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles, from the Four Seasons send-up “Uptown Girl” and the soulful “Tell Her About It” to a pair of doo wop tributes, “The Longest Time” and “Careless Talk.” Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man.

He can’t stop writing about her throughout the album — only three songs, including the haunted title track, aren’t about her in some form or fashion. That giddiness is infectious, helping make An Innocent Man an innocent delight that unwittingly closes Joel’s classic period.

An Innocent Man

In an interview about the making of the album, Joel talks about the fact that at the time that he was recording An Innocent Man, he was newly divorced from his first wife, Elizabeth Weber, and was single for the first time since achieving rock star status.

So he had the opportunity to date supermodels like Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley, and because of these experiences, he said, “I kind of felt like a teenager all over again.”And so he started writing songs in the same style as pop songs that he remembered from his teenage years, citing pop music from the late 1950s and early 1960s, including “early R&B songs and The Four Seasons, and the Motown music, soul music.”

Joel explained, “When you’re gonna write [songs for a new album], you write what you’re feeling. And I didn’t fight it. The material was coming so easily and so quickly, and I was having so much fun doing it. I was kind of reliving my youth. . .I think within 6 weeks I had written most of the material on the album.”

The album featured three Billboard Top 10 hit singles: “Tell Her About It”, which reached #1, “Uptown Girl”, which peaked at #3 and “An Innocent Man”, which peaked at #10.

Four other singles were released from the album: “The Longest Time” (number 14), “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” (number 27), “Keeping the Faith” (number 18) and “This Night” (US B-Side of “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”).

An Innocent Man remained on the U.S. Pop album chart for 111 weeks, becoming Joel’s longest charting studio album behind The Stranger.

Wikipedia

Billy Joel – 52nd Street on Impex (Cisco)

More Billy Joel

More 52nd Street

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: Side One: F / Side Two: C+

The new Impex (Cisco) 180 gram remastering of 52nd Street was cut by Kevin Gray, under the direction of Robert Pincus (aka Mr Record), at the now defunct AcousTech Mastering in Camarillo. We noted in a recent review for a much superior (how could it not be?) Hot Stamper pressing:

Side one is a joke (zero ambience, resolution, energy, etc.) but side two is actually quite good. Side two fixes the biggest problem with the album: hard, honky vocals.

In his review appearing in The Absolute Sound, Neil Gader plucks two songs out of the album’s nine as especially meritorious. Oddly enough they’re both on side two. I wonder why.  (more…)

Here’s How You Know You Have a Hot Stamper of Songs in the Attic

See all of our Billy Joel albums in stock

 

joelsongs600

It’s the side you play through to the end. When the sound is right 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 on any given LP. Some advice follows.

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!
(more…)

Billy Joel – The Stranger – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

xxx

  • A Shootout Winning pressing – Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, a strong Double Plus (A++) on side one, and rockin’ from start to finish
  • The sound is huge, open and spacious with plenty of driving energy and a big punchy bottom end thanks to Phil Ramone’s engineering
  • The Stranger, Only the Good Die Young, Vienna, Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, She’s Always A Woman – some of Joel’s strongest songwriting is here
  • 4 1/2 stars in the AMG: “Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.”

See all of our Billy Joel albums in stock

We recently completed a shootout for the album and this copy was absolutely KILLIN’ it. After playing a stack of mediocre Strangers, we are completely confident in saying that you’ll have a VERY hard time finding a copy that sounds this good.

The Stranger is chock full of some of Joel’s biggest hits, including Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young and She’s Always A Woman. AMG raves about this one (4 1/2 stars) and it’s easy to see why — this is the kind of pop music that still sounds fresh 40 years (!) after it was recorded and might just be good for another forty years. (more…)

Billy Joel – Glass Houses – Our Shootout Winner for 2017

 

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017
 xxx

  • A superb pressing: Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound is just right for this album full of rockers — big, rich and punchy with great space and dynamics
  • This title has some of his biggest hits: You May Be Right, Don’t Ask Me Why and It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Instead of turning out to be a fiery rebuttal to his detractors, the album is a remarkable catalog of contemporary pop styles … That’s not a detriment; that’s the album’s strength.”

See all of our Billy Joel albums in stock

A truly stunning copy of one of Billy Joel’s best-loved albums! We recently finished a massive shootout for Billy Joel’s hard-rockin’ 1980 release and most copies were pretty dreadful. Thankfully for us (and the Billy Joel fans out there) we managed to find a few copies that really work! This one absolutely nails it — they just don’t get much better than this, folks.

The Midrange Is Key (As Usual)

Most of the copies we’re played were pinched in the midrange, which gave a hard, unpleasant quality to the vocals. This is probably the most pure rock and roll album Billy Joel ever put out, and it’s a shame to hear these songs fall flat when they run into the problems of the typical pressing. The copies that keep you engaged are Hot Stampers, plain and simple.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

You May Be Right
Sometimes a Fantasy
Don’t Ask Me Why
It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me
All for Leyna

Side Two

I Don’t Want to Be Alone
Sleeping With the Television On
C’Etait Toi (You Were the One)
Close to the Borderline
Through the Long Night

Listening in Depth to Billy Joel – 52nd Street

More Billy Joel

More 52nd Street

Listening in Depth

xxxxx

We heard some amazing sound coming from the grooves of 52nd Street, but let’s give credit where credit is due — the recording and mastering engineers involved with this album. Jim Boyer and Ted Jensen can both take great pride in the SUPERB work they have done here.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The first two tracks on side one really tell you everything you need to know about the sound of the side. It’s all about balance.

Big Shot

Big Shot is a big, balls-out rock song that packs a lot of punch. Typically the problem you run into is compression. When you get too much compression, the top end becomes pinched and shrill. You can hear this on Billy Joel’s vocals in the verses and in the guitar solo during the outro. Most copies make those squealing guitar notes rip your head off. The best copies give you a full-bodied Billy Joel; if he doesn’t sound right, what’s the point? Next!

Also, listen to the cymbal crashes throughout the song. They should really sound like cymbals and not like someone making explosion noises through a walkie-talkie. (Believe me, this analogy hurts me too, but they can really sound god-awful on some pressings.) (more…)