Top Artists – Billy Joel

Billy Joel – 52nd Street on Impex (Cisco)

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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

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


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • 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.”

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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
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  • 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.”

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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

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Listening in Depth

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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…)