Top Artists – Billy Joel

Billy Joel – Glass Houses

More Billy Joel

  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from first note to last on this vintage Columbia pressing
  • The sound is just right for this album full of rockers – big, rich and punchy with actual space and dynamics
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Some of the man’s biggest hits are here: “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.”
  • If you’re a Billy Joel fan, this title from 1980 is surely one of his most significant releases

(more…)

Billy Joel / Songs in the Attic

More of the Music of Billy Joel

  • Incredible Demo Disc live rock concert sound with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • This one has it ALL — the sound has so many wonderful ANALOG qualities when you get a good copy — the 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
  • “Songs in the Attic is an excellent album, ranking among his very best work… even if Joel wasn’t a celebrity in the early ’70s, his best songs of the era rivaled his biggest hits.” – 4 Stars

(more…)

Billy Joel / 52nd Street – A Random Copy Tells You What, Exactly?

More of the Music of Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for 52nd Street

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

The 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 the following in a recent review for a much superior (how could it not be?) Hot Stamper pressing:

Side one is a joke (not much 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. 

In our review we went on to say:

But at a cost. It still sounds like a modern record, with not much in the way of space, transparency, richness, resolution and the like. You know, all that ANALOG stuff that old dinosaurs like us think our records should have.

For those of you who have thirty three dollars to spend, you could do a lot worse on side two. Side one is pretty bad and you would have a hard time doing worse.

Allow me to now quote Mr. Gader from The Absolute Sound, October 2011, Issue 216, Pg. 129

The Impex 180-gram remastering by Kevin Gray is superb. It replaces the spongy timing and dull top of the original Columbia LP with expansive space and sharp details. Its vivid and brightened treble is welcome compared to the warm but smothered original. Listen for Joel’s doubled harmonies, the pennywhistle in “Rosalinda’s Eyes,” and the burning horn section in “Half a Mile Away,” and you’ll hear what a difference a great remastering makes.

Mr. Gader has a bad original pressing, and like most reviewers he makes the mistake of assuming that other originals, and probably all the originals, perforce sound like his. Speaking from experience, they most assuredly do not. We will not be addressing his specific complaints in this commentary for one simple reason.

Practically nothing in his review has anything to do with the sound of the best copies

So now we know, or at the very least suspect, that Mr. Gader’s copy of the album is not very good. Oh joy. What exactly does that have to do with the price of tea in China, or anything else for that matter? Should I now go through a pile of random original pressings and review one for you? What exactly would be the point of that?

Random Record Reviews

Reviewing randomly chosen copies of a record is an exercise in futility, with no bearing whatsoever on the sound of any other randomly chosen copy — mine, yours or anybody else’s.

So much for the value of Mr Gader’s review. But I do have to say that I find it more than coincidental that the songs he recommends are both on the “good” side of the album. Could he really have failed to notice how bad side one is?

After reading hundreds of reviews in the audio mags over the last thirty-plus years, one thing I’ve learned. With audiophile reviewers anything is possible. I’ll leave you to make of that what you will.

Hey, but wait a minute. Wasn’t my Impex pressing a random copy?

Why yes, it was. You are free to make of that what you will too.

Shootouts Are a Bitch

Shootouts are a great deal of work if you do them right. If you have just a few pressings on hand and don’t bother to clean them carefully, or follow rigorous testing protocols, that kind of shootout anyone can do. We would not consider that a real shootout. (Art Dudley illustrates this approach, but you could pick any reviewer you like — none of them have ever undertaken a shootout worthy of the name to our knowledge.)

(more…)

Billy Joel – The Stranger

More Billy Joel

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) sound, this pressing of Joel’s 1977 breakthrough album (thanks Phil!) is outstanding from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Tonally correct, solid, open, clear, with plenty of hard-rockin’ energy and present vocals, what’s not to like?
  • 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 can be found right here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as “Just the Way You Are”; he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as “Only the Good Die Young”; and the glossy production of “She’s Always a Woman” disguises its latent misogynist streak… Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.”

We recently completed a shootout for the album and this was one of the better copies we heard. 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 – 52nd Street

More Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for 52nd Street

  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two of this killer copy, the best sounding album Billy Joel ever made
  • Side two is especially clean, clear and present, yet still rich and full-bodied — you’ll have a hard time finding a better sounding pressing on the planet
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 stars on Allmusic, Grammy award for Album of the Year, and Billy Joel’s best batch of songs, even better than The Stranger
  • “…he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances… not only… one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers”

In our opinion this is the Best Sounding album Billy Joel ever made, and when you hear this pressing you’ll understand why.

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. (more…)

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

More Billy Joel

  • 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
  • 4 stars: “[H]e’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.”

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. (more…)

Billy Joel – Streetlife Serenade

More Billy Joel

  • This outstanding copy of Joel’s third studio album earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is open and transparent and the piano is clear and correct, showcasing Joel’s immeasurable talent on the keys
  • Features some of Billy’s big hits, including The Entertainer as well as Los Angelenos
  • This is one of the toughest classic Billy Joel albums to find with good sound and quiet vinyl, but this one is doing it all

This copy will show you what this music can sound like when mastered and pressed correctly. This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain

More Billy Joel

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing of Joel’s 1982 release is excellent from top to bottom  
  • The sound is tonally correct, open and spacious with plenty of hard-rockin’ energy for the more uptempo tracks
  • Allentown, Pressure, Goodnight Saigon, Laura, She’s Right On Time – some of Joel’s biggest hits are here
  • “Since this was an album about Baby Boomers, he chose to base his music almost entirely on the Beatles, the pivotal rock band for his generation. Joel is naturally inclined to write big melodies like McCartney, but he idolizes Lennon, which makes The Nylon Curtain a fascinating cross between ear candy and social commentary. ” – Allmusic

(more…)

Billy Joel / 52nd Street – Listening Track by Track

More of the Music of Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Billy Joel

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.

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…)

Billy Joel / Songs in the Attic – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

More of the Music of Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Billy Joel

Sonic Grade: F

Records with too much bass and especially too much top end can’t be turned up loud.

The louder you play them the worse they sound.

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.

Not the good pressings. They sounds BETTER when you play them loud.