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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars


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on 7 March 2006
This compilation, despite its shortcomings, is an excellent way to get into the music of an artist who, in my opinion, has not received nearly enough critical acclaim or public recognition on this side of the Atlantic throughout his career. Billy Joel is one of the great performers - a virtuoso pianist with both Jazz and classical tendencies, and a powerful and versatile voice to match. What's more - he writes all of his own material - lyrics and music - virtually without exception. All this adds up to a deeply personal and highly original musical collection. I would agree with another reviewer that Billy Joel is very hard to categorise - largely because he is anything but a one-trick pony (like so many other pop musicians) and writes in a plethora of styles.
About the content of the compilation: -
Highlights of the superb first CD include upbeat rock'n'roll numbers such as "My Life" and "The Entertainer", a beautifully crafted Blues ballad "New York State of Mind", the moving "You're my Home", the hypnotic and experimental "Streetlife Serenader" and funky classic "Movin'Out"
CD 2 includes the overplayed "Uptown Girl" (which frankly often merely lends Billy Joel the unfair label of "cheese"), the catchy political tale "Allentown", the passionate "All for Leyna", and the power-ballad "All about soul".
However, I would have preferred to see the likes of "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" and "Don't Ask me why" left aside, and in retrospect, "Zanzibar", "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and "Captain Jack" do seem like surprising absentees. I might have also included lesser-known album tracks such as "Where's the Orchestra", "The Great Suburban Showdown" and "State of Grace" - but that's perhaps down to personal preference.
To conclude, this is the best greatest hits compilation of Billy Joel to be released to date and is much better value for money than the recent single CD issue of "The Piano Man". Enjoy!
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on 12 August 2004
Billy Joel doesn't seem to have received much critical praise. The problem is how to categorise him. He doesn't operate in the same field as Dylan or Springsteen, whilst the only similarity between him and sorry, ugh, Elton John is that they both play piano. However, across these two discs is evidence of considerable talent. One of Joel's greatest strengths is his seemingly endless gift for melody. That strength is underlined by the double whammy of 'Just The Way You Are' and 'My Life' that kick this compilation off. Across the two discs, as well as the usual suspects, are less well known classics such as "Leave A Tender Moment Alone', and 'New York State of Mind'.
Of course, we will all have favourites that haven't been included. I would like to have seen "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant' and 'Only The Good Die Young' but that night have caused Joel's breakthrough album 'The Stranger'to be over represented. And although it was a hit I could do without 'It's Still Rock N Roll To Me' which would be more convincing if the music wasn't so polite. Indeed the album that song comes from 'Glass Houses' suffers from trying to be tough - Joel simply can't do tough, it's not his strength. However, the songs from an Innocent Man, Joel's love letter to his youth are perfect evoking such classics as 'Stand By Me', 'Spanish Harlem' and artists such as The Four Seasons but somehow avoiding pastiche.
No doubt like many in the UK, I have a problem relating to 'We Didn't Start The Fire'. It probably had to be included but, after the Iraq war, its petulant blanket defence of the USA's foreign actions is even harder for me to take, especially when Joel can write a sensitive Vietnam song such as 'Goodnight Saigon'.
Despite a few reservations then, this is a very good compilation demonstrating the depth of Joel's back catalogue.
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on 11 August 2008
This is a masterpiece collection... and I do like the mixture of talent in lyrics and musical composition. Covers most of his best, popular hit songs, but sadly missing one of what could be considered as part of his essential past ---"Pressure", a synthesizer-driven song from 1982, about the difficulties of dealing with the stress of daily living. I haven't heard this song in years and this would have topped off this set.
There are some real timepieces here. I didn't think i'd ever forget the lyrics to a few of these classics. A very underrated artist! A must-have, if you only know a couple of more recent songs, the ones from his earlier days are amongst his greatest and worth a listen or two!
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on 10 July 2015
The Essential Billy Joel is a thirty six song set that displays many of his hits from different stages of his career such as; Uptown Girl, You May Be Right and We Didn’t Start The Fire. Many songs touch on various aspects of his soul such as his side dealing with being in love in the Always A Woman side and what appears to be a spiritual theme with River of Dreams. As with many others, I was first exposed to Billy Joel’s music growing up (my first song that I remember hearing on the radio that was by Billy Joel was around the time I was 8 or 9 years old with the song We Didn’t Start The Fire. Nonetheless, The Essential Billy Joel Collection is great for those who are familiar with 80’s music with a calming rock vibe in many songs and an upbeat pop vibe in others.
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on 11 March 2015
If you like the music of this great artist you will love this, although the tracks are all on his various albums it is handy to have them all together, play it again and again, but then I am biased as I am a fan!
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on 26 July 2015
Excellent. Elio Pace is giving new life to the Billy Joel Songbook
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on 21 June 2015
Awesome!! Everything just great; thanks a million!!
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on 6 May 2015
Sing-a-long with Billy....top stuff
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on 16 October 2016
Prompt service. Item as described.
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on 30 July 2015
every track bar 4 was a hit,brill
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