Categories :

Similar artists

Albums

HI-RES$24.49
CD$19.49

Rock - Released October 2, 2001 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Released in conjunction with Billy Joel's grand experiment with classical music, The Essential Billy Joel was a welcome reminder of Billy Joel's way with a pop song, improving on the previous Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 & 2 by extending into the '90s and delving deeper into his catalog. There were some casualties along the way -- it's easy for a fan to carp about the absence of personal favorites like "She's Right on Time" or "Travelin' Prayer," and it may even make some sense that "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" or "Shameless" didn't make the cut, but it's mind-boggling that "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" isn't here (we won't mention that the classical pieces that end the record, no matter how surprisingly good they are, are as out of place as Attila would have been) -- but for the most part, this has every one of Joel's heavy-hitters, and his craftsmanship, both as a songsmith and record maker, has never shone brighter. The biggest fault is that there is a notable drop-off in quality after 1986's The Bridge (which ends midway through disc two), but even so, this is as good a distillation of Joel's talents imaginable. In fact, as the first disc unfurls, even cynics may wonder why he's been dogged by the critics, since singer/songwriter pop doesn't come better than "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," "New York State of Mind," "Only the Good Die Young," "My Life," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "Don't Ask Me Why," "Allentown," and their seven companions. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$11.99

Pop/Rock - Released September 29, 1977 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Billy Joel teamed with Phil Ramone, a famed engineer who had just scored his first producing hits with Art Garfunkel's Breakaway and Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years for The Stranger, his follow-up to Turnstiles. Joel still favored big, sweeping melodies, but Ramone convinced him to streamline his arrangements and clean up the production. The results aren't necessarily revelatory, since he covered so much ground on Turnstiles, but the commercialism of The Stranger is a bit of a surprise. 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 balanced such radio-ready material with a series of New York vignettes, seemingly inspired by Springsteen's working-class fables and clearly intended to be the artistic centerpieces of the album. They do provide The Stranger with the feel of a concept album, yet there is no true thematic connection between the pieces, and his lyrics are often vague or mean-spirited. His lyrical shortcomings are overshadowed by his musical strengths. Even if his melodies sound more Broadway than Beatles -- the epic suite "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" feels like a show-stopping closer -- there's no denying that the melodies of each song on The Stranger are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the album. Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$11.99

Pop/Rock - Released October 13, 1978 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Once The Stranger became a hit, Billy Joel quickly re-entered the studio with producer Phil Ramone to record the follow-up, 52nd Street. Instead of breaking from the sound of The Stranger, Joel chose to expand it, making it more sophisticated and somewhat jazzy. Often, his moves sounded as if they were responses to Steely Dan -- indeed, his phrasing and melody for "Zanzibar" is a direct homage to Donald Fagen circa The Royal Scam, and it also boasts a solo from jazz great Freddie Hubbard à la Steely Dan -- but since Joel is a working-class populist, not an elitist college boy, he never shies away from big gestures and melodies. Consequently, 52nd Street unintentionally embellishes the Broadway overtones of its predecessor, not only on a centerpiece like "Stiletto," but when he's rocking out on "Big Shot." That isn't necessarily bad, since Joel's strong suit turns out to be showmanship -- he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances. He also knows how to make a record. Song for song, 52nd Street might not be as strong as The Stranger, but there are no weak songs -- indeed, "Honesty," "My Life," "Until the Night," and the three mentioned above are among his best -- and they all flow together smoothly, thanks to Ramone's seamless production and Joel's melodic craftsmanship. It's remarkable to think that in a matter of three records, Joel had hit upon a workable, marketable formula -- one that not only made him one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers. 52nd Street is a testament to that achievement. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released August 8, 1983 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Recording The Nylon Curtain exhausted Billy Joel, and even though it had a pair of major hits, it didn't rival its predecessors in terms of sales. Since he labored so hard at the record, he decided it was time for a break -- it was time to record an album just for fun. And that's how his homage to pre-Beatles pop, An Innocent Man, was conceived: it was designed as a breezy romp through the music of his childhood. Joel's grasp on history isn't remarkably astute -- the opener "Easy Money" is a slice of Stax/Volt pop-soul, via the Blues Brothers (quite possibly the inspiration for the album), and the label didn't break the pop charts until well after the British Invasion -- but he's in top form as a craftsman throughout the record. Only once does he stumble on his own ambition ("This Night," which appropriates its chorus from Beethoven). For the rest of the record, 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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$11.99

Pop/Rock - Released November 9, 1973 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Embittered by legal disputes with his label and an endless tour to support a debut that was dead in the water, Billy Joel hunkered down in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, spending six months as a lounge singer at a club. He didn't abandon his dreams -- he continued to write songs, including "Piano Man," a fictionalized account of his weeks as a lounge singer. Through a combination of touring and constant hustling, he landed a contract with Columbia and recorded his second album in 1973. Clearly inspired by Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection, not only musically but lyrically, as well as James Taylor, Joel expands the vision and sound of Cold Spring Harbor, abandoning introspective numbers (apart from "You're My Home," a love letter to his wife) for character sketches and epics. Even the title track, a breakthrough hit based on his weeks as a saloon singer, focuses on the colorful patrons, not the singer. If his narratives are occasionally awkward or incomplete, he compensates with music that gives the songs a sweeping sense of purpose -- they feel complete, thanks to his indelible melodies and savvy stylistic repurposing. He may have borrowed his basic blueprint from Tumbleweed Connection, particularly with its Western imagery and bluesy gospel flourishes, but he makes it his own, largely due to his melodic flair, which is in greater evidence than on Cold Spring Harbor. Piano Man is where he suggests his potential as a musical craftsman. He may have weaknesses as a lyricist -- such mishaps as the "instant pleasuredome" line in "You're My Home" illustrate that he doesn't have an ear for words -- but Piano Man makes it clear that his skills as a melodicist can dazzle. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$13.99
CD$10.99

Pop/Rock - Released May 19, 1976 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released March 12, 1980 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
The back-to-back success of The Stranger and 52nd Street may have brought Billy Joel fame and fortune, even a certain amount of self-satisfaction, but it didn't bring him critical respect, and it didn't dull his anger. If anything, being classified as a mainstream rocker -- a soft rocker -- infuriated him, especially since a generation of punks and new wave kids were getting the praise that eluded him. He didn't take this lying down -- he recorded Glass Houses. Comparatively a harder-rocking album than either of its predecessors, with a distinctly bitter edge, Glass Houses still displays the hallmarks of Billy Joel the pop craftsman and Phil Ramone the world-class hitmaker. Even its hardest songs -- the terrifically paranoid "Sometimes a Fantasy," "Sleepin' With the Television On," "Close to the Borderline," the hit "You May Be Right" -- have bold, direct melodies and clean arrangements, ideal for radio play. Instead of turning out to be a fiery rebuttal to his detractors, the album is a remarkable catalog of contemporary pop styles, from McCartney-esque whimsy ("Don't Ask Me Why") and arena rock ("All for Leyna") to soft rock ([RoviLink="MC"]"C'etait Toi [You Were the One]"[/RoviLink]) and stylish new wave pop ("It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," which ironically is closer to new wave pop than rock). That's not a detriment; that's the album's strength. The Stranger and 52nd Street were fine albums in their own right, but it's nice to hear Joel scale back his showman tendencies and deliver a solid pop/rock record. It may not be punk -- then again, it may be his concept of punk -- but Glass Houses is the closest Joel ever got to a pure rock album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released November 1, 1971 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released August 10, 1993 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
HI-RES$17.49
CD$14.99

Pop/Rock - Released June 13, 1997 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released October 17, 1989 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
When he went for a masterpiece on The Nylon Curtain, Billy Joel worked with his band and producer Phil Ramone, crafting a Beatlesque song suite that was perfectly in step with Turnstiles. For Storm Front, he decided it was time to change things. He fired Ramone. He fired everyone in his band, save longtime drummer Liberty DeVito. He hired Mick Jones, the architect behind Foreigner's big AOR sound, to man the boards. He wrote a set of sober, somber songs, save "That's Not Her Style," a weirdly defensive song about his model wife, Christie Brinkley. He was left with an album that is singularly joyless. Joel makes no bones about his ambitions for Storm Front -- when you lead with a history lesson as your first single (the monotonous chant "We Didn't Start the Fire"), it's clear that you're not interested in fun. That wouldn't have been a problem if his melodic skills weren't in decline. Joel packed all the strongest numbers into the first half of Storm Front, from the rocking "That's Not Her Style" and "I Go to Extremes" to the fisherman's plight "The Downeaster 'Alexa'" and the power ballad "Shameless," which Garth Brooks later made a standard. Compared to the murky second side, which perks up only mildly with "Leningrad" and "And So It Goes," it's upbeat, varied, melodic, and effective, but when it's compared to his catalog -- not only such high-water marks as The Stranger or Glass Houses, but with a record as uneven as The Bridge -- it pales musically and lyrically. The five singles ("Fire," "Style," "Extremes," "'Alexa'," "Goes") were catchy enough on the radio to propel the album to multi-platinum status, but in retrospect, Storm Front sounds like the beginning of the end. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$11.99

Pop/Rock - Released June 23, 1982 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Billy Joel hit back as hard as he could with Glass Houses, his bid to prove that he could rock as hard as any of those new wave punks. He might not have proven himself a punk -- for all of his claims of being a hard rocker, his work inevitably is pop because of his fondness for melody -- but he proved to himself that he could still rock, even if the critics didn't give him any credit for it. It was now time to mature, to move pop/rock into the middle age and, in the process, earn critical respect. In short, The Nylon Curtain is where Billy Joel went serious, consciously crafting a song cycle about Baby Boomers in the Reagan era. 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. His desire to record a grand concept album is admirable, but his ever-present lyrical shortcomings mean that the songs paint a picture without arriving at any insights. He occasionally gets lost in his own ambition, as on the waterlogged second side, but the first half of the song suite -- "Allentown," "Laura," "Pressure," "Goodnight Saigon," "She's Right on Time" -- is layered, successful, mature pop that brings Joel tantalizingly close to his ultimate goal of sophisticated pop/rock for mature audiences. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released September 14, 1981 | Columbia - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
HI-RES$17.49
CD$12.99

Pop - Released October 11, 1974 | Legacy - CBS - Sony

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
HI-RES$13.99
CD$10.99

Pop/Rock - Released July 28, 1986 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Riding high on the blockbuster An Innocent Man and with a new jet-setting bride at his side, Billy Joel took full advantage of the high life, as is clear from The Bridge, an album that unwittingly celebrates the excesses of the Reagan years. While he hasn't quite settled into middle age, Joel is ready to take advantage of his wealth and status, recruiting a hero (Ray Charles) and a new wave kid (Cyndi Lauper) for duets, turning to Sting for inspiration ("Running on Ice"), fronting a big band ("Big Man on Mulberry Street"), writing a song for a movie ("Modern Woman"), and picking up the guitar ("A Matter of Trust"), just for the hell of it. You could say that it's eclectic, but it's scattershot, because it's just Joel showing off his musical skills. He's done this before, to great effect on Turnstiles, but this is all about hubris and, as such, it sounds exactly like its time. From its processed, distorted guitars to its hollow synthesizers, The Bridge sounds dated and it's his most uneven since Streetlife Serenade. Even on the hits, he sounds as if he's stretching -- "This Is the Time" is labored compared to "Just the Way You Are" (not to mention considerably more vulgar); "A Matter of Trust" never hits upon a solid riff like "Sometimes a Fantasy"; "Modern Woman" is catchy but fluffy; "Baby Grand" is weighed down by Joel's vocal affectations. In context of the album, they're fairly enjoyable, but they hint at the dry spell that was just around the corner. Nevertheless, Joel still has enough panache and is riding on so much exuberance that The Bridge remains an entertaining listen, especially if it's viewed as a Reagan-era artifact. It just doesn't compare to what came before. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
HI-RES$17.49
CD$15.49

Pop/Rock - Released January 18, 2013 | Columbia - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
As one of the biggest-selling artists of all time, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Billy Joel was subjected to a romantically themed collection, and so came She's Got a Way: Love Songs, released just in time for Valentine's Day 2013. This 18-track collection reveals an odd truth about Joel: he didn't write all that many love songs. A few of his biggest hits are love songs but only a few: the early song "She's Got a Way," which wasn't a hit until its Songs in the Attic incarnation in the early '80s; "Just the Way You Are," an unabashedly romantic soft rock staple that helped make him a star in the mid-'70s; "This Is the Time," a gently nostalgic song from The Bridge; "The Night Is Still Young," an added cut to 1986's Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2. And that's about it. Other hits here aren't really love songs -- "She's Always a Woman" is too nasty to be romantic ("she'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleedin'"), "Honesty" isn't about love, nor is "An Innocent Man" -- and that's why this compilation relies so heavily on album tracks, usually from early Billy Joel albums. That is where Joel wrote about love, when he had a "Travelin' Prayer" and declared to his lover "You're My Home." He had other love songs later, including "Shameless," which Garth Brooks turned into a standard, but the overall impression left by She's Got a Way is that love songs are not Billy's forte. Which isn't to say this isn't an enjoyable collection: there are many good songs here -- all the aforementioned tunes, along with "Until the Night" -- and it's a good collection of Joel's moodier, slower, melodic numbers. It just doesn't quite deliver on the romance it promises. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
CD$19.49

Pop/Rock - Released November 4, 2011 | Columbia - Legacy

CD$19.49

Pop/Rock - Released September 2, 2009 | Columbia - Legacy

Rock - Released May 3, 2019 | Columbia - Legacy

Download not available
CD$19.49

Pop - Released June 13, 2006 | Columbia

To promote his 2005 box set My Lives, Billy Joel held a series of concerts at Madison Square Garden at the end of the year -- highlights of which are collected on the 32-track, two-CD set 12 Gardens Live. If 2000's double-live 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert seemed bloated and aimless, the work of an old pro going through the motions, 12 Gardens Live is its polar opposite, showcasing a veteran who is thoroughly engaged with his music. Not that this album is all that different in form or sound than 2000 Years: he still works with a big nine-piece band, with many of the same musicians, and he doesn't reinterpret any of these tunes, so it doesn't offer any surprises -- at least on the surface. But there is one big surprise on the album: Billy Joel hasn't sounded this lively or committed in years, since at least his early-'80s heyday. He sounds as if he believes in these songs again, putting real energy into his performances; he's savvy enough to not reach for notes that he can no longer hit, and to know when to punch up choruses for maximum effect. It's not so much that he's having fun with these songs but that he's singing them with passion, which makes 12 Gardens Live an unexpectedly compelling and entertaining listen. It also helps that the song selection is excellent, downplaying anything released after An Innocent Man -- "The Night Is Still Young," "The Great Wall of China," "The Downeaster 'Alexa'," "The River of Dreams," "A Matter of Trust," "We Didn't Start the Fire," and "And So It Goes" are the only tunes from 1986-1993, leaving 24 songs from his classic period -- and emphasizing album tracks: for instance, over half of The Nylon Curtain is here, and the single "Pressure" is not one of the featured songs. Some of these are staples -- "Angry Young Man," "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," and "Miami 2017 (I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" are often featured in his shows -- but it's a nice to have "Everybody Loves You Now," "Vienna," "Zanzibar," and "A Room of Our Own" (one of two unlisted bonus tracks) here, since they not only sound good, they illustrate the depth of his catalog. This strong song selection along with the strong performances turns 12 Gardens Live into a treat for long-time Billy Joel fans, particularly those who haven't enjoyed much of what he's done since An Innocent Man. Since it's not an album of new songs, it's hard to call this a comeback, but it certainly is his most enjoyable album in 20 years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine