Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Billy Joel ~ 12 Gardens Live (Live)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: classic rock, pop rock
Label: Columbia
Year: 2006
Home: Long Island, New York

Members: Billy Joel ~ vocals/piano
Chuck Burgi ~ drums
Tommy Byrnes ~ guitar/b. vocals
Richie Cannata ~ sax
Carl Fischer ~ trombone/trumpet
Mark Rivera ~ flute/guitar/keyboards/sax/b. vocals
David Rosenthal ~ keyboards/b. vocals
Crystal Taliefero ~ guitar/saxophone/percussion/b. vocals


I've been a BJ fan for as long as I can remember ... considering hearing a BJ song is the earliest song I can remember, that's a few decades now. I'd heard music before, particularly live at my dad's annual company picnic with the Maine folk band Schooner Fare, but it wasn't until hearing BJ on tv that 'oh, this is not talking but something different' hit me. So, he has a special place for me. Yes, I was quite sad he decided to retire & I didn't like his classical album. Yes, I did like his Storm Front & River Of Dreams later stuff ... I have both of them memorized & know them far better than the early stuff. I'm sadly not the fan today that I once was, but that's life. BJ hasn't done that many live albums, compared to let's say the Rolling Stones. Actually, only two of them until after his quasi-retirement when three came out. & none are from the 70's of early concerts, so it's a very lop-sided live album discography. Those two live albums are 1981 & 1987 & enough of a change had happened in BJ's career & sound that they are very different affairs, while the next wouldn't come until 2000. The first live album, Songs In The Attic, is really good, but it's has a limited selection of songs, obviously as he really hadn't broken through yet so it has a different set list than many might expect, & fans not familiar with BJ's career might be disappointed as it might be too classic for their tastes ... but it's still a good album with a great "Miami 2017". The next is his Konsert done in the U.S.S.R. This event was a big one, maybe more than what can be encapsulated on a CD, so it there's a sense of anti-climax. Actually, I looked for this album for a long time when I was young as I wanted to hear it. It comes at the end of a string of great albums & is thus more a hits collection than Songs In The Attic & for the casual fan, which I still was, introduced some other songs I didn't know. But, I've been told find the video for a more entertaining experience ... I don't know & I think it's pretty good. Certainly, these two albums together form a nice round picture of BJ then & now. Then comes BJ's post retirement live albums in 2000, 2006 & 2011. These don't really show his career in progress as the others do, since he's stopped making new albums & changing his sound to be recorded for posterity. Thus, it's almost a toss-up on which to choose. If anything they all suffer from the Konsert dilemma - they all celebrate a moment that can't really be preserved audio only: the millennium, three nights at Madison Square Garden & the closing of Shea Stadium. But, the problem is that BJ doesn't change his live sound much. Once you've heard him live, starting with the early 80's, you've basically heard him. He does the songs by the book, or by the album, with a full band, not taking any changes or really messing with the arrangements too much beyond reason. He chit-chats occasionally between songs in his homespun manner like he's still the barman from Long Island, though not as much here as I expected unless its been cropped for time. There's nothing really special in a BJ live show other than just great songs & hearing the man himself a little bit more relaxed than in the studio ... & yes, he is relaxed on stage & the songs feel looser. Today his voice has changed & in response he likes to over-emphasize words. He's lost some range but is trying to make it up as much as possible by controlling his voice with more nuance & not letting it control him. Some bands are so different on stage, like the Doors or Grateful Dead, that fans have to collect live albums in order to even get close to the band's essence. Not so with BJ. It's just adding to the enjoyment, not necessarily the experience. Maybe in the 70's, but not so much now. If there's a value in buying a live album at all, this is a good one to choose of the later trilogy as he's in fine form having fun & putting a lot of energy out there like his life depends on it ... maybe it does on some level as he's got to prove he's still got it. Also, over two CDs the song selection is wonderful. It includes mostly the classics with only seven songs post 1986. In a way this is too bad as it sends a bad message about those years & they deserve a second listen ... but, fans want the early stuff that they know the lyrics too. I just like singing along with "The Great Wall Of China", that's all. He's thrown in his standards but also a few of the lesser known tunes such as my favorite "Laura" & "Vienna", so this is an incredibly good introduction to the career of the piano man. Listen to this & you'll get a feel for the songs & if you don't already have other albums by him it's a safe bet you'll enjoy them. Though, be warned. All the songs have a similiar feeling here due to having one band, but over his career he went through a lot of musical changes ... but where to go is for later blogs. My only musical qualm is its not the best produced putting more emphasis on voice & piano than the full band, which is sad as the combined resume of his band pretty much reaches from Mellencamp to Rainbow to Lita Ford & everyone in between.

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