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)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Billy Joel ~ Songs In The Attic (live)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: pop rock, live
Label: Sony
Year: 1981
Home: Long Island, New York

Members: Billy Joel ~ vocals/keyboards/harmonica
Dave Brown, Russell Javors ~ guitars
Richie Cannata ~ flute/keyboards/saxophone
Liberty DeVitto ~ drums
Doug Stegmeyer ~ bass



For those wanting a look at early BJ concerts this is the only official album to turn to. It's not perfect, but it does a worthy job & more importantly has withstood the test of time. The other option is bootlegs, which probably exist of his late 70's work but I bet not of his earliest days when he was still just a broke piano man in the bar. It's ashame that it took so long for him to put out a live album as his early career is very different in style to where he would go & to what we know him as. Coming in 1981, Songs In The Attic, a name I've liked since I first bought this album as a boy, has many classic songs though it's in an in-between moment in his career. He'd had a few successful albums, but he would soon break even higher, while he was here still out of favor with critics. Thus, it gets BJ in a transitional performance moment more than an early niave moment, but its close & at least we have something of his pre-MTV pop days to enjoy. When I first heard this album I'd discovered BJ through his later 80's albums & thus the songs on this album were unfamiliar. They might be unfamiliar to many in my shoes, even for those who had seen him in concert in the years to come as it wouldn't be long before many of the songs would fade from anything but special performance set lists. I thus got introduced me to a new side of BJ, maybe the bigger songwriter side & less pop star side. I found it curious & refreshingly enjoyable. This is also a softer side of BJ. The concert has its rock moments (for example, "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)") but is heavy on ballads as it culls from BJ's earliest four albums when he was more of a balladeer than later on. Missing is later hits like "Piano Man" as BJ deliberately wanted to share with his buying audience songs that weren't so well known, versus just a live album of his latest tour. It worked for me & I'm sure it worked for others. It may not have the perfect sound quality of the present day, but outside of that it's an enjoyable album & concert, or a false concert as it culls from fifteen shows & doesn't add up to the full length of an actual concert, that holds up decades later of a young BJ whose a rocker but still a storymaker/songwriter, commercially successful but still going up, comfortable in his shoes but still fleshing out his music. It gets the balladeer of the early days & the better performer of the later days. The only problem is the songs don't change much from their studio versions sans normal variations of instrumentation that happens bringing songs to the stage regardless of who the band is. The songs are better but that's more due to the warmness of the stage versus the cold flat studio. Gone is the dryness of the studio or any effects the studio might add to the music & what remains is a musician comfortable with the songs & thus just going through the songs relaxed. These are hits & he knows it, versus putting them on an album for the first time where anything may happen in the future & everything is unsure. He'd been playing some of these songs for a decade & it shows. They'd aged well & so has he & now decades later remain as much. These early songs are as wonderful as the later pop hits, maybe better as they feel more like stories than pop songs. For me it was a good starting album to get to find out about his early career, but if you already own the studio albums it's just a finishing touch & variations on a theme if you like different versions of the same songs. Though, his voice is richer & warmer here than on a few of the early studio albums.

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