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A Review: Billy Joel – My Lives, Disc 4

By Brian | March 7, 2006 | Share on Facebook

This is the fourth in my series of reviews of the “My Lives” Box Set from Billy Joel. Scroll to the bottom of this post for links to reviews of the other discs.

I can sum up my feelings on Disc four with one word: Meh.

This disc is basically representative of what Joel has been doing for the last ten years or so (except for his current tour which, not accidentally, harkens back to the previous 3 discs). It contains live versions of those songs that he most often performs live, a couple of benefit performances he’s given recently, and some of his more recent, classical music.

The live stuff comes primarily from his Millennium concert in Madison Square Garden (12/31/99). Don’t get me wrong – these are entertaining and energy-filled versions of the songs, but since the Millennium Concert has already been released on CD, none of it is new. The exceptions here are You May Be Right which comes from a Face-to-Face concert and is a great (new!) version of the song, and Los Angelenos, which sounds like it’s from an older concert and could very well be the version that was on Songs in the Attic (in which case, it’s out of place on this disc).

The benefit numbers include The Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry, Baby from a tribute to Brian Wilson, which may be the best track on the disc. He dedicates it to his daughter, Alexa, which is sweet when the lyrics are “Everything will turn out alright; Don’t worry baby,” but gets kind of creepy when he gets to “Oh what she does to me; When she makes love to me.” I guess we can give him a pass, since the song he wrote for her is much more appropriate. There’s also the September 11th tribute version of New York State of Mind, which is about as soulful as Billy Joel gets (and with good reason, of course).

Finally, there are three selections from Fantasies and Delusions. I have a great respect for those who compose (and perform) classical music, but I have to be in precisely the right mood to want to listen to it, and can’t honestly claim to ever enjoy it, so I’ll refrain from commenting further on these.

The disc also has a hidden track, containing a mock interview with Billy Joel (probably by someone in his band), which purports to be promotional material for Glass Houses, circa 1980. It’s basically Joel kidding around with his buddy, making fun of the concept of promoting an album. He plays a couple of joke songs, including one in the New Wave style that was hot back then (classic moment: he stops in the middle and says, “Oops – too many chords” and plays it again – all on the same chord). He also runs through potential promotional slogans for the album which I greatly enjoyed (examples: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t listen to the Stones” and “People who buy this album shouldn’t get stoned.”)

So, to summarize: the box set was a nice dose of new Billy Joel material to listen to, which was refreshing for someone who’s been listening to the same old stuff for quite some time now. There are some great nuggets in there, along with a bunch of repeats from previous discs to fill out the mix. I think it’s a must-buy for the “rabid fan,” which is likely why they released it in the first place. The casual fans should probably stick with the studio albums, though, unless they enjoy rarities of any kind, in which case this is certainly a treasure trove.

I also feel obligated to note (for completeness’ sake) that there’s a DVD included in the box. When I get around to watching it, maybe I’ll post something about it too, but I’m assuming it’s just a collection of concert videos. The big exception there is the two UMixIt tracks at the end, which allows you to remix the songs (and even add your own tracks) if you play the DVD on your PC. At the very least, I look forward to isolating the piano part on these tracks and re-learning them on the piano based on what he’s actually playing, rather than what the sheet music says he’s playing. More to come on that front…


My other reviews:
Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4

Topics: ISBS Reviews, Words about Music | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “A Review: Billy Joel – My Lives, Disc 4”

  1. Jeff Porten says at March 7th, 2006 at 8:38 pm :
    Can’t wait to hear all about the Billy Joel rootkit. I wonder if it gives you a chordal keyboard?

    (rimshot)

  2. mavzman says at May 2nd, 2007 at 5:25 pm :
    You’re not missing anything on the dvd, except live versions of No Man’s Land and Shades of Gray. Unfortunately, it was shot in the last stages of the River of Dreams tour and he’s virtually sleep-walking through it. As great as his live shows are, this is the least-representative possible collection they could have used. He looks bored and disinterested throughout. Live from Long Island from the Nylon Curtain tour, or even the Russian concert would have been better to include.

  3. Brian says at May 2nd, 2007 at 6:29 pm :
    Thanks again, Mavzman. Obviously, I never got around to playing it, and then forgot all about it, so I appreciate the update.

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