Columbia/Legacy Recordings are commemorating forty years of Billy Joel’s solo recording career with a new, limited edition Billy Joel: The Complete Albums Collection boxed set and a two-disc Legacy Edition of Joel’s 1973 debut album, Piano Man. I was particularly interested in Piano Man since I’d never heard the full album before. My review follows…
My generation knows Billy Joel best for his catchy pop piano singles in the 1980s and 90s, so the folk sound woven into many of Piano Man‘s tracks was a pleasant surprise.
The swaying harmonica and delicate piano melody of the album’s popular title track was no anomaly, the album fairly brims with old-fashioned twang.
Plucky banjo and fiddle drive the opener, “Travelin’ Prayer.” “You’re My Home” is a sentimental country-folk ballad, and the clomp of horse’s hooves opens the cowboy anthem, “The Ballad of Billy the Kid.”
There’s also some nice bluesy piano in “Ain’t No Crime.”
The overall production of the original album has that tinny ’70s sound, but that’s part of the classic album appeal for me.
Unfortunately, the second half of the album has a much more predictable blend of bland ballads and tepid power pop.
The Legacy edition includes a second disc of a live radio concert at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studio on April 15, 1972. Included in the set were tracks from Piano Man and other Joel hits like “She’s Got a Way.” I personally found it excruciatingly boring, but I’m not into rare live recordings unless we’re talking Concrete Blonde or The Doors. So this special two-disc edition is more for the Billy Joel fanatic than the rest of us.
I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below…