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Billy Joel

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Billy Joel has an exceptional back catalogue that would be the envy of many musicians. While Storm Front will always be my personal favourite, An Innocent Man, not unlike Joel's sensational Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2, is about as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, dear reader, An Innocent Man plays like a greatest hits release and should be in all serious music collections.

While it has never made it to my physical collection, I have promised myself the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) double LP release that has been mastered from the original master tapes using MOFI’s patented GAIN 2™ technology. While all the acronyms look impressive, I have a number of these releases and they are simply astonishing and make CD-quality streaming services, like TIDAL Hi-Fi, sound lifeless and flat by comparison. Speaking of TIDAL Hi-Fi, this review is based on listening to and enjoying that edition. I’ve also taken the time to appreciate An Innocent Man on Apple Music and have found the two streaming services are comparable to each other as they are derived from the same master. However, the Apple Music stream, for An Innocent Man, is about five percent louder. The additional loudness could be due to any number of production reasons, but louder volumes do give the faux perception of better quality. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the case, but it would be naive to ignore the possibility. Of course, if the volume is extended too far, the sound will degrade as a result of increased distortion; a key problem in the loudness wars. Correct management of volume, particularly in the recording, mixing, and mastering stages, is a fine line that has sadly been crossed far too often. That all said, both streams sound exceptional, but when an album is of this calibre, it will sound good regardless of lossy or lossless compression algorithms.

Without doubt, An Innocent Man, is one of the greatest albums from the 80s, but the launch window would result in a disappointing result for Joel as Michael Jackson's Thriller won the Grammy for Album Of The Year over An Innocent Man. While Jackson's Thriller is a landmark album, one I thoroughly enjoy, I'd argue that Joel’s An Innocent Man is a better album and has also stood the test of time much better than Thriller which, in my subjective opinion, is starting to sound a little dated. Perhaps An Innocent Man avoided the dreaded dating of its sound as Joel based the writing of the album on his beloved, and arguably timeless, 50s and 60s music styles. The continuous lighthearted Be-bop, Soul, and R&B styling is addictive and remarkably well suited to Joel.

Easy Money has a sensational beat – thank you Liberty DeVito! It’s a fun little song to start the album with, but the chorus isn't compelling as I find it a little distracting with it’s downbeat shift. Nevertheless, Easy Money is a great song that sets the listener up for the music they’re about to hear on the album.

An Innocent Man slows the pace of the album a little, but the transition never sounds out-of-place. When listening to An Innocent Man, you really begin to comprehend what a sensational vocalist Joel is. Joel has incredible control of his vocal and takes it right to the edge, ensuring the presentation is nothing short of a pleasure to listen to. I could listen to this song indefinitely, it is that good.

The Longest Time is, as Uptown Girl is, one of the most enjoyable songs to sing along to. Seriously, tell me you can sit and listen without singing along to this classic. Even if only in your mind, it’s addictive. I love it!

This Night really opens up throughout the chorus. Yes, the whole song is fantastic, but as a Ludwig van Beethoven fan, I really appreciate how Joel merged his vision with that of Beethoven’s. The result is a sonic interpretation that is absolutely timeless. A masterpiece!

Tell Her About It has a fantastic upbeat tempo that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping from the very first note.

Uptown Girl is my song. It, along with Starship's We Built This City, is responsible for my love of music. Absolutely brilliant!

Careless Talk shifts the style of the album and can sound a little out-of-place following the upbeat sound of Tell Her About It and Uptown Girl. However, as a song on its own, it’s a solid recording, but if there were a B-side on An Innocent Man, it would be Careless Talk.

Christie Lee is a sensational rock tune with an exceptional saxophone element. I love it! You’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on this song.

Leave A Tender Moment Alone is a stunningly beautiful ballad.

Keeping The Faith is a song I’ve always enjoyed, but it’s a strange song to conclude the album with as it’s somewhat different to the songs that came before it. It sounds too modern for the album’s style, but as a song on its own, it's extraordinary!

Overall, An Innocent Man is an astonishingly good album and one of Joel's best, if not his best. If you want to listen to a flawless album, that is also timeless, then this is the album for you. Pure perfection!

An Innocent Man is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, An Innocent Man is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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The Songs That Influenced My Lifelong Obsession With Music

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The Songs That Influenced My Lifelong Obsession With Music

My children recently asked the question that every music loving parent wants to hear: “What was the first song you heard, that made you love music so much”?

For almost a decade I have waited patiently to answer that question. However, it wasn’t merely one song, but two, that I recall so vividly. Both songs were heard on a battery operated AM/FM radio that I would take everywhere. It was one that had the extendable antenna and black fabric loop for securing around one’s wrist. I also remember the white lettering and red dial, against a black background, that would show the AM/FM numbers which would of course correspond with an associated station. I’ve no idea of what became of that little radio, but it lives within my memories as it would often be seen in one hand, while the other hand grasped my ‘baby bear’. Please note, I was about 5 years old at the time. Somewhere in the family archive is a picture of me, my BMX bike, and the little radio and ‘baby bear’ sitting in the basket at the front of my bike. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to share the photograph with you, I can’t find it anywhere. If/when I do come across it, I will be sure to update this article.

The small radio was so frequently used that batteries were continually being replaced. In-fact, I was proud of that fact. The obsession to burn the batteries out was almost as strong as the determination to listen to, and experience, more music. In some ways, this addictive quality has continued throughout my life as I get a buzz out of working my gear, lovingly, into the ground.

I also recall the fascination of tuning past the static to a station that would play this thing called music. At the time I had no musical influences and I really didn’t have an idea of what music actually was; despite being captivated by it. To this day I can’t recall the radio stations that became my favourites, but I do recall their rough positions on the dial (around the 100-110 FM frequency range).

In my younger years, I also recall sitting and listening to live relays of Australia beating England for the Ashes. Although, the English will likely tell you it was the other way around. Truth be told, I don’t recall the outcome, so they can have the win if they want it. As a result, I found that I wasn’t that fond of the talkback style radio, although my grandmother would continually listen to Sydney’s 2CH (now called Magic 2CH) as she drifted off to sleep. She thoroughly enjoyed all their programming, including their late night talk back.

Yet again, my grandmother proved to be a great influence to my interest in music, as one of her most prized possessions was her battery operated transistor radio. During the 90s, her old radio had started to fail and I purchased her a new one for her birthday. I recall the excitement both of us had, but it was also like she was breaking up with a long-lost lover. She truly missed the radio that she had owned since before I was born in the 70s. It had kept her company, been her confidant, and given her music and a connection with the world beyond her own. While my grandmother is no longer with us, I also place significant emphasis on the physical product, as I share the same admiration for all my audio equipment. While I often want to upgrade, I just can’t let go of a legacy piece of gear until it ceases to function as advertised. It gets even more complicated if my family has gifted me a piece of audio gear. The sentimental value, for me, supersedes the sonic quality. While I won’t use these specific pieces as often, I still try to ensure that they are being used to somehow validate their meaning to me. I’m certainly in a sentimental mood today, aren’t I?

Now, what was this post about again?

That’s right, the two songs that I recall hearing that influenced my lifelong love of music. I really have to stop digressing don’t I? Unfortunately, I thoroughly enjoy this subjective reflection and I hope, as the reader, you are similarly captivated.

The first song I recall hearing on my little transistor radio was Starship’s We Built This City. I still enjoy this song today, mostly because it brings back comforting memories of a childhood that had its fair share of ups and downs. However, it is still a great song that highlights the sound signature of the mid-80s. While it is dated to that era, it isn’t a bad recording. It is a fun soft rock/pop song that can easily be sung along to.

The second song, and one that I absolutely adore, is Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl. The beat is fantastic and while the lyrics were a little beyond the comprehension of an impressionable young boy, the song is just fun. It is easy to sing along to and ensured that I had an appreciation of not only music, but Billy Joel. He is an incredibly talented artist and I wish he was still recording new music, but what he did record is absolutely sensational.

After I mentioned, and played, these songs for my children they wanted to know I ever found my ‘uptown girl’, some twenty years after first hearing Joel’s romantic tones? I’d like to think so, but you will have to ask her if she ever found her ‘downtown man’. 

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