Tuesday, 31 May 2016

"Turnstiles" by BILLY JOEL (1998 and 2001 Columbia 'Remaster' CD) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...It's Either Sadness Or Euphoria..." 

As so many have noted - New Yorker Billy Joel smashed his way into people's heart (and charts around the world) in 1977 with his magnificent album "The Stranger". But the one that went before "Turnstiles" in 1976 is an unsung masterpiece in my book and equal to its more famous follow-up in many ways. Here are the New York States Of Mind...

UK and USA released October 1998 (reissued April 2001) - "Turnstiles" by BILLY JOEL on Columbia 491183 2 (Barcode 5099749118324) is a straightforward transfers and 'Remaster' of that album and plays outs as follows (43:23 minutes):

1. Say Goodbye To Hollywood
2. Summer, Highland Falls
3. All You Wanna Do Is Dance
4. New York State Of Mind
5. James [Side 2]
6. Prelude/Angry Young Man
7. I've Loved These Days
8. Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
Tracks 1 to 8 are his 4th studio album "Turnstiles" - released May 1976 in the USA on Columbia PC 33848 and July 1976 in the UK on CBS Records S 81195. Produced by BILLY JOEL - it peaked at No. 122 in the USA but didn't chart in the UK.

The Band:
BILLY JOEL - Piano and Lead Vocals
HOWIE EMERSON, JAMES SMITH and RUSSELL HAVORS - Electric and Acoustic Guitars
MINGO LEWIS - Percussion
KEN ASCHER - Orchestra Arrangements

The supposed 'upgraded' 8-page booklet offers lyrics to all eight songs; original recording credits with reissue details and little else by way of history or input. Still - the TED JENSEN Remaster (done at Sterling Sound in New York) is good - if not a little too clean in the bottom end.

But that's quickly wiped away by the quality of the songs that keep hammering you - one after another. Compared to "Piano Man" (1973) and "Street Life Serenade" (1974) - there’s huge songwriting maturity in the opening double salvo - the castanets and Ronettes big-bass-drum sound of "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" and the gorgeous "Summer, Highland Falls" - a piano masterpiece if ever there was one. He opens with "...they say these are not the best of times...but their the only times I've ever known..." and later on "...so we argue and we compromise...and realize that nothing's ever changed..." I've never liked the cod-reggae rhythms in "All You Wanna Do Is Dance" but if you're a fan - the Audio is amazing - right in your face for all the right reasons. Side 1 ends with the album's high water moment - the amazingly poignant "New York State Of Mind" - a song that he has to play live every night or they may indeed be a riot that would require the NYPD to sort it out.

Side 2 opens with the plinking keyboard sound of "James" - sounding for a moment like "Just The Way You Are" - a tale about Joel who goes on the road while his pal pursues an education and a possible writing career. We get that rapid-fire piano "Prelude" to the caustic and street-witty "Angry Young Man" where the listener is asked to empathise "...give a moment or two to the angry young man...with his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand..." Here we have a man that’s proud of his battles and scars - and while his finger-pointing anger irritates - at least his Soul is the right place even if his chances of success are in the crapper.  Both the hurting "I've Loved These Days" and the finisher "Miami 2017..." have featured heavily in his live sets - that fabulous piano opening being the perfect appetite wetter. There's a melodrama to "Miami 2017..." - an opera out on the turnpike, as Bruce would say - with that defiant guitar chopping. This is a song where "...they burned the churches up in Harlem..." and "...The Mafia took over Mexico..." What a tune and an epic way to finish the album.

"...There are not many who remember...they say a handful still survive..." And as those piano notes fade out like some Saturday Night hangover melody on the brilliant "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)" - you can't feel that's true about this whole brilliant but overlooked album...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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