The Essential Billy Joel (2CD)
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Product Description

Early in his career, Billy Joel seemed cynical about fame, even as that distrust bore strange fruit: mainstream superstardom (thanks to "Just the Way You Are," "Honesty," and "My Life") and multiple Grammy awards, as well as the critic's-whipping-boy status that went with them. Maybe it was that restlessness--or undiluted cynicism--that inspired left turns into roots and nostalgia (the spunky "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me," "You May Be Right," "Uptown Girl," and "The Longest Time") as his career peaked. Perhaps not surprisingly, not long after Joel's songs seemed to find their most satisfying balance of angst and mature reflection on songs like "Storm Front" and "River of Dreams," he threatened to bolt the pop music business altogether. The 2001 recordings of "Waltz No. 1" and "Invention in C Minor" that round out this set are the unlikely products of Joel's commitment to classical music. Billy Joel remains both a true, if oft-lambasted, American pop icon and that rarest of animals: a bonafide crowd-pleaser with a serious case of 'tude. Both are well chronicled here. --Jerry McCulley

Customer Reviews:

  • Not Quite Like The Boxed Set, But Good
    I've been a fan of Billy Joel's music for two decades, and I must say, he truly is versatile. Joel can write in different styles (from blues-inspired rock to classical), and The Essential Billy Joel charts his musical evolution from 1973's "Piano Man" to 2001's "Fantasies and Delusions" (his debut as a classical composer). The inclusion of two tracks from "F & D" (wonderfully played by pianist Richard Joo) may be jarring to some listeners who have been familiar with Joel only as a pop-rock songwriter/singer, but hopefully they'll relax and enjoy the two compositions (Waltz #1 and Invention in C Minor) and maybe purchase "Fantasies and Delusions."

    If you own the three compact discs of his Greatest Hits, there are very few surprises here. Oh, sure, the producers did not include "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" or any of the tracks that were especially added to Volumes II and III of Greatest Hits, but they did include "You're My Home," "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)," and "Honesty," which is one of my favorite songs. If your Billy Joel CD collection is complete -- even down to the Limited Edition Boxed Set and "F & D" -- then maybe this CD isn't for you, as good as it may be.

    However, if you are new to Joel's music and would like to sample his 30-year career's best material at an affordable price, The Essential Billy Joel is a good choice. Buy it and enjoy....more info

  • Billy For Beginners
    When it comes down great guilty pleasure artists, we often seem to forget what influence they've made on music today, especially back in the 80's. For those acts, we always will think of Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince. But, for Billy Joel, he really made the best that was still coming around. 35 years after he broke ground with Piano Man, he has still dominated with his music on the radio. While he hasn't recorded an album since 1993's River Of Dreams, his music still stands the test of time because it is worth while from beginning to end. But for those who seem more interested in acts like Britney Spears and anyone who has been on American Idol, and doesn't own a Billy Hoel record, than this is a start to download for your MP3 player.

    The Essential Billy Joel is a collection of over 30 tracks from Billy's long and successful career from the 70's, 80's and 90's. The songs here have all been remastered well, and chronicle a innocent man who has made the music of our times. The collection includes a lot of great standards he has made his own for over 35 years like Piano Man, River Of Dreams, We Didn't Start The Fire, the delight diddy Uptown Girl, and The Longest Time, all the way to #1 hits like My Life, It's Still Rock N' Roll To Me and Allentown. There is so much that is great in music, but there are a few of his great songs that were sadly overlooked like You're Only Human (Second Wind), Modern Woman and a few other good songs. But, those are small complaints, because those songs were only minor hits. Instead, the collectin includes some of his songs from his 2001 classical pop album instead.

    All in all, The Essential Billy Joel is a very strong and standard greatest hits album from beginning to end that is fun and a joy to listen to, whether you're a hard core fan, or anyone who is new to Billy Joel's songs. This album is definitely a great purchase to download off the internet, or buy from your local record store. Even though Billy Joel hasn't made anything new in awhile, his music is still making us go to extremes.

    Songs: B+

    Price: B 1/2+

    Remastering: A-

    Overall: B+...more info
  • Essential? Not quite, look what's missing...
    Billy Joel's contribution to CBS' "Essential" series is a carrear spanning 2 CD set that starts with 1973's "Piano Man" through his recent entry into the classical field "Fantasies and Delusions". While long time fans like myself have everything here, this is probably aimed at those who passed on his 2 previous collections or the pricey box set "My Lives". If you're a casual fan or buying this as a gift you'll find a perfect mix of certified hits and buried treasures. But I can only give this set 3 stars because while it duplicates much of what was on the first 2 sets, several classics are dropped (Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, The Stranger, Big Shot), Other classics are omitted yet again (Angry Young Man, The Legend of Billy the Kid, Just a Fantasy), or studio versions have been used when live versions are much more definitive. "She's Got a Way" first appeared on Billy's debut album "Cold Spring Harbor" and was revived for his first (and best) live album "Songs in the Attic", becoming a surprise Top 10 hit for him. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" also appeared on "Songs.." and hit the Top 20 in its live version. So why is the inferior studio version from "Turnstiles" here? Same with "Miami 2017 (See the Lights Go Out on Broadway)", this song was a powerhouse rocker on "Songs.." and took on new meaning after 9/11. So why is the slower, studio version here? CBS should've taken the same approach they used with Bruce Springsteen's "Essential" disc. A special 3cd limited edition was released first, then phased out in favor of a 2 disc version. This way a third could've included the following;

    Stop in Nevada
    The Great Suburban Showdown
    You're Only Human (Second Wind)
    The Night is Still Young
    Angry Young Man
    Just a Fantasy
    To Make You Feel My Love
    No Man's Land
    The Legend of Billy the Kid (Live version)
    I've Loved These Days
    This is the Time
    The Mexican Connection
    Root Beer Rag
    Easy Money

    To be fair, CBS did correct 2 problems from previous collections. "My Life" is presented in its full-length album version from "52nd Street". "New York State of Mind" is minus the additional sax breaks that I thought were unnecessary. And while I prefer the live version of "You're My Home", the studio version here is a nice bonus. ...more info
  • Lucky Joel!
    This compilation does a good job of gathering the highlights of Billy Joel`s career. As with all anthologies, you can argue about what songs should or shouldn't have been included,
    but nevertheless a well chosen and thorough collection. The most promising thing is the improved sound quality of these recordings. I really hope Rhino puts together a Deep Purple anthology like this one. Two jam packed CD's from the "classic" Purple lineup. One greatest hits disc is NOT enough and the 4 disc set is way too expensive.
    This is a very reasonably priced and well put together collection!...more info
  • The Essential Billy Joel
    If you love Billy Joel you gotta have this. If you like Billy Joel you gotta have this. If you love good must with a lot of variety you gotta have this....more info
  • Not exactly Essential
    One of the biggest complaints I've always had about greatest hits that they're full of greatest hits. Often an artist's best material is the album stuff, the never-heard-on-the-radio stuff. This collection addresses that issue well for the most part, adding Miami 2017, a lesser-known gem from Turnstiles. This collection would truly be essential, if not for the unforgivable sin of omitting Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, perhaps Billy's greatest album track and a steadfast favorite of Billy Joel enthusiasts. Scenes, in my opinion, is a far more essential Billy recording than fluff like We Didn't Start the Fire or Uptown Girl.

    The best solution? If you want a true chronicle of Billy's best work and some of his lesser-known material, buy the Complete Hits Collection (Greatest Hits Vols. 1-3, and a bonus cd with live stuff), and Songs In the Attic, which offers energetic live performances of Billy's older material.

    Essential is good overall, but could have been much better....more info

  • fine two CD set with most of Billy's best...
    Billy Joel makes some awesome music. Some people will tell you to get his "Greatest Hits" Volumes 1, 2and 3; and I think they have a good point. However, for the casual fan who never got around to buying all of Billy's albums, this is an excellent value even if it does exclude "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant."

    This two CD set is brimming over with solid Billy Joel hits. The first CD begins with his classic hit, "Piano Man." Billy both sings and plays the piano well and the harmonica adds to the number. Billy sings about his job playing piano in a piano bar--excellent tune! "You're My Home" is another beautiful ballad about the importance of having a stable lover in your life; Billy sings this well and his excellent diction enhances his performance. Similarly, "Captain Jack" gives us another remarkably good, solid Billy Joel number. "Captain Jack" features great piano by Billy as he sings of a lonely person with a life that isn't exactly all that fulfilling.

    "New York State Of Mind" pays tribute to New York City and all its wonderful attractions; Billy sings this with great sensitivity and he plays his piano flawlessly. "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" deals with the frustration most young people eventually experience as they see that life isn't all that easy; listen for a strong musical arrangement for "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)." In addition, Billy cries out to young people to enjoy themselves with his rocking tune "Only The Good Die Young." The handclapping gives this tune a slightly 1950s flavor to it; and this works well for "Only The Good Die Young."

    "Honesty," one of my very favorite Billy Joel songs, features Billy singing of how he wants a woman to love him for himself instead of just pretending to love him while playing games. Billy's piano is beautiful; and the strings enhance "Honesty" as well. "Allentown" is another great number with percussion and a rocking beat to spare!

    The second CD continues the great numbers. "Tell Her About It" encourages young men to tell their girlfriends that they really love them; this ballad features a solid beat with a backup chorus to bolster Billy's vocals. "Baby Grand," another favorite of mine, features the great Ray Charles swinging soft and slow with Billy. Together they compare their love for women to their love for their pianos and the music they make. "Baby Grand" will please you very much.

    "I Go To Extremes," a number about manic-depression, features Billy singing better than ever! The percussion and drums greatly enhance "I Go To Extremes." "We Didn't Start The Fire" allows Billy to reminisce about major events in modern history and imply that the lust for life, the "fire," is something within all of us.

    "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" gives us Billy singing a sweet song about communication between a man and his woman and their lasting bond as well. "Invention In C Minor" is thrown in, too, to demonstrate Billy's love for classical music.

    The liner notes include some great photos of Billy; and we get the recording years and albums from which these songs were taken.

    Overall, this is not as complete as it should be; we don't get song like "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" or "Pressure;" and many Billy Joel fans already purchased the albums that have the numbers on this two CD set. I have to take off one star for that to make this a four star review. However, this two CD set is great for a more casual fan like myself who doesn't own all of Billy's albums. If you like this but want something more satisfying, try Billy Joel's Greatest Hits, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

    Thank you, Billy!
    ...more info
  • Billy throat gruff
    Billy Joel has a past, a rock and roll NY garage band secret that is hidden from this so-called "Essential" two CD set. This flip/flop CD set begins with his break out hit "Piano Man", a self-reveralional look at me! Dammit Look at Me! If that didn't make it sure then howabout. "The Entertainer"? or "Say Goodbye to Hollywood"? (At least that song was covered by Ronnie Spector with Bruce Springsteen's E St. Band backing and a terrific 45).

    Billy continued to write what he knew," NY State of Mind", etc.., but a songwriter has to have a standard, a song that would be sung by Steve Lawrence, Al Martino, and scored by elevators. "Just the Way You Are" made it and offered a lifetime envelope of bucks.

    With that security, Billy hit a stride of top 40 hits "My Life" "She's Got a Way" "You May be Right" Billy was hitting a strong average of .750 and pissed that he wasn't considered hip while Punk and New Wave were all over magazines (not charts tho) and his slam was "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me". Like anyone cared.

    Realizing that, Billy put out his finest LP/Cass/CD " An Innocent Man".
    An amalgam of his love of 50's 60's influences, the 4 Seasons, "Uptown Girl" the Dion/Belmonts "The Longest Time",

    Success leads to doing whatever one wants.. Billy made a political polemic "We Didn't Start the Fire" a hit with an update of Reunion's "Life is a Rock (but the Radio Rolled Me), a quick history of baby boomers in rhyme and tempo.

    After that, well fine, concerts all over the world, swell, in Hell, and admired. Concerts in tandem with Elton John and piano walkin' the plank.

    This 2CD has 36 songs, probably 20 more than anyone needs. No booklet, no history, no pictures of wire-terrior haired Billy, no nothin' extra.

    ...more info
  • Remastering makes this album sound too harsh and bright
    I cringed when I first played the Essential Billy Joel on my KEF Q series speakers -- This album is one of the worst remastering efforts I've heard recently. The sound is way, way too bright (enhanced treble), and it really wears on the ears after a few songs if you're listening to it on good speakers....more info
  • The "Essential collection" vs. "Greatest Hits 1 & 2".
    It really comes down to what songs you want most. The "Greatest Hits 1 & 2" have 24 tracks, and include "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant", "Big Shot", "Pressure", and "You're Only Human (second wind)", all of which are missing here. Also that set only goes through the mid-eighties. However, this "Essential Collection" is 36 tracks, and career-spanning. It includes "Miami 2017 (see the light go out on broadway)", "Leave A Tender Moment Alone", "A Matter Of Trust", "I Go To Extremes", "We Didn't Start The Fire", "Downeaster Alexa", and "River Of Dreams", all missing on the "Hits 1 & 2". Now the "Greatest Hits Volume 3" would complement the first two nicely, but then you're buying two collections. My guess is that if you're a casual fan, like myself, you'll be more than happy with "The Essential Billy Joel". Either way, "It's Still Rock n' Roll To Me"....more info
  • A solid compilation...
    "The Essential Billy Joel" is yet another entry into this new, booming "Greatest Hits" trend. It seems like every artist from James Taylor to No Doubt is getting the "Hits" treatment, which should come as no suprise to anyone since they've been selling in massive amounts ever since the Beatles' "#1" album hit the shelves. That album's impressive sales records turned record executive heads, and thus Columbia/Sony began releasing their newfangled "Essential" catalogue.

    So, anyway, you've got the "Essential" Billy Joel and you've got the "Greatest Hits 1,2 & 3" Billy Joel. Which one should you buy? Well, if you want the three greatest hits albums, it's going to cost you a bit more than this particular set, especially if you want the box set (which also features a bonus disc of some dialogue and rare material). You'll get more songs, but the "Essential Billy Joel" contains a few songs not featured in either of the Greatest Hits discs, most notably one of my favorite songs of the piano man, "Leave A Tender Moment Alone." Unfortunately, there's a flipside to this coin. This compilation does not have "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," which is one of the greatest songs in the history of pop music. However, this really shouldn't suprise anyone. Greatest Hits discs are almost never perfect. Just look at Elton John's recently released "Greatest Hits 1970-2002," which omits the version of "Candle In The Wind" that was dedicated to Princess Diana.

    The "Greatest Hits 1,2 & 3" are missing songs and the "Essential Billy Joel" is missing songs, so either way you figure it, a truly definitive Joel collection still has yet to be released. Until then, though, pick which collection you want in accordance to which songs you'd prefer. I have both collections, but prefer this one. Thirty six great Billy Joel songs on two discs at a great price. What more could you ask for (besides a few more songs, of course)?

    Highly recommended....more info

  • I love Billy
    This collection is really great, a few harder to find hits such as "Honesty" and "An Innocent Man" as well as some others. It spans pretty much all decades of Billy's career. I just wish they had included "Pressure"....more info
  • Billy assembles a rearranged collection of hits.
    People looking for the perfect introduction to the works of Billy Joel will find it in this new compilation. For long time listeners, however, this 2-disc set offers nothing new. In an attempt to make THE ESSENTIAL BILLY JOEL differ from his three greatest hits albums, he eliminated classic works of his such as "The Stranger", "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", "BIg Shot", and "Pressure", all of which were featured on earlier greatest hits compilations. To compensate, he added "You're My Home", "Miami 2017(Seen the lights go out on Broadway)", "Honesty", and "Leave a Tender Moment Alone." More annoyingly, THE ESSENTIAL BILLY JOEL fails to feature important, classic Joel songs such as "Prelude/ Angry Young Man", "Stiletto", "Sometimes a Fantasy", "Keeping the Faith", "Everybody Loves you Now", "Summer, Highland Falls", "Streetlife Serenader", and "The Ballad of Billy the kid".

    Though the CD's contain many important and essential works, a Joel fan will find little new material in this simple reordering of old works. The songs on the album are great, but if you already have all of Billy's records, there is little need to own this. On the other hand, it makes a great gift for a brand new listener of Billy's music....more info

  • Pretty Good, But....
    I'm 13 and I LOVE rock n roll.
    All in all, this is an okay album, though it could've done without the atrocity that is "Captain Jack." I agree that the song about Brenda and Eddie should be on it. Another one of his best songs is missing. I am talking about the lesser known, (but nontheless excellent) "Get It Right the First Time" from "Stranger."
    Still, the album has redeeming qualities. I was pleased to discover some of my favorite tunes such as "New York State of Mind", "Honesty", "I Go to Extremes", and the eternal classic "Only the Good Die Young."...more info
  • 'Essential' is right!
    Everything you could want from his long career history of music is here.

    Definitely 'essential'! Highly recommended!...more info
  • Just the cream
    I can't think of anything that's missing from this album, except maybe "Why Should I Worry" which he did for the animated movie Oliver and Company. Disney must have all the rights, because I don't see it on his regular albums. Probably wasn't enough of a "hit" but I wouldn't mind having a copy of that one....more info
  • Not Bad
    Some "essential" songs that are missing:

    The Ballad of Billy the Kid
    The Stranger
    Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
    She's Always A Woman
    Big Shot
    Sometimes A Fantasy
    Keeping the Faith
    You're Only Human (Second Wind)

    These songs, in my opinion, should be on an "essential" Billy Joel collection. There are some songs included that do nothing for me, but are probably near and dear to Billy Joel. BUT....that is what CD burners are for!...more info

  • Some "essential", but more "non-essential"
    I agree with many of the reviews I've read here. Sure, there are many "great" songs here, but many of his "greatest" are missing. I feel like I was once again duped by the "Repackaging Gods" into buying yet another "Essential" compilation that contains more "Non-Essential" so-called hits. Putting "Waltz No. 1 (Nunley's Carousel)" and "Invention In C Minor" was the ultimate slap in the face. Advice: Grab all your favor CDs and burn your own compilation, and save yourself a major disappointment (not to mention $$$)....more info
  • In response to ajm1195 review
    All in all, this is an okay album, though it could've done without the atrocity that is "Captain Jack."

    I was about to blast the view stated above, then I noted the reviewer was only 13. IMO, Joel could have ended his career after this one song and been a success. In many ways, Joel never got any better than the Piano Man disc. Perhaps some day, you'll grow into it....more info

  • Billy Joel CD
    This is a great CD set by one of America's favorite singer, songwriters.
    Great price, fast shipping, it's a joy to listen to these songs over and over!...more info
  • Versatile and Flexible: Billy Joel at his best.....
    If you're like me and don't own many Billy Joel albums, The Essential Billy Joel is a good introductory 2-CD set to start a Joel collection. There are many of his great hits in this 36-track compilation, most of which have appeared in other "Greatest Hits" collections. To make up for this, Columbia Records fiddled around with the playlist a little bit. They left out "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and "The Stranger" (among others) that were on the more expensive Greatest Hits albums and replaced them with (on disc one) "You're My Home," "Miami 2017," "Honesty," and (on disc two) they added "Waltz #1 (Nunley's Carousel)" and "Invention in C Minor."

    I like this album not only for its variety, but for its affordability ($22.99 at Amland). Let's face it, not everybody can afford to shell out $36.00 for Joel's Greatest Hits Box Set, which has 18 more songs than this 2-disc set. With this Essential CD, new and old listeners alike can follow Joel's three decade long career, from his first hit ("Piano Man," 1973) to his new classical compositions (2001's "Fantasies and Delusions"). I also like it because it has really great songs, such as "An Innocent Man," "Honesty," "The Longest Time," "A Matter Of Trust" (a guitar-based kick-butt rock song that reminds me of Bruce Springsteen), the bluesy "Baby Grand" (a duet with the great Ray Charles), the spiritual "River of Dreams," and the lovely classical piano piece," Waltz #1 (Nunley's Carousel)." This reflects, in my opinion, Billy Joel's versatility and flexibility as a songwriter, composer and singer. I was amazed to hear how different Joel can sound depending on the style he chooses in his songs. One minute he can be gentle and melancholy as in "And So It Goes," the next he can sound defiant and determined as he does in "Downeaster Alexa."

    So ignore the naysayers; get this wonderful CD album. Trust me; you won't regret it.

    Betty June Moore...more info

  • Billy Joel
    I bought it for my husband. He likes The Piano Man very much, and the complete cd. Arrived safely....more info
  • Many "Essential" Pieces Missing From Joel's 2CD Set
    Billy Joel released his top-selling "Greatest Hits Part I & II" in 1985 after gleaning five Top 20 singles from 1983's platinum "An Innocent Man" LP. That set captured the sound and style of the 50s-60s doo-wop and Brill Building music he loved as a teenager. "The Nylon Curtain," touching on shared personal and political baby boomer memories, preceded "Innocent Man" and received some of Joel's finest reviews. That, plus sellout concert tour and celebrity marriage with baby daughter, led him to a personal and professional peak.

    The story and songs are different with "Essential Billy Joel," an inferior entry in Sony Music's series spotlighting its selling artists from Tony Bennett to Men at Work. By its 2001 release tabloids had filled with stories of Joel's divorce and financial ruin, his quitting pop music, recording one classical CD and repackaging his considerable catalogue on CD shelves and on tour with fellow 70s icon Elton John.

    Sequencing and song selection doom this collection. Joel's most popular songs make the cut: "Piano Man" leads off, you get "New York State of Mind" and the hits from 1977's breakthrough "The Stranger." Yet the collection misses "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" and "Angry Young Man," two songs playing to Joel's musical and lyrical gifts: his pounding piano style and ability to shape atmospheric musical vignettes. ("Miami 2017," from "Turnstiles," also qualifies as defining, but its cynicism is a hard swallow 27 years later in light of 9-11.)

    The CDs shortchange 1978's exceptional "52nd Street" (missing the masterpiece "Until the Night," among Joel's songwriting gems) and "Nylon" (missing "Pressure," one of his best sonic recordings as opposed to compositions). Yet you get nearly all Joel's radio hits from "Innocent Man" and 1989's inconsistent "Storm Front," including his awkward attempts at hard rock ("I Go to Extremes," "A Matter of Trust"). "Modern Woman," 1986's Top 10 hit from the film "Ruthless People," has not reached any Joel collection.

    Radio could use new Billy Joel music (and not the pleasant but minor classical compositions closing the disc). Adult contemporary and "lite" stations on which he'd been a core artist need his wry lyrics and complex pop to counter their mushy, overemotive divas. Great songs like 1993's near-finale "All About Soul" show lyrical and musical maturity and empathy it would have been good to see him follow. Short of that, consider Billy Joel's essential 1985 best-of or a reasonably priced version of his box set before choosing this slighter, superfluous "Essential" collection....more info

  • Essential???
    Only one thing to say about this album....where the heck is "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant"?? How can it be called the Essential Billy Joel without including Brenda(er) and Eddie?? Get the box's much better and more complete!...more info
  • Good For A Newbie
    I had never really listened to any of Billy Joel's music, but after hearing many of the songs here, I reconginzed them from other places. This albusm was good for me to get a samle of a lot of different songs, and according to what I like I will buy a full album....more info