Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday with Billy

Yawn ...

Was it last night's overdose of Cabernet? Or just the idleness of a Bank Holiday morning?

So, what can we find to fight the ennui? Strong coffee helps ...

This ought to do it!

As Malcolm has admitted here and elsewhere, he is a fan of Billy Joel.

This double CD is a juicy relict of Joel's record tenancy at Madison Square Garden in 2006. That's one of the gigs Malcolm, equipped with his time-machine, would want to attend (another is Georges Brassens' final concert at Sète -- Malcolm left the town only that morning; and has regretted ever since).

What is remarkable is that Joel (or whoever guided his selection) largely ignored most of the output after 1986. Yes, there's The Night Is Still Young, The Great Wall of China, a full-blown The Downeaster 'Alexa' (which Malcolm relishes), The River of Dreams, A Matter of Trust, We Didn't Start the Fire, and, as the penultimate, an excellent And So It Goes. That leaves a full two dozen of the earlier classics.

A quick comparison suggests that Joel has dropped the pitch a notch or two: the matured voice is richer and rock-solid as a result.

Ah!, here comes Allentown. Sony have induced YouTube to block access to this from the UK, but it may show:

There is also an "interpretation" available here.

Allentown gives voice to the Rust Belt:
Well, we're waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found,
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard,
If we behaved.
So the graduations hang on the wall,
But they never really helped us at all.
No; they never taught us what was real --
Iron and coke
And chromium steel.
And we're waiting here in Allentown.
But they've taken all the coal from the ground,
And the union people crawled away.
Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got;
But something happened on the way to that place ...
It was that passing mention of Brassens, above, which supplied Malcolm with a satisfying explanation for his liking of Joel. At his best, Joel goes beyond song-writing, beyond being a modern balladeer, to providing narratives in song, as in his celebration of his return to New York:

As the hair and the higher pitch suggests, that's from 1978 (14th March: a Live at the BBC concert).

Or, in true chansonnière mode, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant and Piano Man, which both come towards the end of double CD (the lyrics mainly carried by active audience involvement).

Yep: that's the real wake-up. Sphere: Related Content

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