12 Gardens Live

Billy Joel

Whether you may like it or not, Billy Joel remains a prominent influence in popular — and less popular — music. He emerged in the seventies as an Americanized Elton John without the pronounced eccentricities, or need for a lyricist. Through his career he has often battled with critics for acknowledgement as more than a precocious pop balladeer. After the labored disappointment, River Of Dreams, Joel made a clear exit from the pop music scene; the 2001 classical release Fantasies And Delusions remains his only studio recording since.

So with that history in tow comes the two-disc release 12 Gardens Live, his fourth, and possibly strongest, concert recording. Recently released from the Betty Ford clinic, Joel is documented during his 12 sold-out performances at Madison Square Garden in his home state of New York. The album showcases much lesser known material, as well as the first collaboration between Joel and Grammy-winning producer Steve Lillywhite. With a resume that includes production work with U2, the Rolling Stones and the Pogues, Lillywhite is well equipped for the musical and emotional range of this material.

Though none of the songs here are at all reworked, many have clearly stayed and grown with the performer since their inception. The opening cut, “Angry Young Man,” seems more balanced between its ska and progressive rock influences than ever, and the lyrics’ bitterness have perhaps been tamed by some self-reflection on Joel’s part. Since 9/11, “New York State Of Mind,” and “I’ve Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway” are inevitably burdened with new resonance, but it never weighed down these renderings.

Of course, the strengths of Billy Joel the performer cannot filter out the weaknesses of Billy Joel the songwriter. We still must endure the unbridled melodrama of “Goodnight Saigon,” and the monotonous string of historical events in “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” One often senses Joel winking behind a clever line, and that still comes across in these performances, including that of the self-consciously satirical “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me.” Somehow, lyrics criticizing mass consumerism lose their punch when you hear them echoed by thousands of concertgoers.

With that said, the selection here is varied and effectively shows the wide span of styles, subjects, and influences in the Billy Joel songbook. His relative distance from the music industry seems to have revived his connection to his material. He is no longer the angry young man with something to prove and simply a seasoned musician with an oeuvre worth revisiting. 12 Gardens Live is a fine vehicle for such a reflection.

~ Galen Howard

Bookmark and Share

 

Rock News

Google Ads

ELP - Fanfare 1970 - 1997

ELP

David Gilmour - Pompeii


 

Follow Vintage Rock @

Search

VintageRock.com Book!

NEW BOOK COLLECTS
25 INTERVIEWS WITH
VINTAGE ROCK LEGENDS!

book

CELEBRATE 20 YEARS
OF VINTAGEROCK.COM!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER
YOUR COPY TODAY!

Newsletter

Newsletter


Receive HTML?

BCCIV

bcciv

Amazon's Essentials