Random Stuff, Part 9: Billy Joel (and Vinyl v. Remastered)

My best friend bought a record player, like many middle-aged, Gen-X dudes are doing. I want one, too. I imagine myself sitting in an old metal folding chair by my record player on a Friday night sipping a glass of Southern Comfort and orange juice tapping my foot and looking at the album cover art, turning it over and looking at the back of the album, and singing along, hit and miss, because I don’t quite remember all the words. I’ll be slapping my knee and closing my eyes at certain parts just admiring the genius of the artist and trying to imagine what it must’ve been like way back then (because I’ll only buy old LPs) when the particular album I’m listening to was released.

If my kids (or my wife) walk through the room, I’ll encourage them to stop and, “listen to this part,” and I’ll share something I might’ve learned on VH1, or maybe read in a book, about the artist or the album and say something like, “until this was released, nobody had put a harmonica as the primary instrument on a song and, rumor has it, the harmonica on this song wasn’t actually Billy Joel, but the legendary Stevie Wonder …can you believe it? THEEE Stevie wonder was actually in the studio. Nobody knows for sure …hey …where’re you going? Here comes the part where he misses the note but it actually turned out as a magical accident.”

My kids will have ran out of the room by this point. At some point, they won’t even walk by me where they hear me, “playin’ my records.”

That’s all to say, if I ever get me a record player, I’ll be buying all my favorite Billy Joel albums on vinyl …like my friend Chad did. Only then will I be able to truly debate the best to worst Billy Joel albums. Which is what Chad did.

We exchanged many texts on the topic and he has his rank order, and I have mine.

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think it’s important to put this out there. And when (if …see below) I get my record player someday, will you come over and listen to these with me, enjoy the warmth of the vinyl sound versus the digital CD (like my aging ears can possibly hear any difference), and debate which is Billy Joel’s best?

  1. The Stranger
  2. Glass Houses
  3. Turnstiles
  4. 52nd Street
  5. Piano Man
  6. Street Life Serenade
  7. Storm Front
  8. The Bridge
  9. Nylon Curtain
  10. River of Dreams
  11. An Innocent Man
  12. Cold Spring Harbor

Do you have any other album collections you want my opinion on? Leave a comment. Do you disagree with this order? Leave a comment.

Vinyl v. Remastered?

And finally, I’m actually not convinced buying vinyl is the best way to enjoy music. I think a Remastered CD is probably the best. Why? Because when music was mixed prior to CDs, it was mixed and put together without much thought about how it would sound coming out of speakers because all speakers sucked and everything was getting beamed around on FM or AM waves. Think about it. When a Billy Joel or Elton John were releasing albums in the 70s and 80s, most people bought records and played it through a pair of stereo speakers with the clicks and pops. Or it as an 8-Track, or throughout the 80s, it was cassette. I had racks and racks of cassettes and I can tell you, you had to have a really nice pair of headphones to hear a drummer gently hit the chimes or a gentle cymbal. I think the lack of any audio sophistication is why heavy metal dominated the 70s and 80s because “loud” was good enough. Was it good? I don’t know. But it was loud. And if you weren’t loud, you were a songwriter …again, like Billy Joel, Elton John, and Paul Simon.

My point is this …when Diana Krall releases a jazz album these days, she’s not mixing it for vinyl and how it will sound on the radio. Her sound engineers want you to hear the wood creaking in the stand-up bass and the pedals smashing against the wood on the piano, and you can only hear that when something is brilliantly, digitally mastered or, if it’s an old album, Remastered.

Maybe I won’t get a record player after all. Feel free to leave expletive heavy comments arguing for or against anything I’ve said.

P.s.  I know you’re gonna say what about a Remastered album on vinyl. I’m not ready to think about that, yet.


3 Comments on “Random Stuff, Part 9: Billy Joel (and Vinyl v. Remastered)

  1. Did I convince you that Turnstiles is above 52nd Street? Because I think you had me convinced the other way

    • I think I move them up and down (the entire top-3) and can’t remember where the ranking first started. Ask me today, I say Glass Houses.

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