Monday, November 22, 2010

Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy released

First posted 12/2/2011; updated 9/24/2020.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West

Released: November 22, 2010

Peak: 11 US, 12 RB, 16 UK, 11 CN, 6 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.35 US, 0.1 UK, 1.59 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: rap


(date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Dark Fantasy (with Teyana Taylor, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver) (12/10/10, 60 US)
  2. Gorgeous (with Kid Cudi & Raekwon)
  3. Power (with Dwele) (6/12/10, 22 US, 22 RB, 36 UK, 49 CN, 100 AU, 2x platinum single)
  4. All of the Lights (interlude)
  5. All of the Lights (with Drake & Rihanna) (12/11/10, 18 US, 15 UK, 53 CN, 24 AU)
  6. Monster (with Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver) (9/18/10, 8 US, 32 RB, 43 CN, 91 AU, platinum single)
  7. So Appalled (with Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz, & RZA)
  8. Devil in a New Dress (w/ Rick Ross)
  9. Runaway (with Pusha T) (10/2/10, 12 US, 95 RB, 56 UK, 13 CN, 46 AU, platinum single)
  10. Hell of a Life
  11. Blame Game (with John Legend)
  12. Lost in the World (with Bon Iver)
  13. Who Will Survive in America

Total Running Time: 68:36


4.358 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)

Quotable: “There are few more human albums in hip-hop.” – David Amidon,


About the Album:

Kanye West’s fifth album “features themes regarding excess and celebrity.” WK Among the topics he explores are “decadence, grandiosity, escapism, sex, wealth, romance, self-aggrandizement, and self-doubt.” WK The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin said it was “darkly funny, boldly introspective, and characteristically fame-obsessed.” WK Prefix magazine’s Andrew Martin said it was a “meditation of fame” in which West laments the burden that goes with it. WK On Fantasy, West “made music as sprawlingly messy as his life” and that he crafted “songs full of the kind of grandiose gestures that only the foolish attempt and only the wildly talented pull off.” RS David Amidon of said “there are few more human albums in hip-hop.” WK

The latter point raised criticism from some; NME’s Alex Denney said West was “by turns sickeningly egocentric, contrite, wise, stupid and self-mocking.” WK He is “an instinctive consumer with a mouthful of diamonds and furtive bad conscience, a performer who lives the American dream to its fullest with a creeping sense of the spiritual void at its heart.” WK The Independent’s Andy Gill called it “one of pop’s gaudiest, most grandiose efforts of recent years, a no-holds-barred musical extravaganza in which any notion of good taste is abandoned at the door.” WK

The album “received general acclaim from music critics, earning praise for its varied musical style, opulent production quality, and West’s dichotomous themes.” WK “Nobody else is making music this daring and weird.” SH West “goes for the grandeur of stadium rock, the all-devouring sonics of hip-hop, the erotic gloss of disco, and he goes for all of it, all the time.” SH Among the album’s musical diversity were “string sections, Elton John piano solos, vocoder freakouts, Bon Iver cameos, King Crimson and Rick James samples” RS Time’s David Browne said that “few combine disparate elements as smoothly as West” WK while Steve Jones of USA Today said it “easily outstrips anything he’s done.” WK Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield echoed that statement saying it was West’s best album and “his most maniacally inspired music yet.” SH

Critics often referred to the album as a culmination of West’s previous works. Simon Vozick-Levinson of Entertainment Weekly said this takes “the luxurious soul of 2004’s The College Dropout, the symphonic pomp of Late Registration, the gloss of 2007’s Graduation, and the emotionally exhausted electro of 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak.” WK Pitchfork Media’s Ryan Dombal said the album “largely continues where 2007’s Graduation left off in its maximalist hip-hop bent, with flashes of The College Dropout’s comfort-food sampling and Late Registration’s baroque instrumentation weaved in seamlessly.” WK Andy Kellman of said Fantasy “does not merely draw characteristics from each one of them. The 13 tracks…sometimes fuse them together simultaneously.” WK

Power, with its “bracing prog-rock” RS sound, was the first single from the album and garnered West a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance.

The opening cut, Dark Fantasy, “introduces the album’s themes of decadence and hedonism” WK with “a retelling of writer Roald Dahl’s poetic rework of Cinderella.” WK In the song, West references Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology Song)” and Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” as well as musicians Nas and Leona Lewis.

All of the Lights offers a story of a “character who abuses his lover, does prison time, scuffles with her new boyfriend, and subsequently mourns his absence from his child’s life.” WK The song tapped 11 guest singers including Alicia Keys, John Legend, Elton John, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson, and Rihanna. WK The song received Grammy nods for Song of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

Devil in a New Dress is a song “about lust and heartache” WK built around a Smokey Robinson sample. One critic described the song’s mix of both sexual and religious imagery “part bedroom allure, part angelic prayer.” WK

Runaway has a “spooky grandeur” RS built on a “piano-based motif comprising a series of sustained descending half and whole notes” WK and a “coda that incorporates light strings and vocoder-singing by West.” WK At about the six-minute mark, “long after the song has already sealed itself in your brain, the sound cuts out and you think it’s over. Then there’s a plinking piano, the feedback of an electric guitar plugging in, some ‘Strawberry Fields’-style cellos and Yeezy himself singing a poignant Robert Fripp-style solo through his vocoder. There’s no way it should work, but it keeps rolling for three more minutes without breaking the spell.” SH Rolling Stone named it the best single of 2010.

Also on the album: Hell of a Life has “a psychedelic rock sample and a narrative about marrying a porn star.” WK There’s also “the spooky space funk of GorgeousSH and “the paranoid staccato strings of Monster.” SH

Indie-folk rocker Bon Iver is sampled for Lost in the World. West turns the original song, “Woods”, and its alienation theme into “the centerpiece of a catchy, communal reverie.” WK

The album closes with Who Will Survive in America, which builds on a sample of “Comment No. 1” by Gil Scott-Heron. The original song is “a blunt, surrealist piece delivered by Scott-Heron in spoken word about the African-American experience and the fated idealism of the American dream.” WK

The album’s artwork, a portrait by George Condo, caused controversy because of its nude depiction of West and an armless winged female (a phoenix). WK

The album was ranked as the top of the year by, The A.V. Club, Billboard magazine critics, Pitchfork Media, Rolling Stone, Slant, Time, and The Village Voice. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album. As Rolling Stone said in its assessment of the album in its year-end review, West “made all other music seem dimmer and duller. Is the album dark? Sure. Twisted? Of course. But above all, it's beautiful.” RS

Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Billy Joel Retrospective

First posted 9/22/2020.

A Retrospective: 1973-2001

Billy Joel

A Brief History:

He was born William Martin Joel on May 9, 1949, in New York City (the Bronx), New York. He showed an aptitude for the piano and began taking lessons at age four. When he saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, he decided to pursue a full-time music career. After failed stints with the Echoes, the Hassles, and Attila, he went solo and “refashioned himself as a sensitive singer/songwriter.” A-B From 1971 to 1993, he released a dozen studio albums, charted 33 top-40 hits and garnered 23 Grammy nominations and 5 wins, including Album of the Year for 52nd Street and Song and Record of the Year for Just the Way You Are. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. He has sold over 150 million records worldwide.

“Although Billy Joel never was a critic’s favorite, the pianist emerged as one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the latter half of the ‘70s.” A-B “His classical training and reverence for Broadway musicals” RH alongside a “flair for Tin Pan Alley” RH “have been counterpointed by his early grounding in the Long Island bar-band scene and his love of rhythm & blues, resulting in an enthusiastic yet musically sophisticated approach to rock and roll. His diverse influences include Beethoven, the Beatles, Dave Brubeck, George Gershwin, Phil Spector, Ray Charles and Fats Domino…From romantic balladry to hard-rocking material, with elements of jazz, pop and soul thrown into the mix, Joel has applied his skills in a diversity of settings.” RH His “popularity is such that he tied the Beatles for the most multi-platinum albums in the U.S.” RH

The Studio Albums:

This page offers spotlights of all of Joel’s studio albums. Links below connect to dedicated pages for the albums.

These are the compilations spotlighted on this page.


The snapshots of the studio albums indicate all songs featured on any of the three compilations, noted with the codes above. Appearing after song titles are the songwriters in italicized parentheses, running times in brackets, and when relevant, the date the song was released as a single and its peaks on various charts. Click for codes to singles charts.

Cold Spring Harbor (1971):

Joel signed a deal with Family Productions and released his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor. It went nowhere at the time, but “She’s Got a Way” would resurface in 1981 when he released a live version of the song in support of the Songs from the Attic live album. The live version of the song appears on most of the compilations cited on this page.

  • She’s Got a Way (11/21/81: live version, 23 US, 16 CL, 4 AC, 46 CN) G, UC, ES, VB: live
  • Everybody Loves You Now UC: live, H: studio

Piano Man (1973):

After Cold Spring Harbor, flopped, Joel moved to Los Angeles, adopted the name Bill Martin, and started a gig as a lounge singer. He signed a new contract with Columbia Records and released Piano Man, which garnered a top-40 hit with the title cut. It was the first of 33 top-40 hits. Of course the title track is present on every possible compilation. The album also sported two minor hits with “Worse Comes to Worst” and “Travelin’ Prayer” which don’t show up on any of the compilations.

  • Piano Man (2/23/74, 25 US, 1 CL, 4 AC, 10 CN, 20 AU, sales: 3 million) G, UC, ES, VB, H
  • You’re My Home (1981 live version: 100 AU) UC, ES
  • Captain Jack (11 CL) G, ES

Streetlife Serenade (1974):

After the unexpected success of “Piano Man,” Joel followed quickly with another album, releasing Streetlife Serenade. He didn’t have time to develop the material as much and the album didn’t match the heights of its predecessor, but it did give him another top-40 hit with The Entertainer, “withering portrait of the music industry.” RH

  • The Entertainer (11/30/74, 34 US, 13 CL, 30 AC, 30 CN, 89 AU) G, UC, ES, H
  • Streetlife Serenader UC

Turnstiles (1976):

Joel’s move back to New York is signalled by Say Goodbye to Hollywood, a song with echoes of “Brill Building pop” RH that shows up on four of the compilations on this page – twice as the original studio cut and twice as the live version from 1981’s Songs in the Attic. The album also produced “the cabaret-styled tribute to his home turf, New York State of Mind.” RH While not a single, it became a Billy Joel fixture and appears on every compilation possible cited on this page.

  • Say Goodbye to Hollywood (1976: 45 AU, 9/12/81: live version, 17 US, 6 CL, 35 AC, 11 AR, 27 AU) G, H: live; UC, ES: studio
  • New York State of Mind (11 CL) G, UC, ES, VB, H
  • Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) (16 CL) UC: live; ES: studio

The Stranger (1977):

“With its jazzy sheen and compositional cunning, Joel hit his stride” RH “and the resulting album, The Stranger catapulted him into superstardom” A-B on the backs of hits such as Just the Way You Are – which would win the 1978 Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year – Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), She’s Always a Woman, and Only the Good Die Young. The Stranger “surpassed Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water as the top-selling album in Columbia’s history (until Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. displaced it in the Eighties).” RH

While Joel had three #1 hits, it is reasonable to argue that “Just the Way You Are” may be his best known song. That makes it particularly odd that it is omitted from The Hits. “Only the Good Die Young” and “She’s Always a Woman” are noticeably absent from The Ultimate Collection. Also, while the title cut is a good song, it could have been bumped from the Greatest Hits collection in favor of one of the charting songs that didn’t make the collection.

  • Just the Way You Are (11/12/77, 3 US, 1 CL, 1 AC, 19 UK, 2 CN, 6 AU, platinum single) G, UC, ES, VB
  • Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (3/18/78, 17 US, 7 CL, 40 AC, 35 UK, 11 CN, 99 AU, gold single) G, UC, ES, VB, H
  • Only the Good Die Young (5/13/78, 24 US, 8 CL, 18 CN, platinum single) G, ES, VB, H
  • She’s Always a Woman (8/12/78, 17 US, 6 CL, 2 AC, 29 UK, 12 AU, gold single) G, UC, ES, VB
  • The Stranger (12 CL, 59 AU) G
  • Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (7 CL) G, VB

52nd Street (1978):

52nd Street spent eight weeks at number one in the U.S., eventually selling 7 million copies and landing the Grammy for Album of the Year. While lead single My Life regularly shows up on compilations, Big Shot and Honesty each only make it on two of the five possible compilations.

  • My Life (11/4/78, 3 US, 2 CL, 2 AC, 12 UK, 3 CN, 6 AU, platinum single) G, UC, ES, VB, H
  • Big Shot (2/10/79, 14 US, 9 CL, 13 CN, 91 AU) G, H
  • Honesty (4/21/79, 24 US, 8 CL, 9 AC, 16 CN, 80 AU) UC, ES

Glass Houses (1980):

This was “theoretically a harder-edged album that was a response to the punk and new wave movement.” A-B This was readily apparent on Joel’s #1 hit It's Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me, which “rebutted punk and New Wave acts who’d taken potshots at perceived old-wavers like Joel.” RH The top-10 hit You May Be Right is inexplicably absent from Piano Man: The Very Best of.

  • You May Be Right (3/15/80, 7 US, 2 CL, 48 AC, 6 CN, 28 AU, gold single) G, UC, ES, H
  • All for Leyna (4/12/80, 17 CL, 40 UK) UC
  • It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (5/13/80, 1 US, 1 CL, 45 AC, 14 UK, 1 CN, 10 AU, 2x platinum single) G, UC, ES, VB, H
  • Don’t Ask Me Why (8/2/80, 36 US, 8 CL, 1 AC, 4 CN) G, UC, ES

The Nylon Curtain (1982):

The Nylon Curtain was Joel’s “lushly produced concept album about America’s ‘diminishing horizons’” RH and the “baby boomers and their experiences.” A-B It was a commercial disappointment when compared to the multi-platinum success of its three studio predecessors, but still spawned top-20 hits with Pressure and Allentown. How does “Pressure” only make it on to two compilations?

  • Pressure (9/25/82, 20 US, 8 AR, 9 CN, 16 AU) G, H
  • Allentown (11/27/82, 17 US, 19 AC, 28 AR, 21 CN, 49 AU) G, UC, ES, H
  • Goodnight Saigon (3/19/83, 56 US, 29 UK) G, UC, ES, VB

An Innocent Man (1983):

This was Joel’s “fond tribute to the doo-wop era.” RH It was a success on par with his 1977-1980 work, “eventually selling over seven million copies” A-B on the strength of six top 40 hits and his willingness to embrace MTV and music videos. Three of those – Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, and The Longest Time – are featured on Greatest Hits Volume I and Volume II and two others – An Innocent Man and Keeping the Faith – are on Greatest Hits Volume III. Both collections passed over Leave a Tender Moment Alone, but it eventually showed up The Ultimate Collection and The Essential.

  • Tell Her about It (7/17/83, 1 US, 1 AC, 17 AR, 4 UK, 5 CN, 9 AU, gold single, airplay: 2 million) G, UC, ES, VB, H
  • Uptown Girl (9/24/83, 3 US, 2 AC, 22 AR, 1 UK, 4 CN, 1 AU, platinum single, airplay: 2 million) G, UC, ES, VB
  • An Innocent Man (12/17/83, 10 US, 1 AC, 8 UK, 16 CN, 23 AU) G3, UC, ES, VB
  • The Longest Time (3/24/84, 14 US, 1 AC, 25 UK, 36 CN, 15 AU, gold single, airplay: 2 million) G, UC, ES, H
  • Leave a Tender Moment Alone (6/23/84, 27 US, 1 AC, 29 UK, 58 CN, 76 AU, airplay: 2 million) UC, ES
  • Keeping the Faith (1/19/85, 18 US, 3 AC, 81 CN) G3

Greatest Hits Volume I and Volume II

Billy Joel


4.398 out of 5.00
(average of 16 ratings)

Released: July 2, 1985

Recorded: 1973-1985

Peak: 6 US, 7 UK, -- CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 11.5 US, 0.3 UK, 21.4 world (includes US and UK)

Tracks, Disc 1: (1) Piano Man (2) Captain Jack (3) The Entertainer (4) Say Goodbye to Hollywood (5 New York State of Mind (6) The Stranger (7) Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (8) Just the Way You Are (9) Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (10) Only the Good Die Young (11) She’s Always a Woman

Tracks, Disc 2: (1) My Life (2) Big Shot (3) You May Be Right (4) It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (5) Don’t Ask Me Why (6) She’s Got a Way (live) (7) Pressure (8) Allentown (9) Goodnight Saigon (10) Tell Her About It (11) Uptown Girl (12) The Longest Time (13) You’re Only Human (Second Wind) (14) The Night Is Still Young

Total Running Time: 1:53:45


About Greatest Hits Volume I and Volume II:

The first Billy Joel compilation was really two albums since he released it as Greatest Hits Volume I and II and it lives up to the titles by offering two disc’s worth of hits. Beginning with Piano Man, the first disc runs through a number of early songs…including Captain Jack and New York State of Mind [that] weren’t strictly hits, but were popular numbers within his stage show.” A-G Other early favorites include “the unbridled biographical boasting of The Entertainer and the ambitious storytelling of Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” DD an album cut from The Stranger.

Mostly, though, this collection focuses on the hits, such as # 1 songs It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me and Tell Her About It as well as top ten hits like My Life, You May Be Right, and Uptown Girl. There are also his “soft-rock staples such as Just the Way You AreDD and She’s Always a Woman. We also get “the careening abandon of Only the Good Die Young and the thoughtful social commentary of Allentown.” DD There are also two new songs: You’re Only Human (Second Wind), The Night Is Still Young.

However, the collection skips top-40 hits “Honesty,” “Sometimes a Fantasy,” “An Innocent Man,” “Leave a Tender Moment Alone,” and “Keeping the Faith.” It is still “an excellent retrospective of the first half of Billy Joel’s career,” A-G “exactly why Billy Joel was one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s” A-G and is “as complete an artist as the last three decades have produced.” DD

  • You’re Only Human (Second Wind) (7/13/85, 9 US, 2 AC, 26 AR, 94 UK, 15 CN, 6 AU) G, UC
  • The Night Is Still Young (10/5/85, 34 US, 13 AC, 48 CN, 82 AU) G

Notes: The 1998 remastered package added videos for “You’re Only Human” and “The Night Is Still Young” and replaced the live version of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with the original 1976 studio version.

The Bridge (1986):

“In the summer of 1986, Joel returned with the Top Ten single Modern Woman, which was taken from the soundtrack of Ruthless People…[and] was also a teaser from his new album, The Bridge.” A-B. It’s unclear why the song doesn’t get more love; it only appears on one compilation. The album’s place in the Billy Joel canon is similar to that of The Nylon Curtain: it was a top ten, two-million seller buoyed by a couple hits, but not on par with Joel’s multi-million sellers of the late seventies and early eighties.

  • Modern Woman (6/7/86, 10 US, 7 AC, 34 AR, 27 CN, 21 AU) UC
  • A Matter of Trust (8/9/86, 10 US, 17 AC, 14 AR, 52 UK, 15 CN, 3 AU) G3, UC, ES, H
  • This Is the Time (11/15/86, 18 US, 1 AC, 32 AR, 26 CN, 73 AU) G3, UC
  • Baby Grand (with Ray Charles) (4/4/87, 75 US, 3 AC, 78 AU) G3, UC, ES

Storm Front (1989):

Joel managed to turn “a history lesson into a hit single with his rapid-fire recitation of 20th-century names and places in We Didn’t Start the Fire…Both single and album reached #1.” RHStorm Front marked a significant change for Joel – he fired his band, keeping only Liberty DeVito, and ceased his relationship with producer Phil Ramone, hiring Mick Jones of Foreigner to produce the album.” A-B This album is definitely over-represented on compilations. Shameless and Leningrad are good songs, but minor enough that they should be bumped from collections to make room for other more deserving hits.

  • We Didn’t Start the Fire (9/27/89, 1 US, 5 AC, 6 AR, 7 UK, 2 CN, 2 AU, platinum single) G3, UC, ES, VB, H
  • I Go to Extremes (1/13/90, 6 US, 4 AC, 10 AR, 70 UK, 3 CN, 48 AU) G3, UC, ES, H
  • The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ (4/14/90, 57 US, 18 AC, 33 AR, 76 UK, 25 CN) G3, UC, ES
  • And So It Goes (10/20/90, 37 US, 5 AC, 30 CN) G3, ES
  • Shameless (1/4/92, 40 AC) G3
  • Leningrad (53 UK) G3, UC, ES

River of Dreams (1993):

River of Dreams “entered the charts at number one and spawned the Top Ten title track. Following the River of Dreams tour, Joel divorced Christie Brinkley.” A-B Little did anyone know that Joel was closing another chapter as well as it marked the end of his recording career as a pop artist.

  • The River of Dreams (7/19/93, 3 US, 1 AC, 3 UK, 2 CN, 1 AU) G3, UC, ES, VB, H
  • All About Soul (11/6/93, 29 US, 6 AC, 32 UK, 9 CN, 34 AU) G3, UC, ES, VB
  • Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (3/26/94, 77 US, 18 AC, 27 CN) G3, ES

Greatest Hits Volume III

Billy Joel


3.767 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: August 19, 1997

Recorded: 1983-1997

Peak: 9 US, 23 UK, -- CN, 12 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.06 UK, 1.06 world (includes US and UK)

Tracks: (1) Keeping the Faith (2) An Innocent Man (3) A Matter of Trust (4) Baby Grand (with Ray Charles) (5) This Is the Time (6) Leningrad (7) We Didn’t Start the Fire (8) I Go to Extremes (9) And So It Goes (10) The Downeaster ‘Alexas’ (11) Shameless (12) All About Soul (13) Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (14) The River of Dreams (15) To Make You Feel My Love (16) Hey Girl (17) Light As the Breeze

Total Running Time: 76:16

About Greatest Hits Volume III:

Designed as a companion to Greatest Hits Volume I and Volume II, this one, roughly, picked up where the last one left off. Keeping the Faith and An Innocent Man were from the 1983 album An Innocent Man, but everything else came after the 1985 greatest hits set. There are also two new songs and Light As the Breeze from Tower of Song, the 1995 album of Leonard Cohen covers.

The rest of the collection is comprised of cuts from Joel’s three studio albums released from 1986 to 1993: The Bridge (3 songs), Storm Front (6 songs), and River of Dreams (3 songs). The Storm Front album is over-represented, especially since a few other hits, including the top-10 “Modern Woman” and top-30 “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” could have been included. Otherwise, though, it does a solid job of gathering the most familiar of Joel’s work from the latter part of his recording career.

  • To Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan) [3:53] (8/16/97, 50 US, 9 AC, 90 AU)
  • Hey Girl (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) [3:57] (11/8/97, 13 AC)
  • Light As the Breeze (Leonard Cohen) [6:12]

The Ultimate Collection

Billy Joel


4.433 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: December 20, 2000

Recorded: 1973-1993

Peak: -- US, 4 UK, -- CN, 12 AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 0.3 world (includes US and UK)

Tracks, Disc 1: (1) Just the Way You Are (2) My Life (3) It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (4) An Innocent Man (5) Piano Man (6) You’re My Home (7) Everybody Loves You Now (live) (8) The Entertainer (9) Streetlife Serenader (10) New York State of Mind (11) Say Goodbye to Hollywood (12) She’s Got a Way (live) (13) Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (14) She’s Always a Woman (15) Honesty (16) You May Be Right (17) Don’t Ask Me Why (18) Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) (live)

Tracks, Disc 2: (1) Uptown Girl (2) Tell Her About It (3) The River of Dreams (4) The Longest Time (5) We Didn’t Start the Fire (6) Goodnight Saigon (7) Allentown (8) All for Leyna (9) This Is the Time (10) Leave a Tender Moment Alone (11) A Matter of Trust (12) Modern Woman (13) Baby Grand (with Ray Charles) (14) I Go to Extremes (15) Leningrad (16) The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ (17) You’re Only Human (Second Wind) (18) All About Soul

Total Running Time: 153:09

About The Ultimate Collection:

I’m not a fan of the non-chronological track listing, but this non-American two-disc set does an adequate job of gathering the most familiar of Joel’s hits from throughout his career. His earliest albums receive too much attention and there are some minor hits such as “All for Lenya” and “Leningrad” that could be excised, especially since there are a handful of top 40 hits that don’t make the collection, including “Only the Good Die Young,” “Big Shot,” “Pressure,” “Keeping the Faith,” and “And So It Goes.”

Fantasies & Delusions (2001):

After a dozen pop albums from 1971 to 1993, this was Joel’s foray into creating his own classical compositions. It is, to date, his last studio album.

  • Waltz No. 1 (Nunley’s Carousel) ES
  • Invention in C minor ES

The Essential

Billy Joel


4.480 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: October 2, 2001

Recorded: 1973-2001

Peak: 15 US, 157 UK, -- CN, 50 AU

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.1 world (includes US and UK)

Tracks, Disc 1: (1) Piano Man (2) You’re My Home (3) Captain Jack (4) The Entertainer (5) Say Goodbye to Hollywood (6) Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) (7) New York State of Mind (8) She’s Always a Woman (9) Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (10) Only the Good Die Young (11) Just the Way You Are (12) Honesty (13) My Life (14) It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (15) You May Be Right (16) Don’t Ask Me Why (17) She’s Got a Way (live) (18) Allentown

Tracks, Disc 2: (1) Goodnight Saigon (2) An Innocent Man (3) Uptown Girl (4) The Longest Time (5) Tell Her About It (6) Leave a Tender Moment Alone (7) A Matter of Trust (8) Baby Grand (with Ray Charles) (9) I Go to Extremes (10) We Didn’t Start the Fire (11) Leningrad (12) The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ (13) And So It Goes (14) The River of Dreams (15) All About Soul (16) Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (17) Waltz No. 1 (Nunley’s Carousel) (18) Invention in C minor

Total Running Time: 154:43


About The Essential:

After the non-American release of The Ultimate Collection, The Essential was the first U.S. double-disc anthology covering Joel’s entire recording career. The album works through his major hits chronologically from Piano Man through The River of Dreams. There are still notable songs missing (three of which weren’t on The Ultimate Collection either), like “She’s Always a Woman,” “Big Shot,” “Pressure,” “Keeping the Faith,” “Modern Woman,” and “This Is the Time.”

Like The Ultimate Collection, minor hits All for Leyna and Leningrad take up space where some of those bigger hits could have been. This is also the only one to include cuts from Joel’s 2001 classical album Fantasies & Delusions, but that’s not necessarily a positive since they aren’t familiar to the average Joel fans.

Notes: A reissue added a third disc with seven songs: “Worse Comes to Worst,” “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Big Shot,” “All for Leyna,” “Pressure,” and “This Is the Time.”

Piano Man: The Very Best of

Billy Joel


4.287 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: November 15, 2004

Recorded: 1973-1993

Peak: -- US, 7 UK, -- CN, 14 AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.9 UK, 0.9 world (includes US and UK)

Tracks: (1) Tell Her About It (2) Uptown Girl (3) Piano Man (4) New York State of Mind (5) The River of Dreams (6) It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (7) We Didn’t Start the Fire (8) Goodnight Saigon (9) My Life (10) She’s Always a Woman (11) She’s Got a Way (live) (12) Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (13) An Innocent Man (14) Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (15) Only the Good Die Young (16) All About Soul (17) Honesty (18) Just the Way You Are

Total Running Time: 79:43

About Piano Man: The Very Best of:

This single-disc, non-American release hits the highlights, such as Piano Man, Just the Way You Are, My Life, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, We Didn’t Start the Fire, and The River of Dreams.

Of course, the problem with a single-disc collection is how many songs get left out. For the third time, “Big Shot,” “Pressure,” and “Keeping the Faith” fail to make the cut. Also left out are top-10 hits “You May Be Right” and “I Go to Extremes,” as well as top-40 hits “Allentown,” “The Longest Time,” and “Leave a Tender Moment Alone.” To be fair, though, it’s hard to know what to bump in favor of any of these songs.

The Hits

Billy Joel


4.580 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)

Released: November 16, 2010

Recorded: 1973-1993

Peak: 34 US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Tracks: (1) Everybody Loves You Now (2) Piano Man (3) The Entertainer (4) New York State of Mind (5) Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (6) Only the Good Die Young (7) My Life (8) Big Shot (9) You May Be Right (10) It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (11) Say Goodbye to Hollywood (live) (12) Allentown (13) Pressure (14) The Longest Time (15) Tell Her About It (16) A Matter of Trust (17) We Didn’t Start the Fire (18) I Go to Extremes (19) The River of Dreams

Total Running Time: 79:34

About The Hits:

Once again, a non-American release is followed by a U.S. version. This compilation suffers from the same problem as its predecessor in that too many hits have to be overlooked to create a single-disc retrospective. The most glaring omission is “Just the Way You Are,” arguably Joel’s signature song. However, “Uptown Girl” and “A Matter of Trust” are also notably absent. Overall, though, this collection works much better than Piano Man: The Very Best of and it presents the songs chronologically.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

In Concert: John Mellencamp

image from

Venue: Midland Theater; Kansas City, MO

The Set List:

1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares about Me
3. Deep Blue Heart
4. Death Letter
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time to Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don’t Need This Body
11. Right Behind Me
12. Jackie Brown

13. Longest Days
14. Easter Eve
15. Jack and Diane
16. Small Town
17. Rain on the Scarecrow
18. Paper in Fire
19. The Real Life
20. Human Wheels
21. If I Die Sudden
22. No Better Than This
23. Pink Houses
24. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov. 12, 1960: Bobby "Blue" Bland recorded second session for Two Steps from the Blues

First posted May 29, 2008. Last updated September 10, 2018.

Two Steps from the Blues

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Released: Jan. 1, 1961

Recorded: 1956-1960

Sales (in millions):
US: --
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): --

US: --
UK: --
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “One of the key albums in modern blues” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Genre: blues

Album Tracks:

  1. Two Steps from the Blues (1960)
  2. Cry, Cry, Cry (10/10/60, #71 US, #9 RB)
  3. I’m Not Ashamed (5/4/59, #13 RB)
  4. Don’t Cry No More (7/24/61, #71 US, #2 RB)
  5. Lead Me On (4/11/60, #9 RB)
  6. I Pity the Fool (2/6/61, #46 US, #1 RB)
  7. I’ve Just Got to Forget You (1960)
  8. Little Boy Blue (10/6/58, #10 RB)
  9. St. James Infirmary (1960)
  10. I’ll Take Care of You (12/21/59, #89 US, #2 RB)
  11. I Don’t Want No Woman (recorded 1/22/57)
  12. I’ve Been Wrong So Long (1960)

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.


“Without a doubt, Two Steps from the Blues is the definitive Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland album and one of the great records in electric blues and soul-blues. In fact, it’s one of the key albums in modern blues, marking a turning point when juke joint blues were seamlessly blended with gospel and Southern soul, creating a distinctly Southern sound where all of these styles blended so thoroughly it was impossible to tell where one began and one ended.” STE

From 1956 to 1960, Bland had some success on the R&B charts – five of those songs are gathered here. He also recorded two albums (Blues Consolidated and Like ‘Er Red Hot) for Duke Records. WK He moved to Chicago in 1960, WK and recorded another seven songs at Universal Studio which would be compiled on this album. WK

The first session, on August 3, 1960, produced Two Steps from the Blues, Cry, Cry, Cry, and the ballad I’ve Been Wrong So Long, WK on which biographer Charles Farley praised Wayne Bennett as “the most articulate blues guitarist ever.” WK At a November 12 session, the crew recorded a cover of Joe Primrose’s St. James Infirmary and “the moody” I’ve Just Got to Forget You,” WK which didn’t emerge until 1970 as the B-side of “Keep on Loving Me (You’ll See the Change).” WK That session also produced Don’t Cry No More with a faster rhythm, and the Joe Medwick-penned I Pity the Fool. WK

The new songs were done at Universal Studio with “a tight, well-rehearsed, bombastic, blues band.” WK Joe Scott, producer and arranger, crafted the “wailing horn arrangements that sounded as impassioned as Bland’s full-throated, anguished vocals.” STE These songs “form the core of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s legend and the foundation of soul-blues.” STE They “blur the division between Ray Charles soul and Chess blues, opening the doors for numerous soul and blues sounds, from Muscle Shoals and Stax through the modern-day soul-bluesman.” STE

Mojo’s Geoff Brown said: “No song is wasted and hardly a note sounds false as Bland's blues-wearied voice, driven to anguished screams, grapples with the vicissitudes of life and love, his torment echoed and bolstered by Joe Scott’s memorable horn arrangements.” WK

“Since this, like many blues albums from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, was a collection of singles, it’s possible to find the key tracks, even the entire album, on the numerous Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland collections released over the years, but this remains an excellent, essential blues album on its own terms – one of the greatest ever released.” STE

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