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12 Gardens Live

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Editors’ Notes

Having "retired" from the music industry, Billy Joel still pops his head up from time to time to play when he feels the spirit move him. His record 12 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden were a career highlight. Joel was relaxed and in control, having lowered the keys of many songs to better fit his deepening voice. This excellent live summation of his career is powerful; Joel plays favorites from his entire career, including many album cuts. Even the cynicism of "Everybody Loves You Now" comes across with affection, while "Angry Young Man" sounds more wistful than a statement of purpose. Joel appears to be accepting the applause after years of beating himself up, and this love extends to his performances. "Piano Man" still has life. "The Downeaster 'Alexa'," "River of Dreams," and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" resonate with years of wisdom. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" brings everyone to their feet. It's arguably his finest live album. This iTunes edition of the album features two exclusive cuts: "Stiletto" and "Honesty."

Customer Reviews

Great CD But it does not Represent Billy Live (Read On)

The CD is a fair representation of Billy's career spanning from the earliest and later hits to some lesser preformed material that Joel obviously feels close to. Having been to two of these shows during the now named "12 Gardens Tour", I have to tell you that while this is great CD of Billy Live it is not a great representation of this tour. Read on for the good, the bad and why the iTunes version is superior to the store bought copy. You have to understand that Billy is Long Island. He is the local boy that made it. On top of that by staying here on Long Island he knows what he is talking about. This IS home to him. You know that when he mentions something about an odd area of Long Island that its not a line fed to him and something that he speaks of through experience. That is what made the 12 Gardens Tour special. Unfortunately this is what was cut out of the album. The CD opens up with "Angry Young Man" which was simply an amazement as video showed how talanted a pianist Joel is pounding away at the keys electrifying the crowd into a frenzy to get each show started. The songs in this show are top notch. However it does have its flaws. Billy once tried his hands at comedy and he obviously felt comfortable with the MSG New York crowd making comments about his car insurance being paid off by the 7th show and the like. He talks to the crowd and even at the Garden it felt like a small intimate venue. By editing out all of these things it almost cheapens what was a phenomenal tour. I bought this CD as soon as it was released after midnight on iTunes when I realized you get two extra songs through iTunes. (I wanted something to listen to on the way to work today) ITunes gives you a 34 track set while the store bought version has 32 tracks (2 are "hidden"). I purchased both iTunes and store bought so I could keep it on my shelf. I took my parents to the sixth show on the tour in February. After posting on the Billy Joel forum a taper replied and sent me a copy of that show. My parents actually prefer the "unauthorized" copy of the show I took them to "in a way" over the official compilation. Maybe it is the nostalgia but it gives you the taste of being there and the real experience. The trade off is that the quality is obviously arena like. The official compilation of live songs culled from the tour is a polished live version of some of Billy's Greatest. If that is what you are looking for then you have found the Billy Joel live set to play this summer while flipping burgers. However by not including Billy's comments about his songs and growing up the Island... something is lost and that is why for the New Yorker or the Joel fan this CD is not get that perfect score.

Dear Mr. Joel: a plea from a true fan.

There appears to be two camps: the passionate Billy fans who know every track on every CD in order from "Cold Spring Harbor" to the present (along with a slew of still unreleased tracks that didn't make "My Lives"), to the casual and/or new fans. In general, the passionate fans seem disappointed to varying degrees, while the new fans are blissful. These passionate fans are not "hateful" at all; again, just disappointed. Despite what the "official" review reads, there is no getting around the idea that this another live album that sounds very much like his last one (if you don't agree, compare the conviction of his vocals in 2000s "Angry Young Man" compared to 2006's - even the challenging piano licks were left out in the recent one). While the band sounds even tighter (even Richie Cannata is back), it certainly does not exude anything resembling passion. Some tracks are certainly better than others, of course ("Keeping the Faith" features a horns and keyboard arrangement that makes you jump out of your chair, but again, it's the band). Billy himself previously admitted in an interview that he grows so bored of performing the same songs over again, that while playing the "classics" like "Just the Way You Are," he admitted he's singing "Don't go changing to try to please me," while thinking something along the lines of "I wonder if the hotel has a nice ham sandwich. No, no, turkey ... A turkey sandwich would really hit the spot." ... How could he not feel this way? It's this strange gilded curse that superstars must face. The fans want to hear the "old songs" ... again ... again ... and, again. Billy does a poorer job on this newest release of hiding that lack of passion, but it's not his fault. How does one get passionate over a song one has performed literally thousands and thousands of times? Back in the `80s, Billy lamented how, when artists got older (or died), the record company would release "lost" material as new stuff. He warned his fans that if that ever happened with him, "Don't buy it." He said, "there's a reason the stuff was unreleased in the first place." Flash forward twenty years, and there's "My Lives." He also said he would never put out an album without giving the fan something "new." He said he couldn't put out an album that featured just "used cars." Flash forward to every release barring "Fantasies and Delusions" since 1997. Finally, he was never supportive of the schemes some record companies used with their artists. RCAs marketing of Elvis Presley is a great example: if you wanted the fresh single, "Burning Love" in 1972, you had to pay full price to get it and suffer through an album with "Burning Love" surrounded by throwaway movie tracks from ten years earlier. Flash forward to iTunes: if you want that great unreleased track, "Reverend Ike" on "My Lives," you have re-purchase the WHOLE album for 40-odd bucks. In a democracy, you can still love something, but you can also still criticize it when you see it is selling itself out. With Billy going back on all his previous convictions, we've reached a point where all that could remain to drive the point home is "I Go To Extremes" as a song selling radiator fluid for Pennzoil. What is also missing (as mentioned in another review) is the personal banter on this new album. Although we intellectually know better, the live concert plays with no almost no dialogue, leading some misguided person to believe he's some stuck-up jerk, or afraid of his audience. What a shame, when the truth is the guy could make a living as a public speaker alone! Yet, one more move in the overall scheme to create a void between Billy and his audience. No personal banter on "Twelve Gardens," no personal notes on "My Lives," etc. Real fans love this stuff. Remember just the little things that were fun to read in the "Songs in the Attic" liner notes? Regarding "Everybody Loves You Now," he wrote, "Not everyone loved her. I just thought they did." Those little touches shouldn't be underrated. "Official" reviews like the one listed on this site certainly don't help, as well. It deludes the listener into believing a certain passion is truly there in this recording, while again pushing this stereotype that somehow the material from 1971 - 1983 is the classic period (anyone who lived during this time remembers how everyone knocked "Glass Houses," "The Nylon Curtain," and "An Innocent Man," when they came out as not being "classic" Billy - and, boy, they were right that each album was so different - that's what made it exciting). Now, this reviewer speaks of the Classic Billy Period 1977-1983 as if it really is some tangible historic period. What are we in now? The Post-Modernistic Joel Era? How stupid, when Billy himself has mentioned many times that "Storm Front" is truly one of his favorite albums to play? This constant talk about a classic period where somehow "Sleeping With the Television On" is a better song than "Two Thousand Years" must help to let the artist feel - on some level - "what's the point of writing anything new? No one will want to hear it." Well, Billy, we real fans DO want to hear it: the same passionate fans who are mislabeled "haters" here. We know we can not get the thrill of holding a new Billy record the size of our torsos in our hands again, and we know we must play by the new cyber rules of buying albums with no artwork via iTunes to get the tracks we want, but, for God's sake, give us greedy little fans something new - a little classical ditty you wrote in the can; anything. But, God, please save us from any future rehashings of the "classic" period of which both you and I have grown so tired.

Welcome to the new sale scheme...

I just bought a copy of this album in an actual store (So I could play it in my car stereo as well) and I learn that the iTunes has two MORE songs the CD does not! Worse, they are only available for the full album price!...I go to the Billy Joel website, and they feature two bonus downloads if you buy a CD from them...guess what...two DIFFERENT songs! So the count is up to four additional tracks for those that buy from only the correct seller....or, if you want them all...you can buy many copies from many different sources.....yea sony....way to please your customer...if you could only have included that spyware virus on the CDs as well....

Biography

Born: May 9, 1949 in Bronx, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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. Joel's music consistently demonstrates an affection for Beatlesque hooks and a flair for Tin Pan Alley and Broadway melodies. His fusion of two distinct eras made him a superstar...
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