Thursday, May 09, 2019

Glass Houses In Motion: Billy Joel 70

 We reconvene on the scene with two in a row, concerning birthdays of two wildly divergent, yet tremendously beloved, players.
Today we'll kick it off with a milestone trip around the sun for Long Island's finest, and one of Earth's all-time favorite songwriters.
He hasn't released a note of new pop or rock material in over 25 years, yet he sells out Madison Square Garden once a month forever.
Perhaps Rock's most obvious Tin Pan Alley descendant, his songs are 101% our era, yet somehow harken back to another time melodically.
I was reading that he's had 44 Top 40 hits in his career. That's a lotta hits.
He was born in 1949, so he's flipping the big 70 today. Yes, that's right.... Billy Joel is 70 years old. Christ, we're ancient.
How to mark the septuagenarianization of this icon of song, I beseech thee? Why, with another of my tasty little confections, of course.
When I was a teen, his Songs In the Attic LP -- that was the live record where he went back to tunes he made before he blew up in 1977 -- was my favorite one, and I've always wished he'd do a full-on box set with that whole tour.
Well, the record business says not to hold your breath on that one. But in lieu of what should be, we can have what is, which this week swells to include this little fabrication I've been working on for a few, based on the widely-circulated ROIO of the Attic outtakes from his 1980 Glass Houses tour.
To get the party happening, I pulled this out and tried to reinvent it, using just the songs not featured on Songs In the Attic to create a sort of companion volume to that LP. 
Some of the alleged outtakes in the commonly circulated archival collection aren't even outtakes at all, anyway... Summer, Highland Falls, for instance, is 100% identical to the version on the album, and Miami 2017 seems pasted together from two totally different and different sounding master tapes to not-all-that-impressive effect. 
So I decided to stick with the non-Attic tracks for this... forgive me in advance.
Anyway this was quite an effort, as these tunes all come from different shows and have markedly differing sonic characteristics between them on what, at the end of the day, is a wonderful but very hissy and suspect tape that is kinda all over the place literally and figuratively. Anyhow I removed the engineer guy talking before each song and remastered each track individually using Sound Forge 11, with a view towards making them sound a bit more of a piece. Then I used Audacity to crossfade the lot together into something reasonably cohesive and unFrankenstein-ish. 
For the running order I consulted setlists from this tour and did the best I could to construct something that is paced and flows like a real set. A whole bunch of dropouts and noises were repaired -- it's a pretty noisy, sometimes hot recording and there's only so much I could do to clean it up -- but some were left in, as changing them proved too intrusive on the music.
Someday there will be a full box set with this whole tour in pristine, 24-track mobile-unit quality, but until that indeterminate day we're just going to have to do with this. What the hell, it's either sadness or euphoria, so get it right the first time and enjoy, I say!
Billy Joel
Glass Houses In Motion
"Songs In the Attic" outtakes
US tour, summer 1980

01 You May Be Right
02 Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
03 Piano Man
04 Zanzibar
05 Stiletto
06 The Stranger
07 Don't Ask Me Why
08 Prelude/Angry Young Man
09 New York State of Mind
10 Sleeping with the Television On
11 It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me
12 Only the Good Die Young
13 Just the Way You Are
14 I'll Cry Instead
15 Sometimes a Fantasy
16 Big Shot incl. band introductions

Total time: 1:19:06
recorded in NYC, Washington DC, St. Paul MN, New Haven CT, Boston MA, Milwaukee WI, Philadelphia PA, and Chicago IL during June and July, 1980

Billy Joel - piano, keyboards, harmonica & vocals
Liberty DeVitto - drums & percussion
Doug Stegmeyer - bass
Russell Javors - guitars
David Brown - guitars
Richie Cannata - saxophones, flute, percussion & keyboards

EN remastered reimagining of the commonly circulating soundboard-sourced outtakes collection as a companion disc to "Songs In the Attic," with the songs that appear on the LP -- some of which are identical to the omitted outtakes here -- left out and the rest reconstructed, edited and arranged to simulate a concert experience
Of course this is not a perfect representation -- it's a bootleg page, folks -- but overall it's still a high-energy, fun document of BJ in his prime, before he married supermodels and went full Rock Star and so forth.
I shall return tomorrow with a very Irie Friday for you all, but don't be a Big Shot and do pull down this stellar 80 minutes of unissued Billy Joel to help observe his 70th birthday with the proper Honesty!--J.

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