BILLY JOEL: Loathed and Loathed In Equal Measure…His Hits In Spite

26th October 2017

Title: Greatest Hits

Label: Mobile Fidelity

I’ve always been confused by Billy Joel. Actually, not Joel himself but the critics’ relationship with him. One of the most popular singer-songwriters in the the late 70s and early 80s, Joel has been a popular target of derision from many elements of the media. They accuse him or producing “muzak”, say that his work is “insipid”, “superficial”, “bland” and exudes “unearned contempt”. The sort of vitriol that only Phil Collins normally attracts. It bemuses me. Joel’s work is full of sometimes excellent, sometimes good and, yes, sometimes average work but many other artists of long standing have the same issues: Paul McCartney, Elton John…you name them.

What we have here, for those who actually like the guy, are two albums Greatest Hits Volume I and Volume II, squeezed onto three slabs of vinyl and placed into a sturdy box. The original volumes have been the subject to some criticism in audiophile terms, being accused of sounding rather lifeless. Mobile Fidelity has been allowed access to the original master tapes to, in effect, start again, resulting in this limited-edition release containing almost all of Joel’s peak-era chart hits from 1973 to 1985, as well as a selection of album favourites.

As for mastering, the sound quality is a tad warm and I thought that dynamics were just a bit constricted, I wanted the music to really let loose but, on the whole, the sonics remain very attractive. The music actually encourages you to increase the volume, which is exactly what I did but four notches on my pre-amp, allowing Joel to belt out his music and for the detail to spring to life.

There’s no smearing or bloom and the balance, especially in how the vocal sits alongside the piano and background music, is judged well. As for Joel? I like his work. Aren’t there more deserving targets?