Friday, March 21, 2014

Billy Joel 13: Kohuept

After The Bridge, Billy Joel was about as American as apple pie, blue jeans and baseball. Somehow he took his tour to post-glasnost Soviet Union, which his label commemorated with a live album, a two-record set short enough to fit on one CD. (Technically, the album’s title is Kontsert, which is phonetic Russian, but we boorish Americans have no respect for other cultures, so to us, the Russian alphabet appeared to spell Kohuept, which was easy to ridicule as Kaput. And of course, the cover was bright red.)
The set opens with a Russian folk song sung a cappella, before plowing through “Angry Young Man”. “Honesty” is played solo, sounding very much like the classical piece it began as. Billy came to build bridges and educate, so he offers a lengthy explanation before “Goodnight Saigon”, made lengthier by the translator. “Stiletto” makes a surprising appearance, being more of a deep cut than even a radio hit. A bigger band fleshes out the jazz sentiments of “Big Man On Mulberry Street”, but his Ray Charles impression on “Baby Grand” comes out more parody than homage. Similarly, on “An Innocent Man” he apes the growls of Ben E. King while ceding the high notes to a backup singer.
From there it’s pretty much all hits, until the obligatory cover of “Back In The U.S.S.R.” He does strap on an inaudible guitar for “A Matter Of Trust”, and ends the show with a solo acoustic version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. By then he sounds exhausted.
The album was recorded at the end of a long tour, and his voice isn’t always up to the task. But for a long time, this was the only official souvenir of his longtime band playing the big hits, Songs In The Attic being a live album with a twist. Many years later, in the era of the deluxe package, the album was expanded, with a new title, and now runs the equivalent of a full show. The first half now sounds completely different with the addition of “Ballad Of Billy The Kid” (completely with an introductory explanation that includes the theme from The Magnificent Seven), “She’s Always A Woman” and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”. A snippet of the doo-wop chestnut “What’s Your Name” precedes “The Longest Time”. More hits a scattered throughout the second half, and the disc closes with rehearsal recordings.
Since he seemingly stopped writing songs, the only “new” Billy Joel albums have been of the live variety. This upgrade is arguably more entertaining, as it comes from the height of his career, rather than the motions of the oldies circuit. Liberty DeVitto was his best drummer anyway.

Billy Joel КОНЦЕРТ (1987)—3
2014 A Matter Of Trust: The Bridge To Russia: same as 1987, plus 11 extra tracks

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