The Rowdy One

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Best of Billy Joel? I can't take it anymore ...

"Rock and roller cola wars ... I can't take it anymore."

In 1989, Billy Joel dramatically closed the hit song "We Didn't Start the Fire" with this bold cry. I have a passionate plea of my own: "Billy Joel greatest hits albums ... I can't take them any more."

With the release of "12 Gardens" -- a two-disc live greatest hits set -- Joel has now released 20 discs worth of "best of" material in either live or studio form in the U.S. since 1981.

Now, I like Billy Joel. I have all of his studio releases on CD, and I've seen him in concert 3 or 4 times over the years. But, geesh. 20 discs? If someone purchased them all -- plus the original studio version -- they'd own "Only The Good Die Young" eight times. It's a good song. But once.

I believe Joel now has topped Chicago's rabid penchant for releasing "hits" albums; Chicago must have at least 10 CDs with the jazzy little ditty "25 Or 6 To 4" on it. Whatever that song means. But I digress.

Two of Joel's 20 discs are a two-CD set titled "The Essential Billy Joel," released in 2001. I guess that makes the other 18 of 'em non-essential. That's good to know.

Billy, seriously. You haven't released a new studio disc in 13 years, and all but four of those 20 discs have flooded the shelves in that span. I'm voting with my pocketbook by steering clear of most of them, but what's next? One of those miserable discs where other artists mangle your best songs on a "greatest hits" -- a la the Led Zeppelin tribute "Enconium." It almost never happens that someone's cover of a song is better than the original. Just say no, Billy.

This greatest hits blitzkrieg brings another song from Billy Joel's 1989 "Stormfront" album to mind -- Shameless.

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