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Billy Joel - My Lives (Boxset) Review
By Kevin Wierzbicki

Lately Joel has been the butt of many jokes thanks to his fondness for alcohol and his inability to keep his car on the road after tippling. Back when he was married to Christie Brinkley all the chatter was about the uptown girl. Before, in between and after the gossip, the man just happened to produce an incredible, diverse body of work that has become so much a part of the American psyche that this set could rightfully call itself Our Lives. Personally overseen by Joel, My Lives is a deluxe box set containing 4 CDs and one DVD of music.

Disc one starts out with three songs from Joel's early group the Lost Souls including the Byrds-influenced "Time and Time Again." Joel's vocals are unrecognizable but it is interesting to hear where he came from. Two songs by the Hassles are included and they show Joel's songwriting and vocal styles developing into what would soon become very familiar. "Amplifier Fire" from Attila is a jazzy bit of psychedelia that shows off Joel's organ playing and wraps up the pre-stardom material on this collection. The rest of disc one consists of mostly previously unreleased demos of songs like "New Mexico," "Miami 2017," "Piano Man" and "These Rhinestone Days."

Discs 2 through 4 offer lots of biggies and plenty more like a live version of "Captain Jack," "Baby Grand" sung with Ray Charles and an alternate version of "Getting Closer" featuring Steve Winwood on the Hammond organ. Joel's version of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" from the All Star Tribute to Brian Wilson is a highlight as are numerous other covers like "All Shook Up," "A Hard Day's Night" and a take on Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." Those three discs alone contain nearly 50 songs and close out with live versions of "Los Angelenos," "New York State of Mind" and the three part classical instrumental rave-up, "Opus 1. Soliloquy (On a Separation)," "Opus 8. Suite for Piano (Star-Crossed)" and "Elegy: The Great Peconic."

The fifth disc is a DVD shot at a stop in Frankfurt, Germany on the River of Dreams tour. The set is 14 songs deep and peppered with hits like "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Allentown," "Pressure," "Big Shot" and this package's name sake, "My Life." Two bonus tracks are tacked on at the end of the DVD in UMIXIT versions, "Zanzibar" and "I Go to Extremes," meaning that listeners can use their computer to remix the tracks. This outstanding package comes with a comprehensive booklet listing all the personnel on each song, an essay by Rolling Stone Magazine's Anthony DeCurtis, reproductions of concert posters and lots of photos.

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