Various Artists

A Tribute to Billy Joel [Big Eye]

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I love this album. I also love McDonald's double cheeseburgers, Journey, Pam Anderson, Christopher Cross, Norm MacDonald's Dirty Work, Susan Ward, Freddy Got Fingered, Jamie-Lynn Sigler's singing, third-season Star Trek, Colin Hay, Guns N' Roses' epic videos, dancing Jar-Jar Binks toys, and really bad poetry, so that may qualify that statement. (I also adore Pavement, Sarah Polley, anything Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson do, Martin Amis, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, The Sopranos, Charles Willeford, and The Simpsons, but that list isn't quite as interesting is it?) The fact of the matter is, there's no separating my taste from my reaction to A Tribute to Billy Joel "performed by international recording stars, The Piano Men," because I love kitsch and popcraft, which are on abundant display here. First of all, Billy Joel's popcraft is so good, that it's apparent even on sub-sub-subpar covers like this. Second, I've never heard of the Piano Men, and it's my job to know bands (my guess -- they aren't really international recording stars, they're studio hacks recruited for this particular project), so this means this really is low-level, silly kitsch. Third, this is executed extremely poorly, adhering to the original arrangements but presented in sterile studio surroundings by singers that can hit the notes but miss the soul (to steal from my former officemate John Bush, the singer on "The Entertainer" sounds like he's inexplicably impersonating Gene Pitney). This all winds up as giddy camp thrill for the rare breed of pop fanatic who adores Billy Joel yet loves bad taste just as much -- I'm one of them, but there may not be many more than me. But if you do, by all means check this out -- you know the songs, and you know that these are going to be done wrong, but you have no idea how wrong these are going to be done, which is why this is such a thrilling listen for the handful of us out there.

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