Billy Joel

The Ultimate Collection

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Forget for a moment that this double-disc, 36-track collection isn't presented in strict chronological order -- it does roughly divide into two parts, with the pre- Innocent Man material largely taking up disc one and the post-Innocent Man selections on disc two (yes, there are some exceptions to the rule, but it generally follows this rule). Forget that there are some singles, radio hits, and fan favorites that should have been included, such as "Pressure," "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," and "Angry Young Man." Even with these flaws, this Australian-only collection provides the best summary of Billy Joel's best material to date, trumping the original Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2 and edging out the similar 2001 U.S. release, The Essential Billy Joel. The reason for this is that it does include such early highpoints as "You're My Home," "Everybody Loves You Now," and "Streetlife Serenader," while de-emphasizing his last two subpar pop albums, Storm Front and River of Dreams, and just concentrating him at his best as a pop craftsman and recordmaker. Yes, some absent songs should be here, but only a handful shouldn't be here (maybe just "All About Soul (remix)," actually), and it's a highly entertaining listen that certainly spotlights Billy Joel at his best. Maybe not an Ultimate Collection, but pretty damn terrific all the same.

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