ARTIST: Billy Joel
TITLE: Piano Man
YEAR RELEASED: 1973
CHART ACTION: #27 US, #98 UK
SINGLES: Piano Man (#25 US, #136 UK), Worse Comes to Worst (#80 US), Travelin’ Prayer (#77 US), The Ballad of Billy the Kid
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Captain Jack
LINEUP: Billy Joel and the cream of the LA session crop at the time (Ron Tutt, Wilton Felder, Larry Carlton, etc.)
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After his disaster of a first album (in Quick Hitters), Joel catches a few breaks and gets a new deal, and hits on his first try.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was a long couple of years for Billy Joel after his first album. Legal issues, tours, and a six month stint in LA grinding as a nightclub entertainer. But an appearance on WMMR, and at Mar Y Sol, got CBS interested and this album was the result after a couple of years of grinding it out.
The title track became the hit, and a few songs became standards, especially “Captain Jack”. After a rousing “Travelin’ Prayer”, and the hit, the album stalls out a bit, though the arrangements are varied. But the songs aren’t 100% all there until the end and “Captain Jack”.
Joel has a better backing band and production. Nothing is in the sad piano motif (for the most part), and it does what it meant to do – introduce Billy Joel to the public.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Joel played a set on WMMR that included the as-then-unrecorded “Captain Jack”, and that became a sensation in Philly, then New York, and then CBS got him.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, including the entire WMMR broadcast.
GRADE B: Joel throws a lot out there, stylistically, and some sticks.