The Romantic Side of Billy Joel: She's Got a Way: Love Songs

By , Contributor
Though it may be a bit hard to believe, it has been 20 years since Billy Joel released his last album of new pop material, River of Dreams. Besides his dabbling in classical music, fans have had to settle for the occasional archival release, live album, or deluxe reissue of previously available material to get their Joel fix. There have also been several compilations, including 2010’s skimpy, single-disc The Hits. Now we have She’s Got a Way: Love Songs, a collection of 18 tunes that all fall under the category named in the album title.

Obviously, if you already own every album Joel has released, you can stop reading and forget all about this disc. Strangely enough, it was already released in some countries back in 2010 as She’s Always a Woman: Love Songs (and what a rip-off, too—the same 18 tracks spread over two discs and twice as expensive). At any rate, there are some great songs here but you just can’t take the edge out of Joel entirely. Though once upon a time he was the critic’s whipping boy and one of the least-cool rock stars in the business, the years have been kind to Joel. Sure, there are still plenty who deride him as a lightweight. This compilation may only enforce that impression. He may never have been quite convincing as the “Angry Young Man” he once sang about, but he was pretty bitchy when he wanted to be.

So this is the wussier side of Joel, with pap like “Shameless” and “All About Soul” mixed in with genuinely effective stuff such as the title tune and “She’s Always a Woman.” I know some people classify perennial MOR favorites like “Just the Way You Are” as nothing but fluffy pleasantries, but I’ve always felt the songcraft was undeniable. I just want the edgier side of Joel to balance things out. “Honesty” is fine, but I want “Close to the Borderline” to go with it. “An Innocent Man” is a terrifically arranged hit with a soaring vocal, but I need the nastier “Laura” alongside it. So while I like most of the songs assembled on She’s Got a Way, it’s the basic concept I find too constrictive. If you’re Billy Joel beginner, start with a great album like The Stranger or Nylon Curtain instead of this (or any) compilation.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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