Billy Joel-The Ultimate Collection (2001)
Main Menu Introduction
Discography-with audio samples
|Year Of Production||2001|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (2304Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
You may remember from my review early last year of Billy Joel-Live At Yankee Stadium that Billy Joel is my all-time favourite artist. When this disc came up for review I didn't even have to raise my hand. Since I'm such a huge fan, it just automatically found its way to me. Now, sitting down to do a review of something with which you are unfamiliar or do not really like all that much can be a difficult and tedious task. On the other hand, when something arrives for review that you absolutely love, it isn't even really a chore, it actually quite good fun.
So, in saying that, this disc would have to have been the easiest that I have ever had to review. I can sit down and listen to these songs over and over many times. I have been a big Billy Joel fan since 1977 when I first heard songs from 'The Stranger', and since then have collected all his album releases on a myriad of formats. I have also got several VHS tapes of both concerts and videos that have seen many repeat viewings - most to the point where they are no longer watchable.
Ever since I purchased the first Billy Joel release to appear on DVD, Greatest Hits Volume III (why they started at number 3 is anybody's guess), I have waited for a more comprehensive disc showcasing Billy's earlier work. This disc appears to have ended my wait. We get a grand total of 26 videos spanning all of Billy's career from the early songs such as Everybody Loves You Now and Piano Man, some of the huge hits from the late 70s and early 80s such as My Life, Honesty, and Uptown Girl, through to his songs from the 90s such as All About Soul and The River Of Dreams. There are even some previously unreleased videos for James and a live version of Leave a Tender Moment Alone. All in all, this is a pretty fine package of songs that gives a good indication of just how long Billy Joel has been making fine music.
My only gripe is that for the videos of Piano Man and New York State Of Mind, we get the versions from the Live At Yankee Stadium concert recorded in 1990 and not the original video clips.
|1. My Life|
2. It's Still Rock And Roll To Me
3. Piano Man (Live)
4. Everybody Loves You Now
5. New York State Of Mind (Live)
7. You May Be Right
8. Uptown Girl
9. Tell Her About It
10. The River Of Dreams
11. The Longest Time
12. We Didn't Start The Fire
13. Goodnight Saigon (Live)
15. All For Leyna
16. Leave a Tender Moment Alone (Live)
17. A Matter Of Trust
18. Baby Grand
19. I Go To Extremes
21. The Downeaster 'Alexa'
22. You're Only Human (Second Wind)
23. All About Soul (Live)
24. She's Right On Time
All the videos are presented in full screen 1.33:1, except The River Of Dreams (1.66:1) and Allentown (1.50:1). None of them are 16x9 enhanced.
Now, we are talking about quite a range of ages for these videos. Early ones, such as Everybody Loves You Now, were recorded in black and white in the mid 70s and as such are quite soft and grainy. For the others, we get the full range of styles and colours - some vibrant, some dull. There are some sharp images, though softer images outnumber them considerably. Sharp is not really a word I'd use to describe any of the clips except maybe All About Soul (the most recent recording). The rest are all over ten years old and really are showing their age. The level of shadow detail never suffers on any of the videos, except during Honesty where Billy's face get a little lost in the gloom. Grain is present in most, some worse than others. It is about what I expected. I noticed no low level noise.
The colours are also not without their problems. There is some noticeable haloing during My Life and colour bleed on Billy's red jacket during It's Still Rock & Roll To Me. A red shirt in You're Only Human also suffers the same fate.
I noticed no MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts are rare. Given the softness of the image, this is not surprising. Video and film artefacts were numerous throughout almost all of the videos. My Life contains probably the most flecks and spots, and James suffers from some tape tracking noise throughout the whole clip.
All-in-all, I was a little disappointed with the quality of these clips, though I guess they are pretty much on par with what I was expecting and are a definite improvement over the VHS tapes I have been watching for several years.
There are no subtitles available on this disc.
This is a single sided, single layered disc.
While the video may be unremarkable and at many times showing its age, the audio tracks are quite a different story.
There are two tracks on this disc, these being a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a quite rare 48kHz 24 bit Linear PCM track encoded at the exceptionally high bitrate of 2304 Kb/s. I'd personally never encountered a PCM track such as this before so it was with eager anticipation that I slotted this into the player for quick whirl. Needless to say, I listened to both tracks in their entirety and then went back to some of my personal favourites and switched quickly between the two to gain a better feel for the differences.
When listening to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, I was instantly struck by the uniqueness of two of the songs. My Life and Honesty stood out from the rest for the different way that the 5.1 channels had been mixed. The reason for this difference was answered when reading the credits. These two tracks were mixed by a different engineer from all the others on the disc and he obviously was intent on creating something a little different with these. My Life is mixed with the main vocals only (absolutely nothing else) coming from the centre channel and all instruments and backing vocals from the mains and rears. Honesty is different again, with the centre channel reserved for a very, very faint vocal track and the front mains and rears doing all the work. The rest of the tracks are mixed a little more conservatively, though all feature rear channel use to varying degrees and a wide front soundstage.
The 24 bit PCM soundtrack was a bit intriguing. It is very good, but what differences there are between it and a normal 16 bit CD track are outside my hearing capabilities. I compared this track against my CD of the same songs are can really tell no difference. As I have had pointed out to me, if these songs were taken from the original 44.1kHz 16 bit master and upconverted to 48kHz / 24 bit then it will still sound the same. I think that is what has happened.
We really are getting the best of both worlds with these tracks. We can listen to the songs in a traditional PCM stereo mix, or for something a little different that really breathes new life into several of the songs (My Life is a real highlight) we can crank up the remixed 5.1 track.
The vocals are at all times clear and concise. There are no apparent audio sync issues.
Virtually all tracks received some form of surround use, some significantly more pronounced than others. Particular highlights were the rear use in My Life, Piano Man, Honesty, The Longest Time, All For Leyna, and All About Soul. The subwoofer has been nicely integrated into the overall sound mix and sees use throughout.
|Surround Channel Use|
Titles fly from the right and screen shots from the videos fly from the left, all accompanied by an instrumental version of Tell Her About It.
A comprehensive discography of both albums and videos that features every release put out by Billy Joel, including his most recent 2001 Music for Solo Piano Fantasies & Delusions. When each album is selected, the full track listing is displayed and a selected track from that album plays for approximately 20 seconds.
A chronological timeline/biography starting in 1949 (the year Billy was born), and continuing through to June 2001, detailing Billy's major achievements and album releases. Quite detailed with over ten pages of text on offer.
This is an interesting and somewhat difficult comparison, as this exact disc is not actually available in Region 1, even though our release is a multi-region disc. There is a title available in Region 1 called Billy Joel - The Essential Video Collection that was released around the same time as this one. My copy of this disc arrived just before Christmas, so I am able to make a direct comparison. It is similar in parts but different in others. The cover art is the first major difference. Ours features a far more recent picture of Billy with dark shades and beard. The Region 1 disc features a photo that looks like it was taken in the early 80s. Despite the cover photos being so strikingly different, the wording on the rear cover is almost exactly the same.
Apart from the packaging, the content is the other major difference between the two discs. The Region 4 disc has 25 videos, while the Region 1 offering contains 24 videos, and it's not a simple case of one video missing from the Region 1 disc.
The following videos are not featured on the Region 4 Disc;
Sometimes a Fantasy
The Night Is Still Young
Keeping the Faith
The following videos are not featured on the Region 1 Disc;
New York State Of Mind
The River Of Dreams
We Didn't Start The Fire
I Go To Extremes
The Downeaster 'Alexa'
All About Soul
The quality of the videos that are common to both discs are exactly the same, as are the audio tracks. All menus are also identical. There is no compelling reason to prefer one over the other, so I'll call it a draw of sorts. Those of you with only a passing interest in Billy Joel's music or who simply want a comprehensive sample of some of his hits should not look past the Region 4 title. Die-hard fans though, with the inclusion of six videos on Region 1 disc that are not on the Region 4, are well advised to pick up both.
For a long-time 'Piano Man' fan like myself this is simply a must-have disc. For those with only a passing interest in Billy's music you could do worse than give this a demo.
The video is pretty unremarkable and is what I expected given the nature and age of some of the source material, with numerous artefacts and excessive grain on many of the clips. The audio is quite a revelation. In particular, the mixing of a couple of the songs in Dolby Digital 5.1 offers a whole new way of listening to two of my all-time favourites.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|