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When I was given this album as a way of inspiration it was at a time when I just didn't want to touch the piano never mind play it again. I guess in a musician's life there comes a time when enough is enough and its time to hang up your hat. But I have never got to that point in my life and after a couple of listens to this album, even though it was a gift, I realised what my friend was saying at the time.
Although this album has been on sale launched three years ago, I have seen it from time to time in record shops but it is not always available. The price at launch was £14-48 although nowadays you can buy this album online from £5-99 upwards which in my mind is an incredible bargain. Amazon however has it on sale, still at the original price although you can check EBay and Fopp Records for price discounts.
The Piano and The Song is a compilation album of what could loosely be termed as a greatest hits package of all the long time hits of songs, rock, pop, light jazz here and there which feature the piano in some format, but as I have realised over the years it is not a means to an end. It is however worthy if you like the sound of the piano in popular music. **This may turn into a long review but I shall try and limit myself! **
** Track listings **
1. The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby and the Range
I've always loved this song, even though at heart Bruce Hornsby's clear and distinctive piano playing quality has always set into the light jazz era rather than his band's rock coalition. Here however you'll more than likely know the song because of the famous piano lick, spiralling down the keys as he plays the song out about a life story. It is however not a proper piano but a digital piano which plays out in the song but to the ears of a fan, it is a great opener to a well packed album.
2. Lonely Boy - Andrew Gold
3. Ride Like The Wind - Christopher Cross
Just from the moment when this song starts (sound of wind) the drum slaps, the use of synthesizers and jarring chords with a drum beat and accompaniment which so could have come from the Lionel Ritchie stable, "Ride Like The Wind," gets you started whether its driving or just pricks up your ears. Highlights include the Pearl Dean like cinema vocal chorus but the piano doesn't do much but play out the chords which sit uneasily in a so called package of greatest hits of piano inspired and infiltrated songs.
4. Piano Man - Billy Joel
If you're going to put a greatest hits album together which features piano it should include Billy Joel and Elton John. Using a fast waltz as its rhythmic backing you can't help but fall in love with this ember torch song which has lit the hearts of many - and if you don't know it - shame on you!
5. Rocket Man - Elton John
As an avid fan of Kate Bush, the original song is just as good if not different. The problem with Sir E John is that he is such a wonderful pianist that it is difficult to pick out the best song which features the clearest example of piano/keyboard filled music. This is a good example, a slow song in retrograde to the fast pace of Billy Joel's Piano Man and as with the original, plenty of strumming clear and twinkling acoustic guitars - just like the stars which surround the Rocket Man.
6. Reason To Believe - Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart is no stranger to including piano in his songs and this is a good song to pick out of the hoards which are available (and thankfully there is another favourite song of mine on the second disc of this album.) Here however it serves as a good march style, yet another style against what has been heard already and less of the rock feel which in some way the first couple of songs has already imparted. I adore the Hammond organ and solo fiddle in this song too but the best is definitely the fatherly fuzz of Rod's voice.
Perhaps the only reason however which this song has been included is the main bridge of the song which leaves the listener in silence other than the piano tinkling along and of which other instruments join back in to fold into the song.
7. Dreamer - Supertramp
I'm ashamed to confess that this is the only song I have appreciated by this band. Not just because it uses an electric piano, constantly reverberating and working through chords in a tremolo kind of a fashion, but the constant adding of instruments to add spice to the lyrics. At times if it was possible without the bass line and electric piano, the band could sing unaccompanied, a Capella. But this is not the point. Often played around Christmas because of its tiny chime bars throughout the songs played at times, it's a strange but wonderful song which literally unravels. Some of the vocals you could swear is the voice of Freddie Mercury...but it isn't.
8. While You See A Chance - Steve Winwood
Once upon a time there was a keyboard fantasist called Steve Winwood who had a massive hit with his keyboard fuelled "Valerie." Well, here it is again, similar in drum beat machines, similar brass sounding elements and the high dry voice of Winwood who is unashamedly using similar elements of his major hit. However it does include a piano but I just wish "Valerie" had been put on instead. If Supertramp can get away with an electric piano, "Valerie" would have passed by with the excuse of electric keyboard piano instruments as its justification. This song however is a bit poor not just from the way the bass line moves up and down like a disco style but doesn't really work for all that it has been included here.
9. Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne
Were they ever influenced by Fleetwood Mac? There is certainly a lot of fast blues in this song and a Christine McVie inspired piano accompaniment but that's all there is. A poor choice here and possibly an obvious filler type song.
10. Have A Little Faith In Me - John Hiatt
I've always loved this song even if the song relies on piano accompaniment and nothing else. A great love wish is all that you need to know from the lyrics and yes it is a proper piano which is playing.
11. What A Fool Believes - The Doobie Brothers
Covered expertly by M People and included on their Greatest Hits package, you'll soon realise why they decided to cover it. Heather Small's voice is pretty similar to the lead singer of The Doobie Brothers. Whilst it offers up a neo 1970/1980 campy sea saw feeling, it is a great song with a good piano lick, but again it has been included here because of the piano's accompaniment - no solo lines lift it upwards.
12. Baby Come Back - Player
Well The Stylistics would have loved this song as the idea is similar in the way the song starts, even if the male voices are lower. However the piano here is so subdued it is difficult to justify its use here on this album although it is a great song.
13. Who's Cryin Now - Journey
Journey was a good band even if this song uses the piano as its main accompaniment against the usual rock band sounds. But that's all you get here; no stylistic lines other than the piano playing out on a limb at times to move this slow ballad along.
14. Walking In Memphis - Marc Cohn
At last! A perfect song which shows off the piano properly even though it is somewhat drowned out in Cher's version. Here Cohn's version could well play alongside Bruce Hornsby in the way it has been recorded. Good foot tapping ensures that this song wins against others here in terms of its justification here.
15. My Brother Jake - Free
Well they could have included Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," because this is exactly what this song sounds like even clearly it has different lyrical content. A good jazzy element here lifts the album and steers it along from different styles of piano available - but again it doesn't feature a heavy piano solo - which is what could be needed here.
16. Morning Has Broken - Cat Stevens
I don't like this song for the simple reason that we had to sing it all the time at Primary school but it has plenty of piano, plenty of classical elements weaving through it, even if at times it moves in and out of Stevens' folk inspired accompaniment. As such it deserves a spot here on this album.
17. Head Over Heels - Tears For Fears
There are better songs from the 1980's which feature piano here although TFF are a great band, I'm surprised ABC didn't get on this list. The use of piano in this song doesn't do much to lift the gloss and interest from Cat Stevens' previous number though.
18. Giving It All Away - Roger Daltrey
A sea saw like piano accompaniment similar to "Hey Jude" by The Beatles has little weight in a song which is full of hurt by the great Daltrey and the recording on this album includes electrified strings which sound a bit daft, frankly against the analogue sound of the studio piano.
** Disc 2: **
1. Private Investigations - Dire Straits
I've always loved this song, not just because of its beautiful acoustic guitar solo at the start but the classical moving of the piano as it moves throughout the song. If nothing it adds forbidden sorry to the second part of this album, perhaps designed to get away from the positive feeling heard (for the most part anyway,) on the first disc. What a shame though that the lead singer feels he has to speak most of the vocal parts, but there is plenty of orchestral effects in this song which will surely heighten the hairs on your neck - sadly though the end of the song includes an elaborate and repeated voice between acoustic guitar and vibraphone, electric guitar soon tears away the sorrow building into a faster style with the piano's hall mark chords breaking the harshness. It's the retrograde of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."
2. Tiny Dancer - Elton John
With a similar start to "Daniel," this song isn't one which I would pick as being another of Sir E John's greatest piano inspired songs. But then again so many compilations have had the latter song; this track adds some new interest even if it is reasonably quick despite its country western sounding electric guitar. I'd have still wished for "Daniel" though for all that this is very similar.
3. Handbags and the Glad rags - Rod Stewart
If there is one song which uses the natural fluidity of blues piano, then this is the song. I've always loved this song because of the piano content as well as Rod's strong voice wrapping itself in and out of the rest of the instrumentals. Just like Bruce Hornsby's song, "The Way It Is," you remember the famous piano lick as it starts the song and its there right until the end.
4. You Do Something To Me - Paul Weller
A great rock ballad which has piano as its accompaniment but its not startling - if anything, all the other instrumentals have been lifted against the fantastic impeachable quality of Weller's voice.
5. I Don't Believe In Miracles - Colin Blunstone
I don't believe in Miracles either - could well be another filler.
6. Uptown Uptempo Woman - Randy Edelman
Known for its ostinato (repeated) piano accompaniment, this song is a beautiful song which has a message of irony for lovers between different classes of residence. However I like the piano part, which often reminds me of The Carpenters. Edelman has a voice similar to Billy Joel but there's nothing wrong with that. This is one of my favourite songs on the album even though it is a sad song; the combination of orchestral strings and harp glint in and out of a song which has been written, possibly out of a true situation.
7. Escape (The Pina Colada Song) - Rupert Holmes
A good upbeat song but has nothing of interest in the piano part other than the fact that it is there.
8. Everyday Hurts - Sad Cafe
Another upbeat song which uses the element of surprise but sadly the lack of actual solo content doesn't lift the piano other than for accompaniment levels. Quite strange that it should be included here infact.
9. Werewolves Of London - Warren Zevon
Quite a famous piano lick which you'll get incessantly and played out like an Ostinato; infact the piano just doesn't ever change from its chord progression throughout. Just about justified!
10. Rosana - Toto
Ah the wonder of Toto and this is one song which I wish the band had made more of the piano even for the most part it plays out the sounds of the accompaniment and chords. The piano really lifts this song along even though at times Toto's main vocalist can be too high. However the gloss of this track is the brother like middle vocals against the full electric guitar and brass which turns this song into a good funk sound if it wasn't for the middle part including tacky synthesizers which sadly date the song.
11. Can't Fight This Feeling Any More - REO Speedwagon
I'm not a fan of this song having had to sample it more on one occasion on other compilation albums but it works well here even if it takes some time for the song to unravel itself. The sound of the piano however only becomes apparent for its accompanying role which is a great pity.
12. All Out Of Love - Air Supply
Sadly this song suffers from the same problem from the latter song - but it is a superb song to listen to and I am so glad that it has been put on this because of its slow ballad and great accompaniment. The quality of emotion is so obvious in this song even if the vocals in the middle bridge don't offer the same rawness as the verses do.
13. Without You - Nilsson
Guaranteed to push you over the edge in its original content, this song is still untouchable even if Mariah Carey did a good take on it a couple of years back. The use of piano plays a sorrowful path even if it bangs out chords for the most part.
14. Kiss On My List - Hall & Oats
Perhaps a bit out of step with this Pops inspired song, the piano here is really obvious in its content and use, but it's a shame that I have never likened this song because of its place just a couple of inches towards the end. However there are better songs in the Hall & Oats discography; this is not one of them despite the positive vibe.
15. Steppin Out - Joe Jackson
A classic song which needs no comment from me.
16. Delta Lady - Joe Cocker
Thank god they put some Cocker on this album! And what a song to choose; full of hard blues and great instrumentals, you won't suffer from hearing the piano here even though Cocker really goes to town with the vocals - as he always does - in this bluesy number but like most of the songs on here towards the end of the album there isn't a lot of pianistic gloss.
17. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
Having been weaned on some of the music of this pair, the piano is so obvious in this song but it is so slow and laborious it is not difficult to get dragged down with it. However it is a classic ballad and one that shouldn't be discounted.
18. Music - John Miles
Another slow weepy with soft tones from the piano...well for at least 50 seconds before one of the most famous guitar chord arrangements blast in from the middle of nowhere. One wonders why it has been put on this album, even if it has shades of T-Rex/Marc Bolan. Infact the whole reason this song has been put on is perhaps the mix of speeds, mix of styles and mix of instrumentals - even though piano is used as a solo instrument, it doesn't put itself out too much - which yet again is a great pity in this fusion of mixed emotion.
Just as the cover shows, the discs emulate the same colours; Disc 1 being a silver disc, and Disc 2 being coloured in black as a way of contrast. As far as designs go, it is a classy looking 2 CD complilation but it does not feature any pictures from any of the artists or bands featured other than the front and back of the album - the inlay only provides a track listings of each CD. As my copy was a gift I'd say that this is a serious omission given the original price of this album.
In the hands of a professional musician, this album doesn't carry the message of all time great piano inspired tracks completely but it doesn't do a bad job of including some well loved ballads and soul songs. However the producers of this album have included songs which sit at odds with what is supposed to be songs which feature piano as a major instrument or influenced and inspired by the use of the piano within the structure at the time of writing by artists and bands. It is not a means to an end this album, but it is a good start. Most of the time there is good continuity until you get to a song which should really have stayed on soft rock compilations rather than on an album like this.
What would have made this album better then? More blues numbers, a more concise look at other songs by the same artists here which pushes the piano into the mainframe and still holds a familiarity than some of the songs listed here. What surprises me the most however is that bands such as The Carpenters have not been included as well as later bands from the 1990's, not to mention John Lennon's venerable "Imagine." Thus this album predates itself very early on, but for some people this is no bad thing. There are very few albums out there that manage to take up beat and slow ballads, well known songs and some melting moments from other songs and put it on one double album. Luckily this is one album worthy of so many different styles. And if you're a fan of the piano in general, this is one album designed to impress. Many thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008.
"The Piano & The Song" 2CD
Year launched: 2003
Current price; Amazon: £14-48 new, £0.90 used and upwards.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby And The Range
2 Lonely Boy - Andrew Gold
3 Ride Like The Wind - Chris Cross
4 Piano Man - Billy Joel
5 Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time) - Elton John
6 Reason To Believe - Rod Stewart
7 Dreamer - Supertramp
8 While You See A Chance - Steve Winwood
9 Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne
10 Have A Little Faith In Me - John Hiatt
11 What A Fool Believes - The Doobie Brothers
12 Baby Come Back - Player
13 Who's Crying Now - Journey
14 Walking In Memphis - Marc Cohn
15 My Brother Jake - Free
16 Morning Has Broken - Cat Stevens
17 Head Over Heels - Tears For Fears
18 Giving It All Away - Roger Daltrey
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Private Investigations - Dire Straits
2 Tiny Dancer - Elton John
3 Handbags & Gladrags - Rod Stewart
4 You Do Something To Me - Paul Weller
5 I Don't Believe In Miracles - Colin Blunstone
6 Uptown Uptempo Woman - Randy Edelman
7 Escape (The Pina Colada Song) - Rupert Holmes
8 Every Day Hurts - Sad Cafe
9 Werewolves Of London - Warren Zevon
10 Rosanna - Toto
11 Can't Fight This Feeling - REO Speedwagon
12 All Out Of Love - Air Supply
13 Without You - Nilsson
14 Kiss On My List - Daryl Hall, John Oates
15 Steppin' Out - Joe Jackson
16 Delta Lady - Joe Cocker
17 Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
18 Music - John Miles