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Kohuept looks at a changin' times as Joel goes to the USSR
Alex Diaz-Granados | Miami, FL United States | 11/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At the tail end of the Cold War, two years after Mikhail Gorbachev began to liberalize the Soviet Union with his "glasnost" (openness) and "perestroika" (restructuring), Billy Joel became one of the first (if not THE first) American pop-rock superstar to play a series of gigs in the Communist heartland. Kohuept (Russian for "in concert") is an over-70-minute album recorded live in Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) and, with the exception of "Odoya," (a Georgian choral piece), the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" and Bob Dylan's enigmatic (yet prophetic) "The Times They Are A Changin', " most of the 16 tracks are songs from such Joel albums as "52nd Street," "The Nylon Curtain," "An Innocent Man" and his then-current "The Bridge."In comparison to the Piano Man's studio albums, the sound has a less-polished yet more honest quality to it. For instance, in his tribute to his friends who fought in Vietnam, "Goodnight Saigon," his voice doesn't go into the high notes one hears when listening to the more "polished" version on his "Greatest Hits" compilation. His covers of Lennon-McCartney's "Back in the USSR" and Dylan's classic "Times Are A Changin' " are full of energy and enthusiasm...Joel even sounds like Dylan as he performs the song some have said embodies the spirit of the 1960s. Given Joel's fascination for history and listening to Konuept from a 21st Century perspective, it's almost as if Joel could sense that the changes that would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall two years later and the end of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 were, to borrow from another Dylan song, "blowin' in the wind.""
Kohuept Gets the Job Done - Good Live Collection
L.A. Scene | Indian Trail, NC USA | 03/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1981 Billy Joel had released his first live album of his career. This album was entitled "Songs From the Attic", but it actually served two purposes: 1) It was meant to be a live collection of songs; 2) The portfolio of songs on the collection was meant to be focused around "Old Billy Joel" songs from early in his career - songs that had almost been forgotten about - or not heard much by the average fan. So in reality, by 1987 with 11 studio albums under his belt - Billy Joel was overdue for a true live album that provided a better cross-section of his career. But once again Billy uses his live album to serve two purposes. In 1987, Billy made a historic tour of the Soviet Union (it was still rare to find Rock artists touring Russia. Thus, later in 1987 Billy would release "Kohuept" (Russian for "In Concert"). In addition to serving as a record of Billy's concert in Leningrad - it would also serve the purpose of providing a long awaited live album that would be a better cross-section of his career.
I look at Billy Joel's career as having three phases. The first phase is what I call "Old Billy Joel". This basically includes all of his material from "Cold Spring Harbor" through "Turnstiles". These are perhaps the strongest days as the piano sound, but they also contain most of Joel's least heard material. The next phase is what I call "Middle Billy Joel". This was his most successful period and covers from "The Stranger" to "Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volume 1 and 2". Joel would go through a transition during this phase - expanding his musical horizons and exploring different avenues. The final phase is the "Later Billy Joel" phase - this covers "The Bridge" to "River of Dreams". In this phase, Billy would start to incorporate some of his older styles of music while not abandoning his desire to continue to explore new avenues. With the exception of "Angry Young Man", most of "Kohuept"'s songs come from Phases 2 (lion's share of the tracks) and 3. The songs that come from Phase 3 include "The Bridge" ("Big Man on Mulberry Street", "Baby Grand", and "A Matter of Trust") since this was the album that Billy's tour was supporting. Since "Songs in the Attic" did justice to Phase 1, "Kohuept" compliments that album very nicely.
There are a total of 16 tracks. 14 tracks are Billy Joel tunes. There are also two covers that Billy performs: The Beatles' "Back in the USSR" and Bob Dylan's "The Times They are a Changin". Finally, there is an introduction called "Odoya" performed by "The Georgian Singers".
"Odoya", "Honesty", and "The Times They are a Changin" were not a part of the Leningrad concert. "Odoya" sets the stage very nicely setting the tone of the Soviet setting very nicely. I usually consider it a cardinal mistake when a live disc is taken as a compilation of live performances from several shows instead of from a single night. By having a compilation of live songs as opposed to a live concert, the flow is disrupted. You also don't get the opportunity to hear the CD as if it were the concert preventing you from getting the full experience. There is something magical about hearing a great performance on a single night. "Kohuept" means "In Concert" - and for the most part this disc provides Billy Joel's concert in Leningrad. If you didn't know it, you would think that "Odoya" and "Honesty" were a part of the concert ("The Times They are a Changin" definitely seemed like some external to the concert, but they save it to the end). I think if they had actually played Joel's Leningrad performance from start to finish - it would have even been better. Probably the best part of this collection is that Russian translations of Billy's spoken words that were broadcast to the audience are also included. This enhances the Soviet experience.
Billy's selections of songs are most interesting. Judging by the inclusion of songs like "Stiletto", "An Innocent Man", and "Big Man on Mulberry Street" - Billy did not feel pressured that he had to perform his "hits" to this audience. It is understandable that Billy included three songs from "The Bridge" in order to promote that album. I am puzzled why he played "Baby Grand" - this was a duet with Ray Charles and would have been better served being performed with him. Billy also picked songs that he felt he could relate to the Soviet audience with. I think he tried to show the "wild" side to the Soviet audience by playing "Only the Good Die Young" and "Sometimes a Fantasy". He appealed to the problems in the Soviet Union when before he starts "Allentown" he relates the plight of the Steel factories to the economic problems of the Soviet Union.
The top standout performances on this collection are "Goodnight Saigon", "Stiletto", "Sometimes a Fantasy", and "Uptown Girl". Billy's live performance of "A Matter of Trust" had some twists. I like how he starts the song and how the band picks up the tempo. There also is a very nice Rock edge to it and is a very good live song. Billy also does a great job with the two covers as well. While all of the performances are good, the collection does lose a little momentum with tracks 6 through 8 ("Big Man on Mulberry Street", "Baby Grand", and "An Innocent Man").
I personally would have liked to see more in the way of liner notes. I would have liked to have seen some write-up on the Soviet experience. There is a collage of pictures, but these pictures are very small and don't provide the feel of Billy's Soviet experience. Despite all of these quirks, this is still a very good live collection by Billy Joel - one that will keep old and new fans happy."
Songs In The Attic Volume 2
andy8047 | Nokomis,Florida | 08/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title of this album is the Russian translation of "in concert". Billy Joel was promoting THE BRIDGE while touring the U.S.S.R. where this album was recorded. This is a sequel to SONGS IN THE ATTIC. Four TURNSTILES tracks were on the first live set. On this set is ANGRY YOUNG MAN. It is so amazing how Billy can repeatedly strike that middle C on the piano so fast. ODOYA is the album's introduction sung a cappella by a male Russian choir. From 52ND STREET are STILETTO,BIG SHOT and HONESTY. On this album's version of HONESTY,the only thing heard besides Billy's voice is his piano,no drums or string emsemble like the studio version. From the NYLON CURTAIN are GOODNIGHT SAIGON and ALLENTOWN. Those two songs are storytelling. From AN INNOCENT MAN are the title track and UPTOWN GIRL. From THE STRANGER is ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG. From GLASS HOUSES is SOMETIMES A FANTASY. From THE BRIDGE are A MATTER OF TRUST,BIG MAN ON MULBERRY STREET and BABY GRAND minus Ray Charles. BACK IN THE U.S.S.R. was quite appropriate for this live set. That Lennon-McCartney composition was first recorded by the Beatles. Bob Dylan's THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN' ends the album. In that song,like HONESTY,it's only Billy voice and only one instrument,this one an acoustic guitar. A concert of this tour,but not this very concert was videotaped for broadcast on Cable TV's Home Box Office."