Even as piano man Billy Joel looks toward a classical future, a double live album in May will celebrate his pop past.
2000 Years The Millennium Concert, culled from Joel's New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden in New York, will feature more than two hours of music, mixing greatest hits with rare personal favorites and an eclectic range of covers.
The album, due on Joel's 51st birthday, May 9, begins with a hint of what's ahead, with a rendition of "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony." From there, Joel delivers such hits as "My Life" (RealAudio excerpt of studio version ), "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" and "We Didn't Start the Fire" while sliding in an occasional cover, including the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music." The LP also includes his rendition of "Auld Lang Syne."
Joel led many to believe that he was retiring permanently from pop music when he announced plans to concentrate on classical composition but the move may not be as definitive as it sounded, the singer said last month.
"I've never said that I was done with pop music. All I said was that I'm changing my focus," Joel said. "I'm writing music like I always did, I'm just not putting words to it. Music is music." He added that such hits as "Uptown Girl" could be rearranged as classical pieces.
The New Year's Eve gig saw a tuxedo-clad Joel "put on a show that no one there could ever forget," according to one fan who attended. "He was on," Nancy Welch, 37, wrote in an email. "Getting it all on an album is a great treat, but I don't need a recording to refresh my memory despite all the cocktails."
The concert capped a year in which the singer/songwriter was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was honored with American Music Awards' Award of Merit. Joel also received the Diamond Award from the Recording Industry Association of America when shipments of his Greatest Hits Vol. I & II reached the 10 million mark in the U. S. Meanwhile, his worldwide album sales hit the 100 million mark last year, according to Columbia Records.
Joel broke onto the pop scene with his second album, Piano Man (1973), which featured the hit title track (RealAudio excerpt).
The full track listing for 2000 Years The Millennium Concert is: "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," "Big Shot," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "Summer Highland Falls," "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," "Don't Ask Me Why," "New York State of Mind," "I've Loved These Days," "My Life," "Allentown," "Prelude/Angry Young Man," "Only the Good Die Young," "I Go to Extremes," "Goodnight Saigon," "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Big Man on Mulberry Street," "2000 Years," "Auld Lang Syne," "River of Dreams," "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," "Dance to the Music," "Honky Tonk Women," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "You May Be Right" and "This Night."
(Staff Writer Brian Hiatt contributed to this report.)