MOVIN’ OUT is the new Broadway play based on the music of Billy Joel. Noted choreographer Twyla Tharp has taken a couple dozen of Joel’s songs, arranged them to form some sort of storyline, and then choreographed dance numbers to them. Normally, this would not be my thing. Far from it. I’ve never been to a Broadway play. “Modern dance” bores me to tears, what little I’ve seen of it. The whole thing just sounds incredibly hokey. Yet, I betcha I’ll get over the river to see it before the run is over. I’m too big a Billy Joel fan not to.
All of the songs (save the three instrumental pieces) are played above stage by a band led by Michael Cavanaugh, a gifted singer and pianist. The MOVIN’ OUT soundtrack is now out, featuring 26 tracks recorded in performance of Cavanaugh and the band playing Joel’s music.
Cavanaugh can play the piano really well, and his singing voice isn’t bad. His range isn’t as high or wide as Joel’s was at his peak, but it serves the songs well. He isn’t doing a slavish imitation of Joel’s voice, but he does sound an awful lot like him on a couple of songs, most notable I’VE LOVED THESE DAYS and SHE’S GOT A WAY. Those are both from earlier in Joel’s career, so maybe it’s the age thing. Cavanaugh is probably about the same age now as Joel was when he recorded those songs — or rerecorded them more popularly for the SONGS IN THE ATTIC album.
There are some interesting little remixes along the way, too, although a vast majority of the songs are played straight up in the classic Billy Joel style. The biggest change comes to We Didn’t Start the Fire, which (trivia time) was the last #1 song of he 1980s. There’s a heavy rolling drumbeat to the song, and I didn’t even recognize it until the words started. The chorus is simplified, and only two verses are sung, but it’s a fun change.
The whole disc makes me wish for some sort of Joel tribute album. C’mon, there’s a WEEZER tribute album out there, and they only have four release. Joel has more than three times that. Wouldn’t you love to hear, say, Huey Lewis and the News singing anything off the INNOCENT MAN album? Or, to keep it more modern, Vanessa Carlton or Michelle Branch could sing anything with a decent piano part. I’m sure SmashMouth could do something. Carlos Santana would play guitar on the Hendrix-inspired “Shameless,” but you’d have to find someone from the world of R&B to sing it. (I’d get lost trying to choose someone there.)
In any case, MOVIN’ OUT is a nice sampler of Joel’s greatest hits, with some nice selections of his “other stuff,” that’s just as good, if not better. (My favorite song of all time, “Angry Young Man,” is on here, albeit with a much shortened “Prelude.”) It’s a must have for my fellow Billy Joel fans, and could work nicely as an introduction to his work for someone who hasn’t gotten into it yet.
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