If there is one album that sticks out like a sore thumb from my CD collection (we’ll ignore my wife’s Five album which has found its way hidden between First Aid Kit and The Flaming Lips), it’s Billy Joel’s The Ultimate Collection.
You’ll find it between Joan Jett and the Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltry album if you’re ever round our way.
I’m not entirely sure what the official party line on Billy Joel is amongst the musical cognoscenti. It wouldn’t take too much of a Google search to establish the facts, I suppose. But I can’t really be bothered.
He does, of course, veer into a world of pure cheesiness at times. But as a creator of pop songs, it would be very difficult – if you wanted to be completely honest about it – to deny he really is rather good. If you doubt me, please see ‘Uptown Girl’ for further details.
My best of collection (I admit, I did ask for it as a gift: I couldn’t quite bring myself to hand over the cash directly for it myself), contains a whole array of Joel classics. There are the belters like ‘My Life’, ‘Tell Her About It’ and ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’. And there are the smooth smoochies like ‘She’s Always a Woman’, ‘Leave a Tender Moment Alone’ and ‘Baby Grand’.
The one that particularly draws my eye, though, is track three, disc two: ‘The River of Dreams’. There was something about this song that leapt out of the radio at me when it was on Radio 2’s playlist (my parents always were devotees of Ol’ Tel’).
It is a ridiculously catchy tune with its sub-Saharan rhythms, gospel harmonies and honky-tonk piano.
I remember singing it to myself in the changing rooms of Tewkesbury swimming baths – before promptly becoming very much aware that I was doing this out loud and getting some funny looks.
I shut up with even more promptitude.