Right on schedule as previously announced, this week we have a honkin’ big pack of Billy Joel, thus continuing the trend of Crap I Really Want in Rock Band. Someday my reign will topple … but this is not that day.
Up for purchase next Tuesday we have:
“Big Shot” +
“It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me”
“Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” +
“Only the Good Die Young” +
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood”
“We Didn’t Start the Fire”
“You May Be Right”
+ = pro-guitar/bass chart available
Only three pro-g/b charts this week, but does that surprise anyone? If you’re buying Billy Joel, it’s not for guitar.
I would’ve assumed that everybody knew these songs already, but then I remember Mike and our conversation when the majority of this pack was announced. Turns out that my assumed ubiquitousness of these songs may have been premature. My opinions may in fact be of paramount importance. (As if this was ever not the case.)
Taking the pack as a whole, there’s really not a dud in the bunch. There are of course ones that are less awesome than others, but this is a rock solid selection. Bear in mind that with pack pricing you’re essentially getting two songs “free” – something to bear in mind if you’re considering cherry-picking but are still pulling out half the pack or more.
“Big Shot” is up first, and is one of the few this week with a pro-guitar/bass chart. That right there should tell you that this is one of the more standard rock offerings this week. This is one of my personal favourites of the pack, due in no small part to the venom with which Billy Joel sings it. The story is about the singer’s spoiled little rich kid friend who gets drunk and makes an ass out of himself, and there’s just something kind of satisfying about how it all comes together as a giant “fuck you”. For me it’s worth the price of admission for sarcasm-fueled “You’re so much fun to be around” toward the end. As for the piano – which has to be the main draw for any purchase – they’re probably going to be some of the easiest out of this pack, in the way that the shot put may be the “easiest” part of the Olympics decathlon.
“Captain Jack” is next (Franky Gee, no relation). It’s really early Billy Joel, and showcases his two greatest strengths: storyteller and pianist. The vocals overshadow the music in a lot of ways, but the piano is omnipresent, and used perfectly to create the melancholy during the verses and an assault during the chorus. It’s probably his least known song in the pack, but don’t let that dissuade you; it’s here with all these chart-topping heavy hitters for a reason.
Funnily enough, I think I spoke a bit too soon with my decathlon bit up there. I just gave “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” another listen with RB3 and mind, and you know, I’m not entirely sure there’s any keys in it at all. Never would’ve pegged that. It’s possible -likely, I’d say – that I just missed them and they’re buried in there somewhere. But even if that’s true, it says a lot for keys in this one. Luckily, keys aren’t the big draw: the vocals totally are. Billy Joel pretty much sings an argument with himself, and the result should be awesome fun to play.
“Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” is one you probably know even if the title stumps you. You know the one with the “ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK”? Yeah that’s this one. Again, a great, solid song, with the keys back on full display. The piano+guitar solo at the end is one I’m particularly looking forward to playing.
I’ve never quite enjoyed “Only the Good Die Young” as much as his others, but like I mentioned at the beginning, there are no bad choices here, just ones slightly less awesome. Of those we’ve gone through thus far, this is probably the most keys-prominent. The intro and solo in particular should be something else. I’d say a strong contender for the key enthusiasts looking to pick up just a couple to pad their setlist.
But of course if you’re looking for piano-central songs, you’d be hard pressed to do better than “Piano Man”. Is there even a guitar in this one? (Bets on them charting harmonica to guitar?) So yeah, is there anybody who doesn’t know this one by now? It’s only pretty much Billy Joel’s signature song and all. Obviously the keys are going to be an insane challenge, and I figure if one song is going to be the song in the pack, this is it. Plus, it’s another addition to the over-growing Weird Al setlist, which if someone hasn’t made yet for Rock Band 3 they totally should.
For me, the first Billy Joel song that leapt to mind when thinking about RB3 was our next song: “Pressure”. For the longest time, it was probably my favourite song of his (as was, interestingly enough, “For the Longest Time”). It was the early 80s, and the crazy synth intro combined with heavy MTV rotation of a truly jacked up video lodged the song firmly in my brain. As I got older and listened to more music than what flittered across the screen in three-minute chunks I realized that this particular song is probably one of his weakest of the big hits. But still, you know? Can’t take anything away from that synth riff, and I can’t wait to play it.
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood” is another of Billy Joel’s songs that never quite struck me as much as others. I admit it, I have a predilection for the faster stuff, though I do think it’ll be a lot more satisfying to play than to just hear. Plus, as you might expect for a song that tends more to the ballad side, the piano is alive and very well. I’d rank this one right up there for people looking for keys-centric tracks this week.
“The Entertainer” is another song that’s probably not as well known as some of the others this week. It’s a wonderfully cynical kind of song though, of just the sort I like, with an upbeat cheerful musical dressing to pour over the bitter lyrics. And I love the flow of those lyrics too, they break out from the standard song meter in an interesting way that makes the whole thing feel just slightly off, as you imagine the narrator is feeling about his entire career. As for the keys, they switch between piano and synth – and it’s a weird kinda unreal synth too. I wish I had a better musical vocabulary to better explain, but listen and I think you’ll hear what I mean. At least in the beginning the keys don’t sound too difficult (relatively speaking, of course), but as the song progresses there’s some insane shit going on there. If you’re looking for keys challenges and don’t know this song, make sure to give it a listen.
There’s not a whole lot of prominent harmonizing in these tracks, but “The Stranger” does its best to make up for that. With that, plus its prominent piano intro and outro, plus it’s show start quickly shifting to the rock middle bit, it’s kind of a different feel to the other songs this week. All that said, it’s still not a personal favourite of mine and gameplay wise I’m not sure it offers up much that isn’t already available in other tracks. But the same could be said from the perspective of most any song toward the others, so there you go. For me, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to pick it up, but as one of my “freebies”, I’ll take it happily.
The other song from the pack that’ll probably outsell its peers is “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Which I have wholly memorized thanks to my 9th grade history teacher who latched onto the song when it came out and made us do a paper researching each and every thing mentioned and why it was prominent/important enough to be in the song. Go Go Gadget Geek High School. Anyway the vocals again are probably the main draw. I’m … pretty sure that’s keys I’m hearing, but at best they’re just part of the song’s backdrop. Still, that isn’t going to impact sales in the least little bit. Much like R.E.M.’s “End of the World”, it’s the quick lyrical flow that’s the draw. It may not have much to offer on plastic instruments (drums being a notable exception), but it’s fast, it’s fun, and everybody knows it.
Closing out the pack is “You May Be Right”, which again surprised me somewhat in that the piano is really hard to hear. I’m guessing maybe YouTube isn’t the single best place to figure out musical intricacies. That does make it a bit tough to definitively point to it as strong on that instrument, but despite not hearing it here I seem to recall that it is. I suppose check Tuesday’s chart if you’re on the fence. What I can say for sure is that it’s a great song, and I’m quietly pleased by the bookend in the pack listing as in my head I’ve always considered it the comeback by the jerk described in “Big Shot”.
For me, getting the entire pack is a done deal. Even my personal selection for “weakest” tracks in the bunch are thoroughly worthwhile. If you’re looking for just a few to to get with a keys focus, I’d probably most recommend “Piano Man”, “Only the Good Die Young”, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” and “Captain Jack”. For everyone else … take your pick. There’s really no such thing as a bad choice this week.