Personnel: Billy Joel (vocals, accordion, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, harpsichord, Clavinet, organ, keyboards, bass guitar); Probyn Gregory (vocals, guitar, trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn); Jeffrey Foskett (vocals, guitar, sleigh bell); Nick Walusko (vocals, guitar); Darian Sahanaja, Scott Bennett (vocals, piano, organ, vibraphone, glockenspiel); Dave Brown , Elton John, Brian Wilson (vocals, piano); John Edward Dizek (vocals, percussion); Taylor Mills, Zhournalist (vocals); Dann Huff, Don Evans, Sal DeTroia, John McCurry, Russell Javors, Jim Bosse, Tommy Byrnes, Ken Recher, Richie McKenna (guitar); Steve Khan (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Mac McAnally (acoustic guitar); Eric Gale (electric guitar); Sneaky Pete (steel guitar); Paul Franklin (pedal steel guitar); Hugh McCracken (nylon-string guitar); World Famous Incognito Violinist (fiddle); Paul Mertens (flute, harmonica, saxophone); Clint Black (harmonica); Dominic Cortese (accordion); Mark Rivera (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); David Sanborn (alto saxophone); Ronnie Cuber (baritone saxophone); Jon Faddis, Bob Winiker, Joe Shepley (trumpet); Jim Hoke, Jim Horn, Paul Litterall, Charles Rose (horns); Matt Rollings (piano); Richard Tee, Richie Cannata, Steve Nathan (organ); Leon Pendarvis, Steve Winwood (Hammond b-3 organ); Jeff Jacobs (synthesizer); Emory Gordy, Larry Knechtel, Neil Jason, Randy Jackson , T-Bone Wolk, Will Lee , Joe Osborn, Bob Lizik, Schuyler Deale, Doug Stegmeyer, Howard Arthur Blauvelt (bass guitar); Bill Zampino, Jim Hines, Jonathan Small, Willie Weeks, Charlie Morgan , Sean Pelton, Rhys Clark, Liberty DeVitto, David Baglioli, Denny Siewell (drums); Anton Fig (snare drum); David Friedman (percussion, chimes); Kim Fleming, Bob Bailey, Yvonne Hodges (background vocals); Mike D'Amico, Brian Ruggles.
Arranger: Robert Freedman.
Something of a companion piece to Billy Joel's greatest hits collections, this exhaustive box set comprises four CDs (and a bonus DVD) of rarities, B-sides, demos, covers, and recordings that have fallen between the cracks in Joel's discography. Those looking for the studio versions of "My Life," "Just the Way You Are," and "Uptown Girl" won't find them here; this collection is a different animal altogether. With an eye toward representing Joel as an adventurous craftsman and tireless reviser, MY LIVES is packed with one-off concert performances and intimate, unreleased demos (which often differ radically from the well-known final versions) that paint an interesting portrait of Joel's creative process.
Disc one stretches back to Joel's pre-solo career, including songs by his garage-pop band the Hassles and his snicker-inducing heavy metal project Atilla. But it is with Joel's PIANO MAN demos that one can hear the artist finding his feet ("Oyster Bay" is one of the set's highlights). While discs three and four may contain too many covers (do we really need to hear Joel's rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star?"), there are some interesting selections of his classical work from the 2000s. Despite its shortcomings, MY LIVES provides valuable insight into Joel's evolution as a songwriter and performer, which makes it intriguing for casual fans, and essential for devotees.