Billy Joel

Columbia, 1987


REVIEW BY: David Bowling


It was a big deal when Billy Joel toured the Soviet Union in 1987. Very few American artists had been able to crack the Iron Curtain, so his series of concerts were historic. And if you were going to play a series of concerts in Russia in the late ‘80s, you might as well record a live album.

Kohuept (or Kohuepm) was a hastily assembled affair, recorded from his Leningrad concert. While it is not of the caliber of his first live release, 1981’s Songs In The Attic, it does present an accurate picture of his concert style at the time. The album has also aged fairly well. Maybe many of the songs were too new or over played at the time, but when I listened to the album earlier today, it was better than I remembered. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I could have done without the Russian choir’s performance of “Odoya” leading off the album, but you are in Russia. Other than the packaging and that one song, though, the concert could have been taken from anywhere in the world.

The real opening is a powerful version of “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” which is a showcase for Joel’s piano expertise and vocal prowess. I also liked the simplicity of “Honesty,” which is stripped to the basics of piano and vocal.

The album may drag in a few places, but the center of the concert is high energy pop/rock at its best. “An Innocent Man” is extended to over six minutes, which allows for some improvisation. “Allentown” is Joel at his gritty vocal best. “A Matter Of Trust” and “Only The Good Die Young,” which are performed back to back, is what his music is all about.

He was touring in support of The Bridge at the time, and his performance of “Big Man On Mulberry Street” brings the song to life. The studio version had a big band feel and was my favorite track on that album. While it does not have the full feel of the studio version, it still is interesting, and at over seven minutes, there is room for more improvisation.

There are some misses in the setlist as well. “Baby Grand” pales next to the studio version. “Uptown Girl” has some nice harmonie,s but just cannot match the layered vocals of the original. Meanwhile, he seems to be going through the motions on “Big Shot.”

Joel’s version of “Back In The U.S.S.R.” is competent but he is not The Beatles; then again, it was an obvious song choice. The pop version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” shows that he is really not Bob Dylan, and his intent to make a statement about the Soviet Union of 1987 is very dated today.

Kohuept is enjoyable and presents Billy Joel’s music live in a unique setting. It remains a somewhat ignored album in his catalogue, but is decent enough to deserve a listen every now and then.

Rating: B

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