An essential title in our Billy Joel catalog restoration series, An Innocent Man is mastered from the original master tapes and made available on fully transparent hybrid SACD. The resulting presentation effortlessly outshines that heard on all previous editions of this 1983 set. Particularly, the effervescent harmonies now possess an airiness and extension that lends to realistic tonal decay. Instruments are balanced and placed on a wider, deeper soundstage, contributing improved to improved imaging and spaciousness. Joel's voice, too, comes across with tremendous clarity, presence, and body. These songs have never sounded so contagious.
Per usual, Joel proves a melodic jukebox. The vocalist's grasp on structure, hooks, and delivery help make this batch of songs among his most beloved, easy to hum, and impossible to ignore. Much of the appeal resides in Joel's understanding of the early rock and roll, doo-wop, and soul that he grew up hearing in New York, and the manners in which the popular songwriters favored simplicity over complexity, good-natured vibes over seriousness, and romantic charm over introspective sadness.
Whether floating on a cloud on the giddy "Uptown Girl" (check out his falsetto), doubling as both the lead and background vocalist on the reminiscent-themed "The Longest Time," or tapping gospel undercurrents on the tribute "Keeping the Faith," Joel revels in 50s and 60s pop constructs, turning out amiable refrains and unforgettable moods. Love perfumes the air, and Joel can't get enough, and it's a feeling he passes on to his listeners.
As the calm before stormier periods in his life, and a timeless connection to America's finest pop music traditions, An Innocent Man is indeed innocent â€“ a guiltless pleasure that keeps on giving.