Ranking as one of the most popular musicians on the planet, Billy Joel has sold over 150 million records. Originally released in 1974, Streetlife Serenade is his third album, yet it is often overlooked when discussing Billy Joel's career, even though it is considered one of his best. The songs are diverse and lively, with a laid-back Western vibe, somewhat similar to what the Eagles were doing on their early releases. He adds in a spunky side that shows off his piano-playing skills and tosses in a rugged rocker to boot, creating a lyrically and sonically excellent album. Yet, through all this, it was time for Billy to say goodbye to Hollywood and head back home to New York.
Now Audio Fidelity has released this classic album as a Quad SACD, revealing all of the details of this great release. Listeners will find as they progress through the album that the rear speakers are put to great use, yet as much as I love immersive surround, the back channels simply sound too loud to me. In fact it is primarily the vocals, drums and bass that are up front on most of the songs, with the keyboards and guitars placed in the rears.
However, putting this observation aside, I don’t feel that anything is lost when presented as a 4.0 quad versus what could have been a 5.1 surround disc. The choice to simply remaster and reissue the 1970’s quad mix once again demonstrates the engineering talent that existed during quad’s hay day. Tonally the mix is well balanced with full lows and warm mids. Yes, I feel there could be more brilliance on the top end, however this perceived lack doesn’t take away from the overall clarity of the music.
Not being a huge Billy Joel fan, this album was not in my collection, so I have no earlier copy to compare it to. The two channel stereo mix sounds distinctly different from the quad mix. Listeners will find the high-end here that I mentioned is lacking from the quad mix, however at the expense of a low-end that lacks a full bottom. Actually there are tonal differences through the whole spectrum, leading me to really appreciate the quad version. But, be aware, for those who know the stereo mix well, the quad mix will probably be like hearing the album for the first time all over again!
This is certainly a must have for all Billy Joel fans, and recommended for fans of surround sound music. The mixes are tastefully done, and the music grows on you with each pass.
Hybrid Multi-Channel Quad and Stereo Layer SACD.