Aug 022021

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40. Extra – Vengo Via [Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)]

Extra was a six-piece orchestral disco act from Florence, Italy, about whom I can find little other info. They only released a couple singles, one of which was a two-sided Billy Joel covers 45. Both were translated, one as “Come Sei (Just The Way You Are)” – the song sounds even schlockier in Italian, if that’s possible. But on “Vengo Via,” they give a little extra pop punch to “Movin’ Out” without straying too far from the song’s roots. How do you say Abba in Italian? – Ray Padgett

39. Melissa Etheridge – Only the Good Die Young

It’s become fairly commonplace for established legacy artists whose days at the top of the pop charts are, you know, behind them to kick out cover albums (see: Michael McDonald, Rod Stewart, Natalie Cole, and on and on). With that in mind, I want to offer a suggestion to Melissa Etheridge. It’s become clear over the years that she’s got a way (no pun intended) with ’70s AM radio pop songs, especially those starring the one-name babes that stole our youthful hearts. She’s done seriously kick-ass versions of “Mandy,” “Maggie May,” and “Jolene” – not to mention “Sylvia’s Mother.” Which brings us to “Only The Good Die Young,” where Etheridge offers a raw, raspy, and (of course) horny plea for Virginia to come out, come out. There’s nothing fancy happening in this cover; it’s just a straight-up romp in joyful Joel nostalgia and perfectly captures the spirit of the song. Get crackin’, Melissa. – Hope Silverman

38. Alicia Keys – New York State Of Mind

Alicia Keys takes a spin on the piano, unrushed, in this soulful cover. Arguably, the piano is even more impressive than the vocal. Even in this abbreviated version, there is plenty of virtuosity on display, although fans might miss the large role the saxophone plays in the original. And of course, a little of her Joel-inspired smash “Empire State of Mind” creeps in there at the end. – Sara Stoudt

37. Lowtide – The Stranger

Lowtide’s “The Stranger” has one thing that distinguishes it from every other cover on this list. It is not, technically speaking, “good.” The band learned the songs’s whistled intro, a couple riffs, and the absolute bare minimum number of lyrics. Things devolve quickly. But the enthusiasm with which they yelp the (incorrect) lyrics is infectious. Basically the only remaining evidence that this cover even exists is that we posted it 11 years ago. Maybe that’s for the best, but I appreciate that several commenters on that decade-old post appreciated this joyous anarchy as much as I did. – Ray Padgett

36. The Evidence – Pressure

Back in the nascent days of MTV, the video for “Pressure” was in the highest of high rotation. With its nods to A Clockwork Orange and awesomely cringy acting from Billy, it remains a beautifully ridiculous piece of ’80s pop music art. All that aside, “Pressure” is an absurdly frothy, frantic, and fabulous song whose urgency and overall construction make it an ideal candidate for (insert devil horns here) the metal treatment. Its thrusting chorus (yeah, I said it) provides the perfect setting for axe masters wanting to run free and shred. It is catnip for any headbanging crew looking to cover a Billy Joel song. And no one has done it better than Canadian power trio The Evidence. Their 2014 version is so virtuosically tight, sharp, and head-shakingly good they damn near steal it from Billy. – Hope Silverman

35. Waylon Jennings – The Entertainer

Waylon Jennings and Billy Joel have both surely seen some wild stuff on the road, though in very different musical realms. The stars find an unexpected kinship courtesy of Waylon’s hopping cover of “The Entertainer.” Featured on his 1984 album Never Could Toe the Mark, Jennings’ version clears away all the showboating, elevating the tune’s authentic core. The song sits comfortably with Waylon’s weathered and gentle voice. Yet Jennings is also sure not to lose any of the tune’s epic scale. The Highwayman, The Rhinestone Cowboy, The Gambler — in Waylon Jennings’s mighty hands, “The Entertainer” feels right at home in the pantheon of country’s most illustrious outlaws. – Ben Easton

34. Granada – Wien wort auf di [Vienna]

“Vienna” is a hug in song form, a sonic shoulder to cry onto and a reassuring embrace. This gorgeous cover by Austrian band Granada – actually hailing from the city of Graz, but close enough – may be the most “Vienna” of all the “Vienna” covers ever recorded. The video for the song, off the band’s 2016 debut, features just singer Thomas Petritsch and accordionist Alexander Kristoff performing in a horse-drawn carriage rolling through Vienna. With its backdrop of city lights, audible hooves clicking on a presumably cobblestone street, and spent cigarettes being tossed into chilly evening air, perhaps the only way to describe it is to use classic Spinal Tap vernacular: as far as “Vienna” covers go, there are simply None More Vienna. – Hope Silvermam

33. Eric Church – Allentown

Crowds love to have their hometown or state shouted out live at concerts, and Church gives the people what they want, playing a cover that goes out to the locals at a live show in Reading, PA. He maintains the original’s merriness of sound that contrasts the frustration in the lyrics. However, Church ends on a more positive note, changing the “but I won’t be getting up today” line to “but I won’t be giving up today.” You can’t hold Pennsylvanians down! – Sara Stoudt

32. Michael Cavanaugh – The River Of Dreams / Keeping The Faith / Only The Good Die Young

Singer/pianist Michael Cavanaugh was personally tapped by Billy Joel in the early 2000s to star in Movin’ Out, a Broadway jukebox musical featuring Joel’s music. Cavanaugh served as the bandleader, singing and playing on all the songs. For his efforts, he was nominated for both a Grammy and a Tony. The soundtrack features Broadway-style reworkings of the Billy Joel songbook, with varying levels of success. The most inventive cover is the penultimate track, a medley of three songs: “The River of Dreams,” “Keeping the Faith,” and “Only the Good Die Young.” Cavanaugh delivers “The River of Dreams” with a bit of light funk. He then reworks the reggae-tinged “Keeping the Faith” as a new wave-style power chord rocker. For the finale, he and the orchestra play an instrumental horn-powered take on “Only the Good Die Young.” The original songs were released over a 15-year span, but when performed together, it’s as if they were all written by Joel as a kind of grandiose suite. – Curtis Zimmermann

31. Hussalonia – Sometimes A Fantasy

First things first, here is the official bio blurb direct from the website of the artist known as Hussalonia which manages the trick of being both incredibly specific and extremely vague and/or mysterious: “Hussalonia is largely the work of one prolific multi-instrumentalist, home-recording artist known only as The Hussalonia Founder. Sometimes he creates concise, literate art-pop in the spirit of ‘60s beat and record-store-clerk-indie-post-punk-singer-songwriter-whatever-ness.” He’s also indulged in the tribute album game and in 2006 went full-on Billy, covering Glass Houses in its entirety. It is really, really good. Not only because of the superior source material, but because of the overall sonic approach, which could best be characterized as NYC punk meets late ’70s UK pub rock. The star of the show is the cover of the most hip-swivelling, mike-swinging, fist-pumping rock ‘n’ roll sexy song in the entire Joel catalog, “Sometimes A Fantasy.” The Hussalonia version features a wickedly cool and sneery Richard Hell style vocal, spoken word interjections and is the absolute perfect amount of dirty and desperate. – Hope Silverman

The list continues on Page 3.

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  5 Responses to “The 40 Best Billy Joel Covers Ever”

Comments (5)
  1. I’ve always liked Copeland’s version of She’s Always A Woman.

  2. we need a new we didn’t start the fire

  3. Jose Jose – Just The Way You Are

  4. Joel is 200 times the talented artist Springsteen is. His range and versatility beat the repetitive, strident whining of a disaffected malcontent any day.

  5. For me, the greatest Joel cover ever is Dianne Schuur’s reinvention of “New York State of Mind” from her 1984 LP “Deedles.”
    Dave Grusin produced.

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