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Thursday, March 14, 2024

Classic Artists Back in the Spotlight

Written by Jon Williams

Occasionally some new music surfaces that is a pleasant surprise coming from an artist that hasn’t been heard from in a long time. Recently there have been two such examples from beloved icons that have brought their names back to the forefront of pop culture conversation.

On February 1, Billy Joel dropped a new single, “Turn the Lights Back On.” Other than a couple of singles and a collection of classical piano pieces, this is the first new pop music from Joel since 1993’s River of Dreams, which he intended as his final album—the last song, “Famous Last Words,” includes the lyrics “These are the last words I have to say / Before another age goes by.” While it’s just a single for now, Joel has not closed the door on another album being on the horizon.
Joel released 11 albums prior to River of Dreams, starting his solo career with Cold Spring Harbor in 1971. While the album was not particularly successful, at least in part due to a mastering error (which has since been rectified with a remaster), it did include the classic Joel hit “She’s Got a Way.”  He followed it up with 1973’s Piano Man, the album (and title track) that would inspire his lifelong nickname. He won the first of his five Grammy Awards for the hit single “Just the Way You Are” off of 1975’s The Stranger, and he won Album of the Year for 1978’s 52nd Street. SmartBrowse his name on our website for all of his studio albums, live performances on both CD and video, and compilations showcasing his wealth of hits.
One of Joel’s earliest and strongest influences was the music of the Beatles, who have also recently released a new track. Released on November 2, “Now and Then” is hailed as the last Beatles song. Like “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” it started life as a demo recording made by John Lennon, to which Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr added parts to in order to fill out as a Beatles song. While working on updating these songs for the Anthology release, the remaining Beatles abandoned “Now and Then” as the original recording was too hard to use at the time. But the fact that they had started working on it meant, fortunately, that George Harrison had put together some guitar parts they could add when technological advancements made the recording viable at long last.
“Now and Then” is included on the updated 1967-1970 compilation, which, along with its counterpart, 1962-1966, has been rereleased with additional tracks and several incredible remasters. These collections are a great way to sample or revisit the Beatles’ classic catalog, and of course their full albums (like Please Please Me, A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver, the White Album, and Abbey Road) are always popular with library patrons. Those looking for an even deeper dive may be interested in the individual members’ solo albums, such as John’s Imagine and George’s Cloud Nine. The surviving members continue to write and record to this day—Paul’s latest album is McCartney III from 2020, while Ringo just put out the EP Rewind Forward in October 2023.
These classic artists have been hugely popular for decades, and these new tracks will help to introduce their music to yet another generation of listeners. Make sure your collections are complete with their albums, compilations, videos, and more.

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