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Billy Joel - The Ultimate Collection

Sony Music Video/Sony BMG . R4 . COLOR . 110 mins . G . PAL


This is the ‘Ultimate Collection’. So, with a title like that you’d expect quite a collection. Especially since the topic is Billy Joel who has a huge catalogue to choose from. I’m not going to describe the talents of Billy Joel, he's well known and deserving of such a tribute. Does this ‘Ultimate Collection’ capture his career in a single dual layer disc?

Track List:

  1. My Life
  2. It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me
  3. Piano Man (Live)
  4. Everybody Loves You Now
  5. New York State Of Mind (Live)
  6. Honesty
  7. You May Be Right
  8. Uptown Girl
  9. Tell Her About It
  10. The River Of Dreams
  11. The Longest Time
  12. We Didn’t Start The Fire
  13. Goodnight Saigon (Live)
  14. Allentown
  15. All For Leyna
  16. Leave A Tender Moment Alone (Live)
  17. A Matter Of Trust
  18. Baby Grand
  19. I Go To Extremes
  20. Leningrad
  21. The Downeaster Alexa
  22. You’re Only Human
  23. All About Soul


  1. She’s Right On Time
  2. James

I would also note that there are some distinguished cameos. Besides his ex-wife (Christie Brinkley) there’s Ray Charles and ‘Toots’ Thielmans. I was half expecting that any videos with Christie Brinkley in it would be excised, however they are here. Thielmans who is known to most jazz fans, is in damn fine form here.

The music videos are perhaps deemed classics. Everybody has seen Uptown Girl featuring his soon-to-be wife. Most of them were produced and directed with a humourous flair. I mean, even Rodney Dangerfield makes a cameo! There are also the slickly produced videos like River Of Dreams and We Didn’t Start The Fire.

All in all a fine collection of videos, exhaustively compiled and presented in a pleasingly consistent quality.


Firstly there is one strange oddity. There is a big ‘NTSC’ warning printed on the slick. However, I am pleased to report that this disc is resolutely PAL – I ran this through the computer to check. I don’t know why it says ‘NTSC’ on the front because it’s not, this isn’t Warner Brothers man...

Video is very different over the 25 clips – not surprising since it spans several decades. Some have the trademark '70s looking haze with all the requisite faults. There’s modern footage; some from concerts that have a professional sheen. Overall the inconsistency works to imply a certain temporal distance track to track.

At worst some tracks are shot in a terribly grainy black and white that is devoid of much grey scale. This is artistic license. This is also in very recent songs so expect some of that.

There is very little in the way of obvious mastering faults; any faults you see are on the master. Colours are very good, especially in some of the more retro looking clips that have overboosted colours. None of the tracks come close to what I would call a state of the art modern transfer, even for music videos.

I could point out a lot of anomalies with the master but that would be churlish, it’s better if it’s mastered as is rather than being ‘prepped’ for clean-up.


There are two tracks, a Dolby Digital 5.1 one at 448k/s and one in Linear PCM stereo. You could not find two more contrasting tracks. There is a heap of thinness and shrillness in the Dolby track, this is a not a fault of Dolby, rather the mastering is just odd, with the volume much lower. Running matched it lacks body, vocals are unimpressive with a distant ‘background’ feel. The LFE is weak and sounds poorly filtered. There are no surrounds. Front soundstaging is completely artificial and unsatisfying. Certain instruments are favoured over others for a completely odd musical experience. Something is completely wrong here...

To be fair some of the Dolby renderings are better on some tracks but why would you want to chance it?

STAY WITH THE PCM TRACK!!! It has a natural CD-like quality; everything one expects, a natural musical performance and decent live ambience is there. Running either straight stereo or processed LFE and rear ambience results in a much better musical experience. Vocals are impressive and crystal, instruments have excellent timbre and there is definite kick in the drums and guitars, something that is lacking in the Dolby track. None of the songs really test the treble or bass that much. There is a consistent bandwidth and it sticks to it bar one or two tracks that have strong bass.

You can hit the ‘audio’ button and it changes tracks. Immediately obvious is the excellent soundstage of the PCM track versus the poor Dolby track. I find it odd that my Sony processor is doing a better job at producing a decent sound from the PCM track than a Sony mastered Dolby DVD!

Music quality varies from clip to clip but thankfully it’s all at a relatively consistent volume and there seems to be perhaps only a slight amount of processing on the older songs to bring them up to ‘spec’.

There was no PAL speed-up that I could discern. Overall this is a fine sounding disc as long as one sticks to the PCM track.


There are two unreleased videos as stated above.

There is a discography that runs from 1971 to 2001. This is presented as an album cover and a track list. One of the highlighted songs plays per album choice. Neat.

There’s also a discography of his music video tapes.

Alas there are no lyrics.

Lastly there is a ‘Timeline’, which is several menus of milestones in Joel’s life.


This is a fine collection featuring 25 tracks. Is it ‘ultimate’? Well, many of my favourite tracks are not here, however perhaps no videos exist for them? Anyway, many music DVDs which purport to be ‘ultimate’ collections also have huge gaps – this one is no different in that respect.

Be that as it may, this is a finely produced collection save for that abominable Dolby track. I expect fans to buy this and passing fans to also spring for it, it’s that good. This is one of those music discs you can spin up and play start to finish.

The price on the PR sheet says the price is very low, ‘budget’ oriented. I won’t say what it is but at this price, it’s a bargain.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1163
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      And I quote...
    "The 'ultimate' collection and it's quite close to being that..."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • Decoder:
          Sony TA-E9000ES
    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
    • Speakers:
          Mission 763
    • Centre Speaker:
          Mission 75c
    • Surrounds:
          Mission 760
    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
    • Audio Cables:
          rca coaxial SPDIF
    • Video Cables:
          VGA connector
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