The music of Billy Joel (part 4 or 4)

Album: The Bridge (1986)

Thoughts: Very 80s, but unfortunately the songs feel a bit cheesy. That said, catchy “A Modern Woman” could be my favorite Billy Joel track of the 80s. The album featured several guest appearances, including Ray Charles and Cyndi Lauper.

Favorite tracks: A Matter of Trust, A Modern Woman

Album: Storm Front (1989)

Thoughts: A rock n rock album, which has an epic feel due to the themes that are explored.

Favorite tracks: We Didn’t Start the Fire

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a fast-paced song that cataloged a list of historical events, trends, and cultural icons from after World War II (when Joel was born) until 1989.

Album: River of Dreams (1993)

Favorite tracks: River of Dreams

The album cover was a painting by Joel’s then-wife, Christie Brinkley. In 1993, Rolling Stone gave her the Top Picks award for “The Best Album Cover of the Year”.

The music of Billy Joel (part 3 or 4)

Album: Glass Houses (1980)
Thoughts: More rock orientated than his previous releases. I wasn’t that keen on the direction he took with this album, but it was well-received by audiences and critics alike.
Favorite tracks: You May Be Right (a rock n roll song, the intro sounds like 1992’s Friday I’m in Love by The Cure)
Don’t Ask Me Why (a mellower track, I like the melody)
It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me

Album: The Nylon Curtain (1982)
Thoughts: My second favorite Billy Joel album. (The Stranger from 1977 is my favorite)
The album is among Joel’s most ambitious, and Joel has openly acknowledged that it’s one of his personal favorites. Critics have interpreted the album to be, in part, an homage to the music of The Beatles and John Lennon.
Regarding the album’s themes, Joel has stated “It was during the Reagan years, and the diminishing horizons in America at the time [meant that] all of a sudden you weren’t going to be able to inherit [the kind of life] your old man had.”
This pessimism about the American dream, in Joel’s view, permeates most of the songs on the album. The song “Allentown”, which brought attention to the plight of America’s declining steel industry.
Favorite tracks: Allentown, Laura, Pressure, Goodnight Saigon, Scandinavian Skies

Album: An Innocent Man (1983)

Thoughts: I didn’t enjoy the album, which to me is unintentionally funny, in terms of how it sounds.
The album is a tribute to the American popular music of Joel’s teenage years with Joel paying homage to a number of different popular American musical styles from the late 1950s and early 1960s, most notably doo-wop and soul music.
In an interview about the making of the album, Joel talks about how at the time he was recording An Innocent Man, he was newly divorced from his first wife, Elizabeth Weber, and was single for the first time since achieving rock star status. So he had the opportunity to date supermodels like Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley, and because of these experiences, he said, “I kind of felt like a teenager all over again.”

Favorite tracks: Uptown Girl is an 80s classic, and hard to ignore.

Have you listened to the music of Billy Joel? Or are you a newcomer to the music as I am? As always, comments are welcome. Next week part 4 of 4

The music of Billy Joel (part 2 or 4)

Album: Turnstiles (1976)

Favorite tracks: New York State of Mind

The inspiration for the song came from his pride in returning home to New York. (He had been in LA for 3 years). Joel was literally “takin’ a Greyhound [bus] on the Hudson River Line [route]” when the idea for the song came to him, and the song was written as soon as Joel arrived home.
In fact, most of Turnstiles deals with Joel’s cross-country relocation, including “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”, “I’ve Loved These Days”, “Summer, Highland Falls”, and “Miami 2017 Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway.”
Although “New York State of Mind” was never a hit song and was never released as a single, it has become a fan favorite and a song that Joel plays regularly in concert.
Joel famously played the song at the October 2001 benefit concert for the New York City Fire and Police Departments and the loved ones of families of first responders lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Album: The Stranger (1977)

My favorite of the studio albums, it has strong material all the way through. While his four previous albums had been moderately successful, The Stranger became Joel’s true critical and commercial breakthrough, spending six weeks at #2 on the U.S. album charts.
Considered his magnum opus, it remains his best-selling non-compilation album to date, and was ranked number 70 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Much of the album’s success is attributed to Joel’s collaboration with producer Phil Ramone, and his innovative production methods, this fruitful partnership would continue for a decade.

Favorite tracks: The Stranger, Just the Way You Are, Vienna, She’s Always a Woman, Everybody has A DreamScenes from an Italian RestaurantOnly the Good Die Young

Album: 52nd Street (1978)

The studio in which 52nd Street was recorded was on 52nd Street, a block away from the CBS Building. In 2003, the album was ranked number 352 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Favorite tracks: My Life, Stiletto, Honesty, Big ShotUntil The Night(added thanks to Lisa Thatcher)

Have you listened to the music of Billy Joel? Or are you a newcomer to the music as I am? As always, comments are welcome. Next week part 3

The music of Billy Joel (part 1 or 4)

Album: Cold Spring Harbor (1971)
His debut record. Through an error in the album’s mastering, the songs played slightly too fast, causing Joel’s voice to sound unnaturally high (a semitone higher—Joel joked that he sounded more like one of The Chipmunks than himself.) In a 2011 interview, Joel stated that despite the re-mix, he believes that the album still does not sound very good.

Thoughts: Not his best album. It has that very 70s sound (Elton John, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, James Taylor), it feels like Billy Joel hadn’t found his own voice yet.

Favorite tracks: Everybody Loves You Now

Favorite lyric:
“Close your eyes when you don’t want to see
And stay at home when you don’t want to go
Only speak to those who will agree
Yeah, and close your mind when you don’t want to know”

Album: Piano Man (1973)
His breakthrough album. The single “Piano Man” is perhaps his most well-known song, a fictionalized retelling of Joel’s days as a lounge singer in Los Angeles.

Thoughts: The album is a bit corny and unintentionally funny at times, but he plays the piano well.

Favorite tracks: Piano ManCaptain Jack

Favorite lyrics:

“Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be
He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me.
As the smile ran away from his face
Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”

And if you can’t understand why your world is so dead
And why you’ve got to keep in style and feed your head
Well, you’re twenty-one and still your mother makes your bed
and that’s too long…

Album: Streetlife Serenade (1974)

It marked the beginning of his frosty relationship with critics and the music industry more generally.

Favorite tracks: No liked tracks

Have you listened to the music of Billy Joel? Or are you a newcomer to the music as I am? As always, comments are welcome. Next week part 2