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 Billy Joel

American singer-songwriter

Studio Albums

Cold Spring Harbour (1971)

Piano Man (1973)

Streetlife Serenade (1974)

Turnstiles (1976)

The Stranger (1977)

52nd Street (1978)

Glass Houses (1980)

The Nylon Curtain (1982)

An Innocent Man (1983)

The Bridge (1986)

Storm Front (1989)

River of Dreams (1993)

Fantasies and Delusions (2001)

 

Compilations

 

Related Artists

 

Billy Joel and the Hassles

 

 

 

Billy Joel

Cold Spring Harbour - 6

She's Got a Way/ You Can Make Me Free/ Everybody Loves You Now/ Why Judy Why/ Falling of the Rain/ Turn Around/ You Look So Good to Me/ Tomorrow is Today/ Nocturne/ Got to Begin Again.

Pretty is not a word that should really be used to describe rock music, but it perfectly describes Billy Joel's first solo album - a mix of love songs, classical textures and embryonic songwriting. Originally the album was recorded at the wrong speed, changing Joel's voice in such a way that he was disillusioned and angry at the finished product. Indeed it does sound like a very youthful Joel - as indeed it was. Laid back would be another description for an album that boasts a classic Joel track in She's Got a Way. It pretty much stays in the same vein with Nocturne a classical piano piece and Tomorrow is Today being likeable. And likeable is the word to overall describe an album that contains little of the fire or attack that came to his music in the future. It does show Joel as a decent songwriter and promises better to come. It took him some time to become established as a bona fide singer-songwriter and Cold Spring Harbour shows a man able to write solid if unexciting material.

 

Piano Man - 5.5

Travelin Prayer/ Piano Man/ Ain't No Crime/ You're My Home/ The Ballad of Billy the Kid/ Worse Comes to Worst/ Stop in Nevada/ If I Only Had the Words (To Tell You)/ Somewhere Along the Line/ Captain Jack

It's almost as though Joel looked at the material on Cold Spring Harbour and decided that just one album into his solo career he needed to change tack. Cold Spring Harbour was quiet, peaceful and very understated whereas Piano Man ups the tempo from the start with Travelin Prayer sounding like a hillbilly song with rampant banjo and this gives way to one of Joel's most endearing songs Piano Man which has particular memories to me. I was in a bar in Colorado when the Mexican pianist realised I was from England and showed great surprise when I requested the Joel song. He did oblige with a wonderful honky tonk version. Piano Man is, however, a patchy album, with Joel perhaps trying too hard to produce a new sound which leads to him sounding too much like Elton John on the jazzy Ain't No Crime. Then the album takes a decidedly western turn with songs about Billy the Kid and Captain Jack. There was a dearth of tender material as if Joel was deliberately trying to distance himself from the more romantic material. Indeed the album contains the first inkling of uncomfortable Joel songs with Captain Jack introducing us to the seamier side of life, not to mention a much longer offering. There are quiet moments as on You're My Home but overall it was Joel writing about situations and other people rather than his own intimate thoughts. It makes it a rather confusing album, but also an important transitional one. I also hate the cover.

 

Streetlife Serenade 5

Streetlife Serenader/ Los Angelenos/ The Great Suburban Showdown/ Root Beer Rag/ Roberta/ The Entertainer/ Last of the Big Spenders/ Weekend Sons, Souvenir/ The Mexican Connection.

Once again Streetlife Serenade has a sharp edge to it. The romantic Joel of Cold Spring Harbour is becoming the harder, more disillusioned fella. Sunsequent releases would see him merge the romantic and the hard-hitting to better effect than on Streetlife Serenade which was a disappointing effort. There is vitriol in Streetlife Serenader, Los Angelinos and, in particular, the Entertainer. In the latter he rails at the futility of fame and the need to continually have hits and shift directions with the accompanying loss of artistic credibility. The main problem with the album, however, is simply too many average or below average songs and too much filler like Root Beer Rag which showcases Joel's abilities as a pianist but seems to be irrelevant in the context of the album. Thankfully much better was to come.

 

Turnstiles - 6

Say Goodbye to Hollywood/ Summer, Highland Falls, All You Wanna Do Is Dance/ New York State of Mind/ James/ Prelude, Angry Young Man/ I've Loved These Days/ Miami 2017 (I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).

Joel's move from Los Angeles back to New York co-incided with a much sharper album with tighter lyrical observations. The opening song is one of his more endearing and chronicles his move back east and gives way to Summer, Highland Falls which sounds more Jackson Browne than Billy Joel. Admittedly there are some low points like the Caribbean feel to All You Wanna Do is Dance (certainly a case of Joel trying to mix in too many styles). This mix does work partly to his advantage, however, with the sleazy jazz feel of New York State of Mind which stretches his vocals to their limits. It's a very laid back song and works well. James is in a similar vein. I've Loved These Days is a typical Joel song with horn accompaniment giving a classical feel and some interesting lyrics. Miami 2017 (I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) is the kind of obtuse and complex song that Joel does so well and it ends an album that is a great improvement on the previous one.

 

The Stranger

Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)/ The Stranger/ Just the Way You Are/ Scenes from an Italian Restaurant/ Vienna/ Only the Good Die Young/ She's Always a Woman/ Say it Right the First Time/ Everybody has a Dream

52nd Street

Big Shot/ Honesty/ My Life/ Zanzibar/ Stiletto/ Rosalinda's Eyes/ Half a Mile Away/ Until the Night/ 52nd Street

Glass Houses

You May be Right/ Sometimes A Fantasy/ Don't Ask Me Why/ It's Still Rock and Roll to Me/ All for Leyna/ I Don't Want to be Alone/ Sleeping With the Television On/ C'Etait Toi (You Were the Only One)/ Close to Borderline/ Through the Long Night.

The Nylon Curtain

Allentown/ Laura/ Pressure/ Goodnight Saigon/ She's Right on Time/ A Room of our Own/ Surprises/ Scandanavian Skies/ Where's the Orchestra

An Innocent Man

Easy Money/ An Innocent Man/ The Longest Time/ This Night/ Tell Her About It/ Uptown Girl/ Careless Talk/ Christie Lee/ Leave a Tender Moment Alone/ Keeping the Faith

The Bridge

Running on Ice/ This is the Time/ A Matter of Trust/ Modern Woman/ Baby Grand/ Big Man on Mulberry Street/ Temptation/ Code of Silence. Getting Closer

Storm Front

That's Not Her Style/ We Didn't Start the Fire/ The Downeaster Alexa/ I Go To Extremes/ Shameless/ Storm Front/ Leningrad/ State of Grace/ When in Rome/ And So It Goes

River of Dreams
Fantasies and Delusions