Billy Joel, the American Elton John,
exhausted his artistic ambitions with the desolate fresco of
Piano Man (1973) and later devoted his career to more commercial fare
that borrowed from rock'n'roll (It's Still Rock And Roll To Me),
Broadway show-tunes (New York State Of Mind),
Tamla's party-music (Tell Her All About It, Uptown Girl),
vocal harmony groups of the 1950s (The Longest Time),
and old-fashioned pop ballads (This Is The Time).
(Translated from my original Italian text by DommeDamian)
Billy Joel, born and raised in New York, started out
in a progressive-rock band, the Hassles (UA, 1968), and then
formed the duo of Attila (Epic, 1970).
His first solo
album, Cold Spring Harbor (Gulf & Western, 1971 - Philips,
1974), was mostly influenced by Elton John (She's Got A Way).
Moving to Los Angeles,
he revealed himself in 1973 with the folk epic of Piano Man , which,
unlike those in fashion a few years earlier, was arranged for piano, harmonica
and accordion. The long piece traces a desolating picture of urban
alienation with suffered accents. In addition to that classic, the Piano
Man album (Columbia, 1973) contains other ambitious ballads such
as Captain Jack and The Ballad Of Billy The Kid . Joel
continued to explore that genre with Los Angelenos and The
Mexican Connection on Streetlife
Serenade (1974), which ended his Los Angeles stint.
Joel returned to New
York and recorded Turnstiles (1975). Joel chiseled the
orchestral New York State Of Mind and Say
Goodbye To Hollywood (reminiscent of Phil Spector's
girl-groups) as the singer-songwriter of metropolitan life, who actually
owes much to Broadway musicals.
The night club
serenade Just The Way You Are is the
highlight of The Stranger (1977), the album with which he
became a star, always taking as a model the pianist-singer par excellence,
Though My Life ,
on 52nd Street (1978), which blatantly mimics the style of
Paul McCartney and the Beatles, rock'n'roll of It's
Still Rock And Roll To Me , from Glass Houses (1980),
and synth-dance by Pressure ,
from The Nylon Curtain (1982), Joel came to the exuberant
party-music of Tell Her All About It (still reminiscent of Tamla-soul) and Uptown Girl (reminiscent
of Four Seasons), on An Innocent Man (1983) , perhaps his best
album, an explicit tribute to the civilization of the 1950s ( The
Longest Time is an a cappella chorus to the rhythm of the snap of
The romantic This
Is The Time ,
from The Bridge (1986), and We Didn't Start The Fire ,
a controversial rhyme with a hard and frenetic rhythm, from Storm Front (1989),
measure the variety of archaic materials that Joel can elaborate to build
hits. The second also featured the more serious Shameless .
Greatest Hits 1 & 2 (CBS, 1985) collects the hits of the
golden age, and will be followed by Greatest Hits Volume III (1997).
Success with less
content continued with River of Dreams (1993) and its
title-track (the apocalyptic No Man's Land is far better,
Delusions (Sony, 2001) is a
collection of piano pieces composed by Joel in the manner of classical music (a
three-movement suite for piano, three waltzes, etc). It is ridiculous at
best, and it has been noted that the label published this horrible album in the
same year it canceled a series of works by Gyorgy Ligeti. His pop star material aside, Billy Joel
embodies a lot of what is wrong with the music business.
Success continued with River Of Dreams (1993) and its title-track
(the apocalyptic No Man's Land is far better, though).
Fantasies & Delusions (Sony, 2001) is a collection of piano pieces
composed by Joel in the manner of classical music
(a three-movement suite for piano, three waltzes, etc). It is ridiculous at
best, and it has been noted that the label published this horrible album
in the same year it canceled a series of works by Gyorgy Ligeti. For all his
anti-pop star stances, Billy Joel embodies everything that is wrong with
the music business.
Billy Joel, nato e cresciuto a New York, esordi` in un complesso di
progressive-rock, gli Hassles (UA, 1968), e poi formo` il duo degli
Attila (Epic, 1970).
Il suo primo solo album,
Cold Spring Harbor (Gulf & Western, 1971 - Philips, 1974),
era influenzato soprattutto da Elton John
(She's Got A Way).
Trasferitosi a Los Angeles, si rivelo` nel 1973 con l'epica folk di
Piano Man, che, a differenza di quelle di moda qualche anno prima,
era arrangiata per pianoforte, armonica e fisarmonica. Il lungo brano
con accenti sofferti un quadro desolante dell'alienazione urbana.
Oltre a quel classico, l'album Piano Man (Columbia, 1973) contiene
altre ballate ambiziose come Captain Jack e The Ballad Of Billy
Joel continuo` a esplorare quel genere con Los Angelenos e
The Mexican Connection su
Streetlife Serenade (1974), che concluse la sua esperienza a Los Angeles.
Joel torno` a New York e registro` Turnstiles (1975).
Nei panni del cantautore di vita metropolitana, che in realta` deve molto
ai musical di Broadway, Joel cesello` l'orchestrale
New York State Of Mind e Say Goodbye To Hollywood (reminescente
dei girl-group di Phil Spector).
La serenata da night club Just The Way You Are e` il pezzo forte di
The Stranger (1977), l'album con cui divenne una star,
sempre prendendo a modello il pianista/ cantante per eccellenza, Elton John.
Attraverso My Life, su 52nd Street (1978), che imita
sfacciatamente lo stile di Paul McCartney e dei Beatles,
il rock'n'roll di It's Still Rock And Roll To Me, da
Glass Houses (1980), e
la synth-dance di Pressure, da The Nylon Curtain (1982),
Joel giunse all'esuberante party-music di Tell Her All About It (ancora
reminescente del Tamla-soul)
e Uptown Girl (reminescente dei Four Seasons), su An Innocent Man (1983), forse il suo album
migliore, un esplicito tributo alla civilta` degli anni '50
(The Longest Time e` un coro a cappella a ritmo di schiocchi di dita).
La romantica This Is The Time, da The Bridge (1986),
e We Didn't Start The Fire,
una filastrocca polemica a ritmo duro e frenetico,
da Storm Front (1989),
danno la misura della varieta'
di materiali arcaici che Joel puo` elaborare per costruire hit.
Sul secondo figurava anche la piu` seria Shameless.
Greatest Hits 1 & 2 (CBS, 1985) raccoglie gli hits dell'epoca d'oro,
e gli fara` seguito Greatest Hits Volume III (1997).