Billy Joel


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Cold Spring Harbor, 6/10
Piano Man, 6.5/10
Streetlife Serenade, 6.5/10
Turnstiles, 5.5/10
The Stranger, 6.5/10
52nd Street, 4/10
Glass Houses, 4/10
The Nylon Curtain, 5/10
An Innocent Man, 6.5/10
The Bridge, 5.5/10
Storm Front, 5/10
River of Dreams, 4.5/10
Fantasies & Delusions, 3.5/10
Links:

Summary:
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, Elton John.

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 fingers).

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, 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. 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 traccia 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 The Kid. 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).

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