Released in 1989, this was the album that gave Billy Joel his fourth and final number 1 single: “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. The song cast such a shadow on the album that people are mostly unaware of what is included besides that chart-topper. The truth is that there are a handful of songs that keep up with Joel’s standards and craftsmanship. These are mostly segregated on the first side, and they include “I Go To Extremes” and “The Downeaster Alexa”. The former is an energetic number about bipolarity, whereas the latter is a spot-on commentary on the plight of fishermen at around that time.
Besides, the album includes “Leningrad” along with the bittersweet “And So It Goes”, a song rendered by Billy playing solo. I can’t help but notice how Elton John and Billy Joel share the same approach in some of his ’80s albums, ending them on a solo note. Elton does exactly the same on the “Sleeping With The Past” record, in which the ending track has him playing unaccompanied for a long stretch, and even when other instruments do come in the focus never strays from Elton’s piano.
“Leningrad” keeps up with the social vision Billy first offered on “The Nylon Curtain”, and the video makes the song stand all the more relevant if only because it narrates a true story. The song also spotlights a more classical side to his piano playing.
Elsewhere, we have compositions that Billy wrote inspired by his then wife Christy Brinkley. These include the acceptable set opener “That’s Not Her Style” and “When In Rome”, a song that lowers the appeal of the record before “And So It Goes” rolls in to save the day. The title track is one of the weakest links, and I also seem to be the one and only person in the world that listens to “State Of Grace” enthusiastically.
In finishing, while “Storm Front” does not rival his ’70s output it does include enough quality songs as to merit a spin. And if you went for the “Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II” set and wish to listen to the rest of the story, this is where to begin – it has the one chart topper you don’t have, and some of his best late-day releases in the form of “I Go To Extremes”, “Leningrad” and “The Downeaster Alexa”. The rest is not stellar, but it won’t have you reaching for the skip button either. On the other hand, this album is more than satisfactorily represented on the “Essential” compilation. If you already own that and you have just a passing interest in Billy’s music, there is no real reason to brave this particular storm front.