Storm Front (Billy Joel) – Album Review

Storm Front

Storm Front Yielded Billy Joel's Final Number 1 Hit, "We Didn't Start The Fire".

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. Continue reading

Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (Billy Joel) – Compilation Album (Part 2)

Only two Billy Joel compilations that span two CDs have been issued so far. I have reviewed the first one here – it is the one named “Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II”. The second definitive compilation was issued in 2001, and it is the one entitled “The Essential Billy Joel”.

Essential Billy Joel

“Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II” has 35 tracks. “The Essential Billy Joel” has 36. The latter covers every single album he released, the former reaches up to “An Innocent Man”. His three final albums are not covered.

There is a very glaring omission as far as the “Essential” compilation goes: “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” has been neglected. The song is beloved by fans, and while it was never released as a single (the only justification the compilers have for the omission) its relevance within Joel’s catalog is something which can never be disputed. Continue reading

Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (Billy Joel) – Compilation Album (Part 1)

Billy Joel Hits

The Front Cover

At the time of its release (1985), “Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II” was the definitive Billy Joel collection. All his major works are covered (no less than 6 compositions are culled from “The Stranger”), and two new tracks were included to appease long-time fans that already had all the hits.

The first disc opens with his by now standard “Piano Man”, and culminates with the highlights from “The Stranger”. Included is “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, a true favorite of Joel’s fans along with the title-track and a song that topped the charts and which Billy doesn’t particularly like: “Just The Way You Are”. Continue reading

Billy Joel – General Introduction

Sing Us A Song, You're The Piano Man

Sing Us A Song, You're The Piano Man

I discovered Billy Joel through his connection with Sir Elton John. Obviously, I had been on very good terms with songs like “Piano Man” and “Uptown Girl” long before I ever bought my fist Billy Joel record, and I recall that the one song of his that had me buying that album (a compilation) was “She’s Always A Woman”. I know the Elton/Billy comparison is a frequent one, but having listened to the output of both artists I can tell you it is a bit of a gratuitous comparison.

To begin with, Billy not only sings and plays the piano but actually writes the music and the words to his songs. Elton (as you probably know) writes only the music. That might be one of the reasons why Billy Joel only released about a dozen albums while Elton has released over 50 and counting.

But the main difference to me seems to lie in the actual subject matter. Simply put, Elton’s career has a somehow farcical value attached to it by many. Personally, I don’t like to use that expression when talking about Elton but it is the one that best defines a significant part of his career, and (most tellingly) the one that made him a star. And a fact is a fact: there is not an album within Elton’s discography that has the cultural significance of something like “The Nylon Curtain”, nor a song like “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.

Since Billy’s career has been shorter than Elton’s (he quitted recording rock and roll after releasing the “River Of Dreams” album in 1993), it is easier to get acquainted with his work and the filler is less abundant. Continue reading