Billy Joel is another strand in the ‘Piano Men (And Women)’ segment of my personal musical genome. That’s fitting, considering he gave it its name. And I didn’t feel right selecting any other song to represent him.
Joel doesn’t bridge any of my other categories in a meaningful way. Apart from the cinematic intro to ‘The Ballad of Billy the Kid,’ he’s never dabbled in country. His experiments with doo-wop and 50s pop on An Innocent Man aren’t exactly what I have in mind for my ‘Pure Pop’ category. And his street-smart style in no way derives from folk rock.
Best Albums of the 70s – #4
The Stranger – Billy Joel (1977)
It all comes back to the whistling. That plaintive but sensual whistled melody that opens the title track of Billy Joel’s The Stranger and then returns as the coda after the album’s final song. It settles you into the world of this marvelous record and prepares you for the treasures within.
Best Albums of the 70s – #18
52nd Street – Billy Joel (1978)
I’ve never understood why Billy Joel gets such a bad rap. Just the other day I happened upon a Slate article titled ‘The Worst Pop Singer Ever: Why, Exactly is Bill Joel So Bad?’
That’s the sort of garbage that only gets written about artists who are beloved by “the masses” and therefore un-hip.
And my second Random Weekend selection is… ‘Temptation’ from Billy Joel’s 1986 album, The Bridge.
Well, it could have been worse. It could have been ‘This is the Time.’
The Bridge is an interesting album in that it features some of Joel’s most ambitious, complex work (songs such as ‘Big Man on Mulberry Street,’ ‘Running On Ice’ and ‘Code of Silence’) but also some of his worst forays into MOR sap.
Best Songwriters – #10 – Billy Joel
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a comment saying that I don’t consider Brad Paisley or Taylor Swift among my “top tier” of songwriters. So of course the question that immediately jumped into my mind was, “Who is in my top tier of songwriters?”
The next two weeks will be dedicated to answering that question.
First, a few ground rules.
I’m restricting this list to solo artists. No Lennon/McCartney or Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe band collaborations here. No Counting Crows, Belle & Sebastian or The Smiths.