Continuing the chronological presentation of my 25 favorite songs…
‘Vienna’ – Billy Joel (1977)
Billy Joel’s The Stranger came out the same year as Rumours, a fact that doesn’t quite compute in my head. I think of Joel’s album as coming much later for some reason. That’s two all-time great albums in a single year. I look forward to seeing what else 1977 had to offer when I get there in my Decade series.
Four years contributed two songs to my list of 25 favorites, one each in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s.
If you’re a Billy Joel fan, as I am, you find gems no matter where in his catalog you go. OK, maybe his last couple of albums were a bit thin on great material, but prior to the mid-80s, he was firing on all cylinders.
Take today’s SOTD, a cut from the second half of Piano Man, Joel’s 1973 sophomore album and his commercial breakthrough. ‘Stop in Nevada’ is a great song in the same country rock vein as much of the record. Casual Joel fans have probably never heard it. But if you know and love the man, this is one more solid song in a sea of them.
I didn’t know back in 1993 when I bought Billy Joel’s River of Dreams that it would be the last album of pop songs he’d ever release. Maybe Joel has a surprise in store 27 years later, but it sure seems like this was his swan song.
This is far from my favorite Billy Joel album — a quick glance at his discography suggests I’d rank it at #11 of 12 — but it’s plenty good enough to be my #8 album of 1993.
An Innocent Man, Billy Joel’s tribute to the R&P, soul and doo wop music of his youth, is my #7 album of 1983.
A Innocent Man was Joel’s follow-up to the excellent, but under-performing (by his standards), The Nylon Curtain. While Nylon went “only” double-Platinum, this album went 7x Platinum and ties with 52nd Street and Glass Houses as his second most successful album, behind the Diamond-level The Stranger.
Yes, Billy Joel was a freaking juggernaut.
My final pick for the upcoming Billy Joel anthology series is ‘Big Man on Mulberry Street,’ the epic, jazzy centerpiece of Joel’s 1986 album The Bridge. This is one of Joel’s best songs, so different than so much of what preceded it, yet still quintessentially him.
The song features one of Joel’s great characters, a small-time New Yorker with big-time dreams. This guy, with the right writing and acting, could be an incredibly rich character.