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Showing posts from 2024

Billy Joel: River of Dreams (1993)

River of Dreams  is Billy Joel's 12th and (up to now) final album. It's an album possessed of anger, cynicism, and resignation. These emotions and themes were nothing new for Joel, but not since 1982's  The Nylon Curtain  had he released such a downer collection. In fact, the three songs that got radio play (the title track,  All About Soul , and  Lullabye ) are the only fully positive songs on the record.  The album is a slow starter. Opening song  No Man's Land  is a guitar heavy condemnation of modern society. Billy had written eloquently about societal ills before (such as the plights of working men and women on  " Allentown"  and  The  Downeaster  "Alexa" ), but here ham- fistedly  takes lower-rung topics like mega-malls, tabloids, and television.  Great Wall of China  is similarly bitter, and at first blush appears to be a pretty good break-up tune. However, further analysis points to the song being about a business partner or manager of some s

Billy Joel: 2007 & 2001 Releases

"Christmas in Fallujah" (2007) Dismayed by the second Bush administration's war on Iraq, Billy wrote this protest song. He gave it to an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Long Island, Cass Dillon, saying that it made more sense coming from someone who was around the age of the soldiers who were fighting. (A live version with Billy on vocals was released as a single in Australia).  The guitar-based, Beatles-ish tune sounds musically like it could have fit on Billy's last album, River of Dreams . Lyrics-wise, it is very much a successor to "Goodnight Saigon" from 1982's The Nylon Curtain . But whereas that song avoided passing judgment on the war itself, "Christmas in Fallujah " doesn't. Part of the song focuses on the soldiers, who feel forgotten, afraid, and alone. But the sharpest lines take aim at the profit-minded thinking that put them there in the first place: "They say Osama's in the mountains / Deep in a cave near Pakista

Billy Joel: "Turn the Lights Back On" (2024)

We are living in the age of musical miracles. I had long ago resigned myself to the fact that we'd never again hear new music from The Beatles or Billy Joel. Then, in the space of four months both broke their silences. The Beatles, of course, gave us the gorgeous "Now and Then" in early November 2023, their first "new" music since the mid 1990s. Billy Joel, in early February 2024, released his first song since "Christmas in Fallujah" and "All My Life" In 2007. One could make a strong argument that we should really label "Turn the Lights Back On" Billy's first new song since 1993. "Christmas in Fallujah" was given to a young singer/songwriter named Cass Dillon. "All My Life" was a Rat Pack-style jazz ballad written for Billy's third wife upon their marriage. Neither was marketed as an end to Billy's retirement from recording. "Turn the Lights Back On" is very different in that regard. Its lyr

It's Still Billy Joel to Me

Not long ago I sat down with a DVD compilation of Billy Joel videos and promotional films. As I watched him play an unshaven guardian angel, car mechanic, and game show contestant I was reminded again of my abiding love for his music. Granted, it doesn't take much to remind me. I've been a fan since I was six years old and my mom played tapes of An Innocent Man (1983) and Greatest Hits (1985) over and over in the car as we drove around town. In college I did a deep dive into his catalog and found that and found that Billy's music - even the songs I didn't listen to growing up - helped ground me whenever I felt lost in the process of growing up.  This deep connection has continued through adulthood, and I haven't shied away from writing about him on this blog over the years. In fact, I've written reviews about four of his 12 studio albums. So it occurrs to me that he is a prime candidate for an every-album-reviewed project. In case you're new around here, I&

The Tortured Poets Department: The Revision

Before a person is allowed to write about music, they must commit to an oath comprised of several tenets. One of the most sacred of these is that anytime an artist releases a double album, your reaction must be to say that it would have been so much better as a single album .  On April 26, 2024 the biggest pop star of the last 15 years, Taylor Swift, released her eleventh album. The intial streaming, CD and vinyl versions of The Tortured Poets Department featured sixteen tracks, with four different bonus songs available CD. Then, at 2am on April 27 streaming services were hit with The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology , a 31-track behemoth featuring the original 16 songs, the 4 bonus tracks, and 11 additional songs.  Given that Swift was riding as high as any musician ever has, one might think that perhaps this album would be an exception to the critical rules. But it wasn't. After all, another of those of those very rules is that backlash is ineveitable.  So even before th