Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Monday, November 20, 2006

Top 10 Billy Joel Albums

I have a thing for lists. So when Burry Katz put up part 3 of the '90s "Jump-the-Shark" series, I got jealous. So it was time for another list from yours truly.

I've been a big Billy Joel fan for a good few years already. I've gone from being casual fan to becoming a fan of the b-sides and the songs you'll never hear on the radio or in concert. And unlike many other artists, it seems like many of his albums have a unique sound or theme to them. And for the list, greatest hits compilations and live albums don't count.

This looks like a Listmania list from written by some punk with nothing better to do. Too bad. Let the countdown begin!

10 - Streetlife Serenade (1975) - Good all-around album, though unspectacular. The Entertainer is a classic, and Los Angelenos and The Weekend Song sound better live. Roberta is underrated. Interesting tidbit: it was the last Billy album with instrumentals (and no corny lines about his classical album, please).

9 Glass Houses (1980) - Amazing Side A (You May Be Right, Fantasy, Don't Ask Me Why, Still RnR, Leyna). Crappy Side B (especially the French song).

8 River of Dreams (1993) - solid final album for Billy, but not as great as his classic stuff. It was cool when he did "Great Wall of China" and "Lullabye" on his last tour.

7 Piano Man (1973) - I'm real sick of the title track, but the rest of the album is great. Has a country-western feel to it (Traveling Prayer, Billy the Kid, Stop in Nevada). And there's "Captain Jack," too.

6 Cold Spring Harbor (1971) - Where it all began. Billy's style on here seems totally different from all of his subsequent stuff; I can't pinpoint what it is. Maybe it's because his voice sounds whinier on here. And that could be why I could never really get into this album. Nevertheless, "Tomorrow is Today" and "Falling of the Rain" are must-haves.

5 Storm Front (1989) - So many great songs on here. Many songs sound lame on the album (thank you Mick Jones), but are killer live. Get concert versions of "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Storm Front" "That's Not Her Style" "Extremes" and "Shameless" and see what I mean. Plus, "Leningrad""The Downeaster Alexa" and "And So It Goes" are some of his best ballads.

4 52nd Street (1978) - Billy's jazz album. Many of my favorites are on here, like "Big Shot," "My Life" "Stilletto" "Zanzibar" and "Honesty," plus great lesser-known tracks like "Rosalinda's Eyes" and "Until the Night."

3 The Nylon Curtain (1982) - Very interesting album. It took a while to grow on me, and once I figured out that it was a tribute to Lennon, I really came to appreciate it. Though this album has hits like "Allentown" and "Pressure" on here, for me it's all about the album tracks (he played a bunch of them on his last tour, which was pretty cool, except the casual fans in the crowd had no interest in hearing "Laura" or "Room of Our Own")

2 The Stranger (1977) - This album has more radio hits than any other Billy Joel album ("Scenes" "Only the Good Die Young" "Just the Way You Are" "She's Always a Woman" "Movin' Out" and the title track), which overshadow gems like "Vienna" and "Get it Right the First Time" (he used to do the latter at concerts in the late '70's, and hasn't done it since. Nowadays he has to sing everything on a lower key - it would probably sound horrendous).

1 Turnstiles (1976) - There's one lousy song on here (track 3 - All You Wanna Do Is Dance), but otherwise, the album is a home run. No, a grand slam. Great songs through and through, and a lot of interesting themes - New York ("New York State of Mind" "Miami 2017"), leaving California ("I've Loved These Days" "Say Goodbye to Hollywood"), and pursuing your dreams ("James"). The arrangment on this album aren't great, and everything sounds better live, but the songs themselves are just terrific. Plus, this has a cool cover, so that helps catapult this album to #1.

Didn't make it - An Innocent Man: I like this tribute to the 50's, but hearing clips of Uptown Girl on all those promos for the "Movin' Out" musical got me sick of it. I have to be in the mood for cheesy music for most of the stuff on it. Cool music videos from this one, though (especially "Keeping the Faith").

The Bridge - very mixed bag. I like Matter of Trust and Baby Grand, but I hate Running on Ice. And even the good songs don't really stand out. Overall, it's just a very mediocre Billy Joel album; still better than most of the stuff in your record store, but it's very hard to get excited about this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this article because I am a big Billy Joel fan. The only thing I have to say something about is that An Innocent Man was not on your Top 10 list. For me An Innocent Man ranks in my top 5 but I was just surprised that it did not make your top 10. Every song on the album is fantastic!

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Joshua Diamond said...

His voice is whinier on Cold Spring Harbor because the producers screwed it up. It could have been a classic album, but they sped up the temp accidentally. One of the biggest mistakes in music history, as far as I'm concerned.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the stranger is the best by far asshole

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the stranger is the best album by far. its just the best period. broadsword.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jacob poag is gay

10:32 PM  
Anonymous jacob poag said...

you are

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with almost everything on the list. I'm glad you put The Nylon Curtain in it, for it is kinda under rated.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Man, Innocent Man should be on any Billy Joel list -I'd make it my No 1 with Stormfront second.

8:52 AM  

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