An Innocent Man

Billy Joel

Columbia, 1983

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


For the longest time (no pun intended), An Innocent Man was one of those Billy Joel albums that eluded purchase from me. I don’t know why, exactly, since it's one of his biggest sellers and contains some of my favorite Joel tunes. But when I did hear the album, I heard it during one of those important moments in my life. Because of that experience An Innocent Man will always mean something special to me.

Fortunately, I don’t have to exaggerate the album's quality, because it really is one of Joel’s best albums. Coming out of the decade where music could be as artificial as the chair I’m sitting on, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. Of course, the main reason for that is Joel decided to honor the artists of the 50s and 60s who had inspired him.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I can’t really tell you which songs sound likes whom from those decades. What I can tell you is that the overall sound is genuine. Every track except “Keepin' The Faith” is permeated with a 50s/60s retro sound. This is not Joel’s 80s take on the music; this is as close to the actual music as you can get.

The arrangements are sparse and simplistic, the vocal arrangements are tight and warm, and Joel himself has never sounded better. An Innocent Man shows off Joel’s versatile voice, a staple of his earlier albums. Take “The Longest Time,” which is essentially a one man a cappella show from the Piano Man. The only other accompaniment is some bass work and finger snapping, but the vocals fill up the rest of the song, adding texture. The title track demonstrated Joel’s falsetto to tremendous effect; I’d rank this with his top performances of all time.

Granted, some of the material on An Innocent Man is cheesy and clichéd. Let’s face it, not many other artists could get away with the doo-wop “Uptown Girl,” but Joel did and pulled it off well. There’s an innocence (sorry!) about the material, which mainly deals with love in all its forms. Of course, if I was married to Christie Brinkley, I’d be moonstruck too.

Picking the top moments off An Innocent Man is a difficult task. “Leave A Tender Moment Alone” is a prime example of Joel’s melodic gifts; the refrain sounds burdensome on its own but Joel makes it flow smoothly. The Stevie Wonder-ish harmonica work only adds to the track. “This Night” resonated the most with me of any song off the album. It could have been a few things: the lush string arrangements, the wailing sax solo, or the lyrics that still hit me hard. And “Keeping The Faith” has a bass riff you can't stop grooving to.

People tend to forget An Innocent Man when talking about the greatest pop albums ever. But you’d be hard pressed to find one more appealing and consistent than An Innocent Man. This one goes out to you, Ms. B.

Rating: A

User Rating: B+


I can't add too much to the above review. This album rocks.
Leave a tender moment alone, and uptown girl are two of my all time favorite pop songs. I thought of Billy Joel as an Elton John sound alike until this album. I haven't witnessed their joint show
but I know it must be awsome to fans of both.

© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.