Storm Front

Billy Joel

Columbia Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes an artist's most mature work is the one which doesn't get the most attention.

Billy Joel was faced with a tough decision - after the success of his album An Innocent Man and the commercial failure of The Bridge, he needed to re-think his musical direction. His answer: Storm Front, which has only gotten better since it was released in 1989.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only damning moment on the album is the first single, "We Didn't Start The Fire," where it sounds like Joel memorized the entire New York Times story morgue in an attempt to write a hit song. It was seen at the time as pompous; now it's only damned annoying. Not a good start to breaking out of a slump.

Fortunately, Joel makes very few of these mistakes. "That's Not Her Style" is a great slab of power-pop which has Joel and his band moving a little closer to the rock vein, a move which works. Further evidence of this success is heard in "I Go To Extremes," one of the best songs Joel has ever recorded. The drums and piano are almost perfectly thrown into the mix, and results in a radio-friendly song.

Other songs are surprise successes. One would think a song named after your child would be overbearing. However, "The Downeaster Alexa" has little to do with the product of his marriage with supermodel Christie Brinkley, and more with why Joel was considered one of the best storytellers in music at the start of his career. This is a poignant picture of a fisherman who has given up everything in order to try to earn a living for his family. "Leningrad" is a stinging attack against the images each side on the Cold War painted of each other - in the haste to make each side the enemy, we forgot they were human.

Even the title track, often a weak link on an album, is a decent track - Joel's voice is in rare form. The album's closer, "And So It Goes," strips it down to just Joel and his piano, and the silence of these two voices speaks volumes.

In face, Storm Front only has two weak tracks. Besides "We Didn't Start The Fire," the only throwaway track is "When In Rome" - all in all, par for the course.

Storm Front only topped the charts for one week, his third number one album of his career. This is definitely an album that is worth picking up - it's easily Joel's best work ever.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 1997 Christopher Thelen 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 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.