Glass Houses

Billy Joel

Columbia Records, 1980

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Hard as it is to believe, once upon a time Billy Joel was a rock and roll singer instead of someone who toured with Elton John. (Elton John was a rock star once, too, but that's another review.) Joel's early career -- roughly from 1971-1982 -- is filled with biting, incisive, acidic rock music that's a far cry from his later adult contemporary singer-songwriter schtick. It's a measure of Joel's genius that he does both genres equally well; but you younguns who have only heard my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 River Of Dreams need a little historical awareness, and I'm here to give it to you.

Because, frankly, Glass Houses rocks. The pinnacle of Joel's angry young man persona, Glass Houses is a rock and roll masterpiece, hard-hitting, biting, and crisp. The sound is minimalist; Joel was flirting with punk and New Wave influences, and those notes are woven all through the CD. Production and engineering is spare and lean; even the radio-friendly songs (and Glass Houses spawned four American chart hits) have a certain clean elegance about them.

That's the genius of Glass Houses; the songs. Out of ten tracks on the CD, nine of them are pure brilliance. "Don't Ask Me Why" and "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me" remind us of a long-ago mythic age when radio programmers played good songs. "You May Be Right," another chart single, is a great piece of pop-rock. "Sometimes A Fantasy" is crystallized paranoia, driven by one of the greatest bass and drum lines in music history.

And you know what? Those aren't even the best songs on Glass Houses. That laurel goes to "All For Leyna," a haunting tale of romantic obsession whose keyboard intro has stayed with me for twenty-two years. Also worth noting is "Sleeping With The Television On," where Joel almost sounds like Elvis Costello in his pissed-off stage, and the truly frightening "Close To The Borderline," about a man one straw away from a broken camel.

Glass Houses is the crown jewel of Billy Joel's career as a rock singer, and should not be missed.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-



© 2003 Duke Egbert 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.