Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Billy Joel - River Of Dreams (1993)

These are the last words I have to say....

  

Released on 10 August 1993

Running time 49.10

In 1993 Billy Joel suddenly called a halt on his recording/songwriting career. He still occasionally tours, singing his material from 1972-1993, but since 1993 he has not released an album. He seemed to suddenly lose interest and also his muse. Fair enough, if he felt he hadn't got it in him, or hadn't got the desire then that was a fine, honest decision on his part.

This was an album that subsequently didn't get much of my attention, which is probably a bit of a shame, as it is not a bad album at all and a fair swansong.

TRACK LISTING

1. No Man's Land
2. The Great Wall Of China
3. Blonde Over Blue
4. A Minor Variation
5. Shades Of Grey
6. All About Soul
7. Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)
8. The River Of Dreams
9. Two Thousand Years
10. Famous Last Words                                           
No Man's Land is a crashing rock number to open with, with a bit of an Elvis Costello & The Attractions keyboard/drum sound, particularly at the beginning. It is a lyrically cynical song about big business and high-level corruption.

The Great Wall Of China is a shuffling, powerful number, pretty typical of Joel's later material, full of power and purpose and appealing vocal delivery. Once again, the lyrics are realist and questioning. There is some great guitar soloing half way through from veteran Danny Kortchmar and Joel's voice is commanding and melodic throughout. It is a bit of a hidden Joel classic.

Blonde Over Blue has an attractive drum rhythm and another world-weary lyric. Joel's vocal is good, as are the synthesiser backing passages. Its appeal is not as instant as much of his earlier material, but a few listens and it gets there. A Minor Variation is a muscular, slow-paced but strong bluesy thumper of a number. It features a vibrant horn section. Joel could always deliver a bluesy vocal and he does just that here.Shades Of Grey is an ebullient, infectious song with Joel sounding committed and enthusiastic, as he sings two men's parts as they address each other.

All About Soul is one of the last Joel classics which features an absolutely killer, uplifting chorus that makes one remember just what a great artist Billy Joel was, what an ear for a tune he had and what a great voice too. I talk about him in the past tense because his career is now in the past, even though he is alive and well at 70 in 2019.

Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) is a tender piano ballad to one of his three daughters. Sometimes songs like this can be quite mawkish (John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart are all guilty), but I have to say that this one is quite delightful.

The final Joel classic is to be found in the doo-wop glory of The River Of Dreams and its addictive harmonies behind Joel's falsetto vocal. He cuts loose on the piano too - like the true piano man he is. The clip below shows him, backed by a large gospel choir, delivering a great performance of the song at the Grammy awards. Two Thousand Years is a big, grandiose, anthemic ballad. There is something Elton John-ish about it.

The final track is a sad but musically uplifting one in Famous Last Words. "These are the last words I have to say..." sings Billy over an attractive rhythm and piano melody. This is a really good song and a fine one for Billy Joel to bow out on. Hey Billy - thanks, man.

Below is a clip of Joel performing River Of Dreams.


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