Sunday, December 7, 2008

118. Billy Joel - Turnstiles

Liking Billy Joel was almost a prerequisite in high school. Our school, after all, was in the town Joel grew up in. We hung out at the village green made famous on a latter album. We were living in Billy Joel's world.

Truth is, I liked Joel. Later, after The Stranger came out and songs like Only the Good Die Young became overplayed anthems for Catholic school girls and after Brenda and Eddie become symbols of Long Island, I lost whatever taste I had for his music. Or maybe his music just outgrew me. But no matter how far I strayed from Joel, no matter how much I make fun of him now or how much disdain I have for the overreaching pop of Glass Houses or the emptiness of The Bridge or the pretentiousness of River of Dreams, I always come back to this album to remember why I really loved his music once upon a time.

Turnstiles is what being a singer songwriter is all about it. It's not about some melodramatic guy with a guitar or piano singing self conscious songs about love and loss. It's about making poetry out of life. It's about a guy with a flair for words and a talent for making music putting those things together to create something that grasps your heart and makes joy within your soul, even when the words are melancholy. The joy comes in the completeness of the words and music together, in a connection that seems almost spiritual in its beauty.

Summer, Highland Falls is the essence of all that; it's Whitman poetry with modern musings set to a pretty tune. The rest of the album is just as good. Miami: 2017, James, Angry Young Man and New York State of Mind, played out as it is, still makes me smile and remember all the reasons I love living here even when I hate it. I Loved These Days will still make me do an impromptu karaoke when it shows up on my iPod.

I forgot until now how much I adore this album and how much I adored Billy Joel once upon a time. It makes me forget how Scenes From an Italian Restaurant makes me cringe, in a way only someone who spent a lot of time at the village green in Hicskville, Long Island can know.

Favorite song: Summer, Highland Falls
Long Island music hall of fame


Sean Carnegie said...

Turnstiles good? Sure, it is, but The Bridge is still my favorite album of his. I grew up hearing it as my first Billy Joel album, I admit, but Matter of Trust rocks and Code of Silence is just beautiful.

Throw in a Ray Charles cameo on Baby Grand and it's my fave BJ album.

Mike said...

I grew up on Billy Joel. My first cassette was his Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2.

I grew up with the hits and radio songs (I'm in my late 20's) and it wasn't until high school when I started to listen to his earlier stuff.

Turnstiles and The Stranger are my favorite albums. I don't mind the popular songs, but when someone says "Scenes..." is their favorite Billy Joel song, I don't put much value in what they say about his songs, which I know makes me a total snob.

My favorite song is Miami 2017, but I prefer the live version off of "Songs in the Attic." I love hearing cheers come from the crowd when he mentions a section of the city or Long Island, or any other landmark/cultural object. The same goes for Springsteen, too. (I know you're not a fan of his either)

Ipecac said...

Billy Joel is my favorite singer songwriter. I don't think there is an "era" that is necessarily best--there is good stuff on each of his albums. Cold Spring Harbor is my favorite album. It just has that mellow, one voice, feel that transports you to a different time and place. Despite that, Summer Highland Falls is also my all time favorite Joel piece. The melodoy is haunting and the lyrics ring true to all kinds of people.

This isn't Ipecac. It's CJ. Couldn't figure out how to just leave my name.

Al said...

I've always liked Piano Man.

Captain Jack really is a great song (well, at least the first 300 times)and summons up more suburban teenage angst than every emo song put together. There is also something about the upbeat songs like Travelin' Prayer and Somewhere Along the Line that I find irresistible.

I always thought the Joel village green was Bethpage -- then again, the people who kept telling me that were all from Bethpage anyway.