Storm Front (1989)

1. That's Not Her Style 2. We Didn't Start the Fire 3. The Downeaster "Alexa" 4. I Go To Extremes 5. Shameless 6. Storm Front 7. Leningrad 8. State of Grace 9. When in Rome 10.And So it Goes


Billy Joel had worked with the same producer and backup band for over a decade now, and he probably started to feel a little too complacent. Sure, he knew these guys pretty well, but sometimes when making records, this can be a liability rather than an asset. How can you take risks and chances when you can predict what everyone around you is going to say and do? So Joel fired the lot, with the exception of drummer Liberty DeVito and brought in fresh blood. Mick Jones, the brains behind the rock group Foreigner was a bit untested as a producer, but Joel decided to recruit him. With all the shakeups, what resulted was one of Joel's best albums of his career. He hasn't rocked this hard since Glass Houses and managed once again to get a huge percentages of these songs successfully released as hit singles on the radio.

One thing that I became disgusted with around this time was the media's fascination with Christie Brinkley. It seemed like every time I saw, or read an interview with Billy Joel, the boneheaded interviewer wanted to talk more about his super model wife than about what Joel was doing musically. Sure, she was beautiful, but I was hungry for more of the artist, not the "husband of a super model". Perhaps Joel felt the same way, which is why the opening track is specifically about her. More specifically That's Not Her Style was about her image. I think it might have been released just to shut everyone up. It's a great tune to open up the album with its roadhouse feel that really manages to set the mood quite well for the rest of the record.

The next song on the album was probably the weirdest song Billy Joel ever attempted. We Didn't Start the Fire is one of those songs that sounds incredibly corny if your familiar with the idea behind the song, but have never actually heard it. Of course, by now everyone has heard it, so it's a bit of a mute point. I'm sure there weren't that many people that thought a forty year cliffs notes version of history would make such a great song. Getting somewhat political, Joel shifts gears in his plea for the fate of the Long Island Fisherman with the calypsoish The Downeaster Alexa complete with accordion and violin. It's a perfect fit for the mood he's attempting to emulate.

Most of the rest of the album is well delivered in terms of rock and roadhouse blues. Of course, after all the Russia hype, it's only natural he would find a sentimental piece about his journey to record, which he does on the track Leningrad. It's one of the sweetest, most personal things he's ever done and fits the mood perfectly. Surprisingly, he closes the set with a sad, piano-only ballad aptly titled And So It Goes. It's short on energy, but high on emotion. It was yet another strong single. Even more surprising was when country superstar Garth Brooks discovered the track on this album Shameless and quickly recorded it and turned it into a Country-Western hit. Maybe this is why country purists always dismissed Garth Brooks as "Billy Joel with a Cowboy Hat"?

This proved to be his most successful album in years. Sadly, it was soon revealed that Joel had made a lot of poor financial decisions and was essentially broke when he made this album. This caused him to "have to" go on an extended tour to fill the hole back up. Being the showman that he was, he never seemed to mind. Plus it probably only helped the sales of the disc. And it was an incredible tour as well. You might even argue that this phase was the highlight of his entire career.

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