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River of Dreams

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Editors’ Notes

Released in 1993, River of Dreams is Billy Joel's last album of pop music, and a close listen makes it obvious why. Joel had been betrayed by people around him. He'd taken financial hits throughout his career and suffered at the hands of critics enough to make him wonder why he was still pursuing his childhood dreams. "The Great Wall of China" lays it out in surprising depth. The hard funk and anger behind "A Minor Variation"—unexpected from a playful craftsman like Joel—musically makes it clear that he's hanging up his rock 'n' roll shoes with the best rock music of his career. The entire album expresses variation upon variation of Joel's frustration. "No Man's Land," an excellent tight rocker against suburbia, is virtually trivial compared to the existential issues elsewhere. "Shades of Grey" is pure midlife crisis. "All About Soul" and "Famous Last Words" resonate more deeply than most of the hits in his catalog. Fans didn't believe it at the time—and Joel still does perform every now and then—but this is Joel saying goodbye and good luck.

Customer Reviews

Great Album

"River of Dreams" is a great record. The songs explore many of Joel's themes from earlier albums: "No Man's Land" is a pointed social commentary; "Great Wall of China," about his former manager (or lawyer, not quite sure which), is both angry and puzzled (Christie Brinkley told him the man didn't deserve a song); and "River of Dreams," much like what we heard on "Innocent Man," is stylistically a throwback to the '50s. However, here Joel starts to break tradition. On the title track, he explores spirituality, something we haven't seen before. Likewise "Lullabye," written for his daughter Alexa Ray, touches on mortality and what it means to live on after one is gone. "Two Thousand Years" continues this new direction with a musing on the upcoming millennium. Joel's songwriting has matured and gained depth and grace on "River of Dreams." As always, his lyrics are passionate, honest, and sincere. It is easy to see why the album is nominated for four grammy awards. I give it five stars, and hope to hear more from the Piano Man in the future.

No Rating?

I see nobody has rated this album.. As a long-time Joel fan, I haven't had to own every one of his late albums, but this CD is phenomemal.

Joels Greatest

Joel's 9 album, dedicated to his wife at the time, has shown his growth as an artist more so than any of his others. Of course, "The Stranger" was brilliance and probably the greatest piano rock album ever made, "River" brings Billy farther away from the piano than he has been since "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." The hardest rocking and angriest track opens the album as he takes on big business with "No Man's Land." "Blonde Over Blue" combines fine lyrics the like of "For the Longest Time" with high notes no one would've thought the Long Island could reach. The allbum's greatest triumph was its least commercial, as Joel looks over the landscape of human history in the epic "Two Thousand Years," which manages to be both cynical and comforting as he winds through time backed by acoustic strumming, and tender bridge piano solos. All together, this is Joel at his creative peak, and it leaves you wondering if the angry, loud voice that drives "No Man's Land" could be the same crooner behind classics like "Goodnight Saigon."

Biography

Born: May 9, 1949 in New York, NY [The Bronx]

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Although Billy Joel never was a critic's favorite, the pianist emerged as one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the latter half of the '70s. Joel's music consistently demonstrates an affection for Beatlesque hooks and a flair for Tin Pan Alley and Broadway melodies. His fusion of two distinct eras made him a superstar in the late '70s and '80s, as he racked an impressive string of multi-platinum albums and hit singles. Born in the Bronx, Joel was raised in the Long Island suburb of Hicksville,...
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