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The Nylon Curtain

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Editors’ Notes

Billy Joel survived punk and new wave, giving it a good shot with Glass Houses. But by 1982, Ronald Reagan was president and baby boomers were settling into a reality of an America that was producing less and consuming more. John Lennon had been shot little more than a year earlier, further coarsening the atmosphere. Billy Joel set out to make the most ambitious album of his career, one that could stand together as a thematic whole; it'd end up as the best-sounding album in his catalog. He succeeds on most counts. It's among his favorites and was among the first albums to be recorded, mixed, and mastered digitally. On "Allentown," Joel was remarkably in sync with another East Coast rocker, Bruce Springsteen, who released Nebraska the same year. "Pressure" inhabited John Lennon's rage and spread it with Paul McCartney's sense of melody. "Goodnight Saigon" addressed the Vietnam War. The full chime of "She's Right on Time" and the synth textures of "Surprises" proved Joel was, above all, a peerless craftsman who could write and layer music like few others in pop music. 

Customer Reviews

Where do you people come from?

Lyrical shortcomings!!!??? Waterlogged second side!!!??? Anyone who doesn't appreciate the achingly beautiful metaphor in "Where's the Orchestra," the album's closing track, should have their reviewer's licensed revoked. Step aside, sonny, and let someone who knows how to drive take the wheel.

Solid Work

A highly under-rated album. Solid writing that offered a nice break from the techno-disco crap that was all over the place in the early 80s.

Joel's best? If not, it's close!

Billy Joel's career, in an odd and certainly unplanned way, has paralleled Elton John's every now and then. Where Elton had "Captain Fantastic..." Joel had "The Nylon Curtain." His songwriting, vividly crossing the inspirational wires of Lennon and McCartney, among others, fashioned a concept album that has yet to see its equal in his catalog. His songwriting is virtually flawless, vocals ring strong and true and the arrangements are appropriate to the material at nearly every track. For an album that gave us "Allentown," "Pressure," and "Goodnight Saigon," it's the rest of the tracks that fill in the rest of story very nicely indeed. Almost perfect, maybe, but brilliantly conceived and executed DEFINITELY.


Born: May 9, 1949 in Bronx, NY

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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