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The Nylon Curtain

Billy Joel

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Album Review

Billy Joel hit back as hard as he could with Glass Houses, his bid to prove that he could rock as hard as any of those new wave punks. He might not have proven himself a punk — for all of his claims of being a hard rocker, his work inevitably is pop because of his fondness for melody — but he proved to himself that he could still rock, even if the critics didn't give him any credit for it. It was now time to mature, to move pop/rock into the middle age and, in the process, earn critical respect. In short, The Nylon Curtain is where Billy Joel went serious, consciously crafting a song cycle about Baby Boomers in the Reagan era. Since this was an album about Baby Boomers, he chose to base his music almost entirely on the Beatles, the pivotal rock band for his generation. Joel is naturally inclined to write big melodies like McCartney, but he idolizes Lennon, which makes The Nylon Curtain a fascinating cross between ear candy and social commentary. His desire to record a grand concept album is admirable, but his ever-present lyrical shortcomings mean that the songs paint a picture without arriving at any insights. He occasionally gets lost in his own ambition, as on the waterlogged second side, but the first half of the song suite — "Allentown," "Laura," "Pressure," "Goodnight Saigon," "She's Right on Time" — is layered, successful, mature pop that brings Joel tantalizingly close to his ultimate goal of sophisticated pop/rock for mature audiences.

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 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...
Full Bio

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