'Glass Houses'

November 13, 2019

Album title: “Glass Houses”

Artist: Billy Joel

Release year: 1980

Favorite song: “Sleeping with the Television On”

 

Billy Joel has the glass house and throws the stone at it, too.

This saying and foundation of Joel’s album title – those who live in glass houses should not throw stones – is made only more poignant by the fact that Joel actually lived in a glass house in New York. The album cover depicts Joel with a big rock in front of his own home. How’s that for irony?

Joel’s “Glass Houses” and “Turnstiles” are two of my favorite album covers in my collection. The first probably because of his iconic leather bomber jacket and boots.

The record was a major hit, earning a Billboard chart-topping song with “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. It’s considered his rockingest album, but most critics still classify as him in that ambiguous genre called singer-songwriter.

Although, songwriter is appropriate. He’s one of the best. Joel wrote all 10 songs on this album.

MUSIC

This album is nothing if not catchy.

It starts with the sound of glass breaking.

“You May Be Right” is admittedly a pop-rock cliché, but dang if it isn’t an earworm. Watching Joel perform it live in a YouTube video made me want to dance.

 

Friday night I crashed your party

Saturday I said I'm sorry

Sunday came and trashed me out again

– “You May Be Right”

 

“Sometimes a Fantasy” is definitely an homage to punk. The song starts with the sound of dialing on a phone, then transitions into deep, breathy and drawn out verses. In the song, he expresses sexual desire for his long-distance lover.

This definitely has the 1980s syntheszier-heavy pop song vibe.

“Don’t Ask Me Why” is an outlier. The song features an assortment of instruments – not just the piano and guitar, but maracas, claves, triangle, ratchet and castanets. It’s an easy-listening type of track with softer vocals. This song performed well in the adult contemporary genre and it could pass as folk rock, but it’s a skip for me.

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Instant. Classic.

I like the punchy rhythm. It’s a pop-rock anthem.

 

Oh, it doesn't matter what they say in the papers

'Cause it's always been the same old scene

There's a new band in town but you can't get the sound

From a story in a magazine

–“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”

 

“All for Leyna” is a bit theatrical – a little more Queen than Elton John.

“I Don’t Want to be Alone” is offbeat in the best way. It’s a versatile song.

With piano as its initial driving force, “Sleeping with the Television On” is more my style. The peppy track is consistent with the storytelling nature of this album.

Joel is verbose with his lyrics. The following is my favorite.

I really wish I was less of a thinking man

And more a fool who's not afraid of rejection

– “Sleeping with the Television On”

“C'etait Toi (You Were the One)” is a ballad of sorts. It transitions from English to French partway through.

“Close to the Borderline” is the most classic rock of ’em all. Joel rattles off quick lyrics to an edgy guitar riff.

“Through the Long Night” is the softest, slowest song. It’s smoother than sailing.

DESIGN

On the back of the album, Joel stands behind shattered glass. Like I said, he lives in a glass house and throws stones at it, too.

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