Thursday, May 19, 2016

Billy Joel - Turnstiles

Today (May 19th) marks the fortieth anniversary of Turnstiles, the fourth studio album from Billy Joel. This 1976 record spent only twelve weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 122. It also reached number 286 in Japan and number 12 in Australia.

Thematically, the album mirrors Joel's return to New York City after spending time in Los Angeles.

Side one starts with "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", a song with a distinct early 60's rock era sound ala the Ronnettes "Be My Baby". As the lead single, this version went to number 45 in Australia. When a live version was released in 1981, that single went to number 35 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 27 in Canada, and number 17 on the US Billboard Hot 100. I have a stronger recollection to this latter version as it was right during the sweet-spot of my high school radio listening.

My favorite part of "Summer, Highland Falls" is the piano melody that opens the tune and weaves then through out. The lyrics are very reflective but I have not really connected much to them over the years.

"All You Wanna Do Is Dance" has a light and tropical reggae rhythm. Its lyrics are critical of a woman who does not want to take any responsibility and instead chooses to be carefree.

The beautiful "New York State of Mind" reflects Joel's pride in his hometown. It is fitting that it closes the first side because it is easily the centerpiece and heart of the album. The signature saxophone solo was originally done here by Richie Cannata, but it was replaced by a Phil Woods version when the song appeared on 1985's Greatest Hits Volume I & II.

Side two begins with "James", a song to a childhood friend whose life took a different path. As the second single it peaked at number 77 in Australia and number 16 in the Netherlands.

"Prelude/Angry Young Man" consists of two parts, the first being a minute forty-five of Joel putting his piano through its paces. The rest is a very rebellious portrait that fit in well during the post-Vietnam era 70's here in the United States. I can remember this one getting some airplay on the album rock stations in the early 80's when Joel's career really kicked into overdrive.

Things then slow down again with another reflective ballad "I've Loved These Days". In the end, he realizes how destructive things have been and that things will need to change.

The closer "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" has been described by Joel as a bit of a science-fiction song about an apocalypse that befalls the Big Apple. The song plays off a lot of media at the time saying New York was in a downward spiral. Luckily, this future "vision" never came to pass.

I picked up Turnstiles digitally a number of years back when I was doing a lot of filling in on my music library. The price was right when I was focusing on the early catalog of Billy Joel. Back in 1976 when I was just eleven years old, I definitely would not have had the life experience to really appreciate the record as much as I can today.

For more from Billy Joel, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

I came to Turnstiles much later, after falling for the live versions of some of its songs on Songs In The Attic and working my way backward through his discography.

In hindsight, he had all the ingredients in stock but his recipe for success was just a little off. I think Phil Ramone, who was brought on as producer for the next few albums after Turnstiles was the difference.

That being said, this is one of my wife's favorite albums and we listen to it a little less than frequently.