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Joel, Billy - 1980 Glass Houses

ARTIST: Joel, Billy
ALBUM: Glass Houses
LABEL: Columbia
SERIAL: PC 36384
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1990, Columbia, CK 36384 * 2010, Audio Fidelity, AFZ092 (gold disc, remastered, numbered edition)


LINEUP: Billy Joel - vocals, piano * Dave Brown - guitar * Liberty Devitto - drums * Doug Stegmeyer - bass * Russell Javors - guitar

TRACK LISTING: 01 You May Be Right * 02 Sometimes A Fantasy * 03 Don't Ask Me Why * 04 It's Still Rock And Roll To Me * 05 All For Leyna * 06 I Don't Want To Be Alone * 07 Sleeping With The Television On * 08 C'etait Toi (You Were The One) * 09 Close To The Borderline * 10 Through The Long Night


While hardly an AOR magnate, Billy Joel did in fact have some inspired melodic rock moments in his long career, and this is without question his heaviest album in a hard rock setting but also a melodic one also. This came as quite a shock to those who bought millions of copies of 'The Stranger' and '52nd St', as the fluent pop was largely discarded, but Joel was allegedly looking to retaliate in his own way to the flourishing new wave and weakening punk movement, although this has nothing in common with either. Keyboards and heavy riffs make their mark in sometimes astonishing fashion and I'm surprised this has not found favour with more AOR lovers over the years. Anyone doubting Joel's worth as a rocker might want to trek back to 1969 when he was part of a duo named Attila, an early heavy metal venture you'll have to hear to believe. Metal with keyboards and drums and no guitar!

The Songs
While this album was a commercial hit and known to many through the overplayed radio hits contained within, there's much to be savoured elsewhere. 'You Might Be Right' is well known, but to this day sounds like The Rolling Stones, a good rock workout regardless. I'm going to take a punt and suggest that the following track 'Sometimes A Fantasy' is the best genuine rock track Joel ever wrote. A punchy keyboard infused hard rock cut, with a chrous that has 'AOR' written all over it all within three and a half rousing minutes. The final keyboard flurry is dashing and my only complaint is the premature fade out of the melodic guitar solo. 'Don't Ask Me Why' promptly returns to the pop of the earlier albums, but the classic 'It's Still Rock And Roll To Me' sees Joel at his snotty best. From there on in its an AOR treat, with the high drama of 'All For Leyna' and all those big keyboards and cutting edge synths tearing away without mercy. Quite likeable is the breezy 'I Don't Want To Be Alone', lightweight and almost reggae in parts and paired with the upbeat AOR of 'Sleeping With The Television On' maintains the upwards curve. Proving he knew a crunchy riff or two 'Close To The Borderline' is another heavy rock exercise, surrounded by the less intense but pleasant 'C'est Etait Toi' and 'Through The Long Night'.

In Summary
On the face of it this is surely one of the most mainstream albums ever featured on the site, but it's still a contender because it was regarded as a controversial album by fans and critics at the time. Why I'm not sure, it was just Joel moving with the times and it's almost impossible trying to find an artist who wasn't influenced by melody and keyboards in the early 80's. Joel had another similar album in 1981, 'The Nylon Curtain' and throughout the rest of the decade Joel threw up some enjoyable moments with a ton of keyboards although I'd have to dismiss 'An Innocent Man' in that category. All that aside 'Glass Houses' is worth investigating if you have never heard anything besides the hits. You might be pleasantly surprised. Old Billy could mix it up with the best of them.

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#1 | Dag H Moldskred on May 08 2007 19:55:09
Hi, Surprise surprise. I love this album, always have but I like most Joel albums. This album together with 'Nylon Curtain' and 'Storm Front' are must have for AOR lovers. 'Glass Houses' have killers in: 'You May Be Right', 'All For Leyna', 'I Dont Wanna Be Alone' (KILLER REFRAIN), 'Sleeping With The Television On', and all the other songs are good too.

Good to see this genius credited at an AOR site.

Dag bugs
#2 | Eric on May 08 2007 22:27:50
I prefer his albums 'The Stranger' and '52nd Street', probably because I was living in New York at the time and as a storyteller, Joel captured the mood, vibe and flavor of the city/Long Island in the late 70's, but musically they were superb as well. I think with 'Glass Houses', he had lost his way a little bit. There's a new wave feel to the album that seems out of place with his persona and the production leaves a lot to be desired.
#3 | gdazegod on May 08 2007 23:45:46
Well I have to say I've decided to catch up on Billy's back catalogue of late. Crikey, it beggars belief that he's had so many successful songs from these albums.
#4 | richardb on May 09 2007 08:03:23
I must confess I'm a big fan of the man a very talented singer/songwriter indeed. However for AOR lovers surely 'Storm front' is THE album to get - definitely worthy of appraisal on this site.

#5 | PB on May 21 2007 11:00:12
B. Joel is a definite favourite in my world. Richard Marx also picked up a thing or two from him (and even covered his songs & made him play on his records) Wink. Healthy choices in the marrying department as well lol. Bottom line need all of his albums. There is such a plethora of incredible moments on each and every one of them.
#6 | Eric on May 21 2007 19:50:59
Agree PB. 'Turnstiles' and 'Streetlife Serenade' are also very good. Best to avoid his hard rock band Atilla and thier only album....
#7 | dangerzone on October 31 2008 02:35:04
I just noticed in my description of the album I named 'You May Be Right' as 'You Might Be Right'!pissed
#8 | gdazegod on October 31 2008 04:10:48
I'll fix it then.. lol~
#9 | JuniorNB on October 31 2008 13:13:46
At least you didn't call it, 'Bloody Well Right'. LOL
#10 | Jez on October 31 2008 18:10:58
My favourite Billy Joel album by far, although I really like 'The Nylon Curtain' aswell, ('Pressure' and 'Allentown ' being my picks from that one).'All For Leyna' is a mighty track on this one and remains my fave Billy Joel track of all. Not too keen on 'It's Still Rock And Roll To Me' which was alll over the radio at the time, but a big thumbs up for the rest of this fine album.
#11 | englandashes on September 27 2009 23:14:24
Read this review and the comments about a week again, made me pick up my first Billy Joel being Stormfront, which I have really enjoyed. Already got 'The Stranger' on it's way, it's a shame that one song, being awful 'Uptown Girl', has the ability previously to put you off an artist for life.

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