Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Billy Joel album 4 - Turnstiles

In May of 1976 Billy Joel released Turnstiles, marking his move from LA back to New York. The opening track ("Say Goodbye To Hollywood") gives away the theme early on and it is cemented by "New York State of Mind" as track 4. The album art even shows him posing at the turnstile entrance to the New York subway system. Not exactly subtle.

My favourite tracks are "All You Wanna Do Is Dance", despite the keyboard steel drums solo and because of the great lyrics and style. I also like "James" even though it is a little bit of a sad song. He is basically writing to an old friend asking him if he's happy after their lives took different turns. ("I went on the road, you pursued an education" and "James, you've been well behaved, you've been working hard. But will you always stay someone else's dream of who you are?"). But the standout tracks are the last three. I'll give some time to the last two in a future album "Songs In The Attic".

"Prelude/Angry Young Man" is a powerhouse of a song, with this crazy cool piano prelude which flies along. I remember getting the piano book of the album years later when I was starting music school at MUN and learning to play that prelude, although never fluidly. But it was my first time discovering music theory concepts out in the wild, not just in a theory book. Things like major 7th chords, and chord inversions, and common tones. Exciting stuff for me at the time. I've already said the album came out in 1976 but I didn't get it until sometime between 1978 and 1980 and I never got that book until a few years after that. More on that next time.

For now, I'll finish with this. Billy may have been happy to get back to New York, but he wrote a great song called "I've Loved These Days". It's the only one I prefer from the studio version here than its live version on "Songs In The Attic". Why? Because of the cool french horn solo. Overall the album is a real step up lyrically, although it would take me several (many?) years to figure that out.

Now here's a bit of trivia. Have a look at the label below. See that picture of a cow and calf? That's the logo of Family Records, the record label owned by Artie Ripp. He's the guy who signed Billy for "Cold Spring Harbor" and then screwed up the mastering process. As part of his deal to let Billy go to Columbia Records, Columbia agreed to put that logo on all the albums and pay Artie Ripp 25 cents per album sold. The guy became a millionaire, partly for being smart enough to sign Billy Joel in the first place, but mostly for being stupid enough to screw up the final mastering of the album.

Next album: The Stranger

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