Saturday, January 12, 2013


YEAR:  1993
LABEL:  Columbia
TRACK LISTING:  No Man's Land,  The Great Wall of China,  Blonde Over Blue,  A Minor Variation,  Shades of Grey,  All About Soul,  Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel),  The River of Dreams,  Two Thousand Years,  Famous Last Words
IMPRESSIONS:  These were the last words he had to say.  Billy Joel's last rock album before embarking on the classical music trail (which yielded one album and then nothing) is not as good as I'd like it to be.  However, half the album contains some of Joel's best songs.   The explosive album opener "No Man's Land" is a terrific rocker.  After that, though, we get a string of rather uninspired songs before we reach the wonderful "All About Soul" which doesn't seem like much but worms its way into your head until you love it.  "Lullabye" obviously was written for his daughter Alexa and the song is one of the major catalysts in Joel's mind for abandoning his rock career; the piano bridge (and indeed the music to the entire song) is more classical than pop and Joel wondered why he was continuing to try to shoehorn rock lyrics into the more classical-sounding music he was writing.  Nevertheless, the song stands as one of Joel's most emotional songs and one of the best lullabies you're likely to hear.  Fittingly, this lullaby seques into the title track as if the listener has fallen asleep and is now dreaming.  "The River of Dreams" was justly celebrated at the time for its joyous abandon and it's Joel's very own "Lion Sleeps Tonight".  Next we have "Two Thousand Years" which is an OK song but the version on Joel's live "MILLENIUM CONCERT" cd is better.  Finally, we have my favourite song on the album and Joel's farewell to the world of rock music:  "Famous Last Words".  There is something just so autumnal about the song -- images of a summer resort closing down for the season are vivid -- that I find myself constantly listening to the song every late August/early September.  It never fails.  Joel sings "...these are the last words I have to say" and pretty much since then they were (aside from his 2007 single for his wife "All My Life") and as such it is a fitting way to take his leave.  Not a classic album but still a very good one.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  No Man's Land,  All About Soul,  Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel),  The River of Dreams,  Famous Last Words
GUEST ARTISTS:  Color Me Badd (backing vocals on "All About Soul").  Really?!?!?
FACT SHEET:  RIVER OF DREAMS is Billy Joel's twelfth album and his last rock album to date.  The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for "Album of the Year" and "The River of Dreams" was nominated for 3 more Grammys.  The album cover was painted by Christie Brinkley.  In 1994, a 3 cd box set entitled "A VOYAGE ON THE RIVER OF DREAMS" was released only in Australia, New Zealand and Japan (yes, of course I own it) which includes the regular "RIVER OF DREAMS" cd as well as a live cd EP featuring "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "No Man's Land", "The Ballad of Billy the Kid", Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel),  "The River of Dreams" and "A Hard Day's Night" and a third cd of a lecture tour recorded at Princeton University called "AN EVENING OF QUESTIONS & ANSWERS...AND PERHAPS A FEW SONGS" in which Joel takes questions from the audience about his songwriting.   

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