Billy Joel Studio Albums (ranked)
He's my favorite music artist of all time, so this list is created with a lot of thought and emotion. Everybody knows his hits, so with the explanation of why I ranked the album where it is, I will include at least one of his great deep cuts you should listen to (meaning it's a song not on any of his greatest hits albums, but should be).
- •Cold Spring Harbor (1971)Billy's debut album. He hadn't yet found his songwriting voice that would make the most well-written pop songs ever. Other than "She's Got a Way" and "Everybody Loves You Now," there aren't a lot of hits; but a lot of the songs bring out his sensitive side all his fans relate to. This is Billy's least favorite album, and it's due to the fact that the original release was mastered at a faster speed than normal. It took 12 years to fix this recording error! (Deep Cut: "Got to Begin Again").
- •The Bridge (1986)Appropriate title, as this was the bridge towards the other side of his career, in terms of writing great albums. This album is his most overrated. "This Is the Time" and "A Matter of Trust" are hits that sound like generic versions of better Billy Joel songs. "Baby Grand" wouldn't be a hit if he didn't get Ray Charles to duet with him. "Big Man on Mulberry Street" has his most annoying vocal, ever. I'm sure I'll get a lot of flack for my criticism of this album. (Deep Cut: "Code of Silence")
- •Streetlife Serenade (1974)Coming off the Piano Man album, Billy had quite an act to follow. "Streetlife Serenader" and "Los Angelenos" are very good songs, but "The Entertainer" is really the only one many of his fans (justifiably) love. Plus, other than those songs and the deep cuts, are possibly the most forgettable 4 songs in his entire canon. 2 of them are instrumentals, which makes me think Billy was too rushed or lazy to write meaningful lyrics. (Deep Cuts: "Roberta," "Last of the Big Time Spenders," & "Souvenir")
- •River of Dreams (1993)This would be Billy's last pop album. At the time, no one was sure it would be his last, although finishing the album with the song "Last Words" should've been a dead giveaway. The title track is his best song released since his Innocent Man album. "Lullaby," an ode to his 7 year-old daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, is right up there with his most sincere, moving love ballads. In hindsight I've grown to like this album more than it may deserve. (Deep Cuts: "Shades of Grey" & "Two Thousand Years")
- •Storm Front (1989)I was born in 1979, so this was the first studio album I listened to. Perhaps that's why I have this album ranked higher than many critics do. Even in retrospect, there are a lot of bonafide hits that, in typical Billy fashion, are stylistically so different. "Downeaster Alexa," "And So It Goes," and "I Go to Extremes" are so underrated. I'll always defend "We Didn't Start the Fire" for its lyrical genius in making a catchy tune out of a 40-year history lesson. (Deep Cut: "That's Not Her Style")
- •The Nylon Curtain (1982)Billy's most meaningful album, as it contains two great message songs in "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon;" plus a great psychological track in "Pressure." This album is the most morose he ever wrote, and that makes some of the lesser tracks hard to listen to without getting depressed. It is clear from the sound that this album is a tribute to his favorite Beatle, John Lennon. Perhaps I'd like it more if I wasn't a bigger fan of McCartney. (Deep Cut: "Scandinavian Skies")
- •An Innocent Man (1983)The Nylon Curtain was Billy's most morose, but this album is his most joyous. Not a surprise, considering he wrote it while single and mingling with supermodels Elle Macpherson and his future wife, Christie Brinkley. It's hard to be depressed with toe tappers like "The Longest Time," Tell Her About It," "Uptown Girl," and "Keeping the Faith." All the tracks are homages to artists, sans Beatles, that inspired Joel in his youth. This was his last great album. (Deep Cut: "Careless Talk")
- •52nd Street (1978)To me, this is his most overrated album. Critics always put this in their top 3, and I just never saw it that way. Perhaps because I'm not a huge easy listening jazz kind of guy, and that's what the overall vibe is. Don't get me wrong, "Honesty," "My Life," and "Big Shot" are all uniquely great tunes. But for some reason I have a big hatred of "Zanzibar," and that's one hit Billy insists on singing at almost every concert as of the last 10 years. (Deep Cuts: "Stiletto" & "Half a Mile Away")
- •Glass Houses (1980)Inspired by the new wave movement of the late 70s, this album could be his edgiest. Tracks 1-7 are the most eclectic bunch of amazing songs strung together. Tracks 6 & 7 specifically are the latter two of my Deep Cuts; and they're frankly better than most all of the hits on the album. It's just a shame tracks 8-10 are such clunkers. (Deep Cuts: "Sometimes a Fantasy," "I Don't Want to Be Alone," & "Sleeping with the Television On")
- •Piano Man (1973)Whereas 52nd Street is his most overrated album, this one's his most underrated. It put Billy on the musical map of greatness. It gets overshadowed by the title track which defined him for most of his career, but listen closer and you'll find some great songs. The first of my Deep Cuts is so beloved, that it's been played at more concerts than a lot of his chart-topping hits. This album never gets the recognition it deserves. (Deep Cuts: "Ballad of Billy the Kid" & "If I Only Had the Words")
- •The Stranger (1977)This album could by my #1, as it is for almost every fan and critic, but it falls short because of the last two tracks. These are songs nobody'll be humming after listening to them; and that's a terrible way to end a great album. There is no ballad ever written in popular music more moving than "I Love You Just the Way You Are;" no uptempo song more fun than "Only the Good Die Young;" and no 7-minute song that feels too short more than "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." (Deep Cut: "Vienna")
- •Turnstiles (1976)"All You Wanna Do is Dance" is the only bad track, and like cold pizza, it's not that bad. This album represents why he's beloved by his fans. "New York State of Mind" replaced Sinatra's standard as the best ode to the Big Apple; "Miami 2017" perfectly paints a picture of a future where NYC is destroyed. The first Deep Cut listed is his most overlooked and underplayed. It's a song many fans, such as myself, consider one of his best. (Deep Cuts: "Summer, Highland Falls" & "I've Loved These Days")