This week (August 10th) marks the 20th anniversary since Billy Joel released his last studio rock album, River Of Dreams. The album, which peaked at Number One on the Billboard 200, featured the Top Three hit -- and Billy's last Top Ten hit to date -- "The River Of Dreams." The song was nominated for Grammys for Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance -- but ultimately snagged statues for none. River Of Dreams also lost out in the Album Of The Year category.
River Of Dreams was initially started as Billy's first self-produced set since 1976's Turnstiles album, but he eventually added Danny Kortchmar, Joe Nicolo, and David Thoener behind the boards by the time that the album's main sessions were underway. The collapse of Billy's second marriage to Christie Brinkley and the betrayal by business manager and firmer brother-in-law, Frank Weber, played a substantial role in the album's music, with the album's highlight "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" written directly about daughter Alexa Ray coming to terms with her parents' impending split.
During Billy's exile from rock, he composed the 2001 classical album Billy Joel: Fantasies & Delusions (Music for Solo Piano) and recorded one "pop" song, the big band-inspired one-off single, "All My Life," which was released in 2007 and produced by the late-Phil Ramone.
Billy Joel has gone to great lengths to explain that writing classic music is truly where his heart is these days: "I've been writing instrumental music since 1993, really. I started to write a song and it turned into an instrumental piece: a piano piece -- and I just couldn't stop myself, and I wrote another piece after that, and I now have a repertoire. But that's what I've been doing. I've been enjoying the hell out of it, and I'm having the time of my life, and I really feel like this is what I should be doing."
Elton John, who spent many years on the road with Billy Joel, believes that he still has more rock songs in his system: "He seems to say, 'Well, I can't do this anymore, I can't do this anymore.' But, y'know, he's not a rock n' roll artist -- he's a great songwriter, and great songwriters always write songs, and there'll be songs coming from Billy Joel's piano again. I'm always saying, 'Come on, come on, come on, come on,' but in good time, he'll do it again. In the meantime, he's gone off and done something else, and he goes and does lectures and stuff like that. He's enjoying himself. Y'know, he'll, he'll admit, 'I'm just coasting at the moment,' but I don't think that he's gonna be happy coasting."
Billy Joel says that although his heart is mainly in composing instrumental classical music these days, should a pop song take shape one day at the piano, he would allow himself to write it: "I think that would be ri. . . absurd to just disown what, the body of work that I've done. I mean, I, if I get some good ideas for songs, I'm not gonna stop myself from writing them. No way. I'll write songs if I feel like it. It's just right now I'm more comfortable working in the abstract."
Billy Joel tour dates (subject to change):
October 29 - Manchester, England - Phones 4u Arena - Manchester
November 1 - Dublin, Ireland - The O2 Dublin
November 5 - London, England - Hammersmith Apollo
November 8 - Birmingham, England - LG Arena
Photo Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment