Album Review: Billy Joel – “An Innocent Man”

An Innocent Man is Billy Joel’s ninth album, and it was released on August 9, 1983.  I first heard this album in its entirety back around 1984, when my older sister purchased a copy of it on a vinyl record.  I have fond memories of listening to that vinyl when I was a kid.  I liked the album so much, that I would purchase my own copy of it on cassette a few years later.  For me, a lot of my favorite Billy Joel songs come from An Innocent Man.

The album opens with the song “Easy Money.”  Admittedly, this is one of the few songs on the album that I never listen to.  It’s a song that has just never grabbed me over the years.  This is followed by the title song, which was the third single from the album.  I have always liked the “haunting” sound this song has, both musically and lyrically, and how Billy asserts himself with the vocal delivery in the chorus.

Next is “The Longest Time,” which was the fourth single from An Innocent Man.  This is a doo-wop song that contains fourteen background vocal tracks sung by Billy Joel.  I really like how all of these background vocal tracks were brought together to create this song.  It’s not a sound you were hearing much by the early 1980s, so the song stood out in a good way.  Plus, it has lyrics that listeners can relate to.

This is then followed by “This Night,” which uses Beethoven’s “Pathetique Sonata” as a musical basis for the chorus.  It also has an early 1960s sound to it.  While this was never a single, it’s a song I’ve always enjoyed listening to.  Next on the album is “Tell Her About It,” which is my all-time favorite Billy Joel song; it was also the first single released for An Innocent Man.  It’s an upbeat song that’s an homage to Motown, and it’s a song that I never tire of listening to.

“Uptown Girl” was the second single released from the album, and it’s an homage to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Billy did such a good job with this homage, because “Uptown Girl” sounds like a song that Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons could have actually recorded themselves back in the 1960s.  This is followed by “Careless Talk,” the only other song on the album that I never listen to.  Like “Easy Money,” this song just never grabbed my interest.

“Christie Lee” is an homage to Jerry Lee Lewis, and is named after Christie Brinkley.  I always liked hearing this song on the album since I was a kid; however, as I got older and better understood some things, I picked up on the double entendres that appear in the song.  Understanding these double entendres makes the song even more enjoyable for me as an adult.

“Leave a Tender Moment Alone” was the fifth single from An Innocent Man, and it is an homage to Marvin Gaye.  While I always enjoyed listening to this song as a kid, I acquired a better appreciation for it as I got older.  The final song on the album is “Keeping the Faith,” which is song where the speaker is reminiscing on their days of youth in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  While this nostalgic song contains a lot of references that may not necessarily mean much to someone my age, I can still understand the sentiment of the song, especially now that I’m in my mid-30s and have been feeling rather nostalgic for my own youth.

With An Innocent Man, Billy Joel was able to bring together a number of musical influences from the 1950s and 1960s and put together a cohesive album.  While there may be a couple of songs that I don’t personally care for, I still acknowledge that, musically, they fit in with the overall sound of the album.  Even thought it’s been almost thirty years since An Innocent Man was released, I still believe that this is not only one of the best albums of Billy Joel’s career, it’s also one of the best albums to be released in the 1980s.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of An Innocent Man that I purchased.

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