Review Summary: An Innocent Man is what you've come to enjoy in Joel's music; if in a less-than remarkable light.
Billy Joel during the 80's has brought much division of opinion and quality, even when strictly making note of how Glass Houses
and The Nylon Curtain
transitioned between each other. Where the former felt like a karaoke-oriented album more than anything, the latter (re)incorporated more of what made Joel's best albums so great. Then we have An Innocent Man
, which feels like it should've bridged the aforementioned albums.
Not unlike Glass Houses
, there's a surprising lack of Joel's signature piano-playing on this album. Conversely, the vocal orientation on display here is far superior to its infamous grand-predecessor. The title track shows just how this plays out and, though definitely not a preferred approach, is still enjoyable. Except, just like Glass Houses
(again), this still makes it tough to fully enjoy the album when less is given to appease our ears. Thankfully, the almost-always reliable voice behind the Piano Man here is more consistent than anything he gave us after 52nd Street
Now, the music itself is more in-line with The Nylon Curtain
; and not just because the rock 'n' roll vibe is on the sparingly used side. As before, the nostalgic effect of earlier decades is definitely present; if in some points more than others. For instance, An Innocent Man
's lady-track "Christie Lee" sounds like it would have fit right into the original Back to the Future soundtrack. We see this occur on either slow or upbeat songs, and they work with varying degrees of execution. Although the title track does an excellent job focusing on Joel's voice (as noted above), it's tough for that to fundamentally carry a song that lasts for over five minutes. On the other hand, we see the music used very effectively on "This Night," which turns out to be the best song on the album simply for the rousing vocal combination in the chorus.
Most of what you've come to enjoy and expect of Joel is still present in An Innocent Man
, but that's really all that needs to be said. Little truly distinguishes this album from Joel's other works, aside from the rather heavy emphasis on love (which is a lot, considering who we're talking about here). In fact, much of this album can easily get stuck in one's head before asking a girl out or actually attending a "hot date." Essentially, we have another Joel album that shows he still had charms to work on us, even if they were beginning to run out.