Review Summary: The road to recovery is rough, one that Storm Front expresses completely.
After releasing the disjointed and generally mediocre mess that was The Bridge
, expectations for what Joel would provide next were naturally split. He'd either recover without much effort after such a slump (by his standards), or we'd watch as he'd continue to decline further on. What could have resulted was him being stuck in a rut, not unlike those many other artists wind up falling into. And though the eventual release that turned out to be Storm Front
wasn't a rejuvenation, by any stretch, it at least brought back more of the Billy Joel we had come to love.
Most of the errors found throughout The Bridge
were cleaned on Storm Front
, though the more stiff and contrived nature of his 1986 effort still persists here and there, such as during the title track. Thankfully, these moments are far less notable, which is partially thanks to hits "We Didn't Start the Fire," "I Go To Extremes" and "Leningrad." The mix and command of vocals/keys that Joel used to handle so well and fluently is finally back, making it his first successful attempt at said combination since The Nylon Curtain
. Speaking of which, the latter of the aforementioned tracks is arguably the best song on the album, thanks to a relatively mellow theme complimented by the musical melody. It has a rather abrupt ending, but fans of "Goodbye Saigon" are bound to enjoy this Cold War-inspired song.
Variety turned out to be something that The Bridge
had too much of for its own good; rarely executing it well. Storm Front
also has a bit of an identity crisis with how it seems to transition through tones and moods; whether upbeat or serious. Fortunately for Joel and his listeners, the shifts between songs don't feel nearly as overdone as those in The Bridge
. Despite having much over his 1986 offering, however, Joel and his storm still can't accomplish as much power or majesty as he once displayed so consistently. He seemed to still be going through the motions, as if trying to make his music up-to-date while leaving traces of his earlier material present (but barely). The old, calm rock vibe from the 70's is tough to find, but when present with the then-current pop-esque sound, the results are oddly conflicted. Rather than fluently feeding off each other, this rather basic amalgamation of styles and influences leaves some of Storm Front
feeling indecisive; even during its best moments.
The 80's didn't exactly turn out to be a smooth decade for Joel and his music. Despite shining well on The Nylon Curtain
and occasionally getting the right groove on An Innocent Man
, his short selection of albums during this period was unimpressive, overall. Really, this is what Storm Front
feels like more than anything: a retread through the highs and lows of Joel during a dividing period. Quality and style are as settled here as his music was from Glass Houses
until Storm Front
itself. Not a bad culmination all told, but more than a few steps behind what was accomplished before.