After almost 3 years out of action because of taking time for his family with his supermodel wife Christie Brinkley, Billy Joel
comes back on July 1986, but with a very different twist. Billy Joel took full advantage of the high life, as is clear from The Bridge, an album that unwittingly celebrates the excesses of the Reagan years. While he hasn't quite settled into middle age, Joel recruiting a hero Ray Charles and a new wave kid Cyndi Lauper for duets, turning to Sting for inspiration on "Running on Ice", fronting a big band on "Big Man On Mulberry Street", writing a song for a movie on "Modern Woman" and picking up the guitar on "A Matter of Trust".
It seems that Joel had seemed to take a turn from his past music and tries to fit in with the music of the mid-80's. From listening to "The Bridge" the first time, it was such a different experience from the earlier masterpieces that he did before, like "The Stranger" and "52nd Street".
He uses his influences more on this album putting a more edgier impact into his new sound. Keeping on the influences topic on his social life, he also had a 7-month baby (who is known as Alexa Ray Joel), his feeling of being a father for the first time certainly put an impact on his songwriting ability.
So what's so new about this album?
Well as we enter the first song of the album "Running On Ice"
, we ultimately hear a more dramatic and modern style with all sorts of 80's instrumentals and acoustics. There is a sense of change straight away from this song with his voice also being more edgy and direct. There is more use of drums to heighten the impact there is a winding guitar sound to flow the beat of an 80's influence sound. The only thing that Joel keeps on his style is his amazing piano playing, he keeps that momentum going with his complex keys and rapid pace. The song already brings out the different style that Joel keeps until the end of his career (semi-retirement in 1993).
The same kind of role is produced in the ballad "This Is The Time"
, which is a prom and graduate favourite among the public. The usage of a xylophone and a piano mixed together still brings out the 80's feel. The echoey guitar riffs also help towards that, these things help towards the promotion of the album as Joel tries to put forward that he wants to not be outdated in his music abilities at the time. Joel still puts in the emotion that he always puts into his song, otherwise what would be a song without emotion put in it? We can hear that his family has put some influence in this song due to the lyrics that he uses. The song also shows the difficulty that Joel had in the studio because of the family and the process of recording was stressful.
"Matter of Trust"
and "Modern Woman"
were the big hits of this album and the reasons were again that it did not sound outdated to the time it was in like "An Innocent Man"
that was before this one. These songs really bring out the colours of his varing style and his new edgy songwriting, they are very different to what the Joel we know, that's why that fans of Joel would have found it difficult to fit in with the mainstream music that Joel has turned to, but it seemed right at the time. The songs do seem very beatful and promising to Joel's new sound with it's excellent vocals that Joel always makes sure of and the instruments used are very well timed and really produce some great 80's pop.
was recruited for a duet with Joel in "Baby Grand"
which is a beautiful tune with a swaying piano which the song "Bridges" towards Joel old style and it really stands out from the mainstream songs on this album. THe duet performance was destined in fate as the two really mix together due to the same abilities they both have. With Joel's beautiful vocals and Ray's soulful vocals make a great contrast and when the two come together is bliss to be honest. This song has to be the highlight of the album and it actually reaches Joel's past which rarely happens in his later work.
Joel turns back again to a jazz styled song that "Bridges" to his past with a very motivating song which is "Big Man On Mulberry Street"
. It seems that the 2 songs that we have had now (Baby Grand and this song) seems to have re-lived Joel's past style and refreshes what Joel is all about. This is another strong point if the album and brings us away from the mainstream of the album and makes us enjoy a very musical song with a large brass band that is very lively. Joel also changes his style of vocals with a more of a falsetto that reaches at points a relatively high voice that he rarely does. The song keeps your feet tapping and reminds us of Joel's real style.
The last 3 songs (at which Cindi Lauper accompanies Joel in "Code of Silence"
) show Joel's struggle of songwriting due to his social life that keeps him busy, at this important part of someone's life, I'd sympathise that it would be really hard to write some cracking songs."Temptation"
tells us how addicting it is to become a family man a father to a daughter saying that his daughter is too fragile to leave alone and he struggles being a father when he's got a career on his hands and that he cannot do commitments that he a father is supposed to do and feels that he is letting himself down. The emotion level on this song is very heavy that you can sympathise to. "Code of Silence"
and "Getting Closer"
just brings us back to his mainstream and 80's
sound that each song do sound a bit average compared to the rest of the album, especially "Getting Closer" which really does not stand out and shows a struggling ending to the album. Even though the vocals of both songs are still exceptional, the overall performance of them is still not outstanding.
Overall, the album itself can be a "bridge" to his past style with "Baby Grand" and "Big Man On MulBerry Street". These songs are also the highlights of the album, does it mean that the album needed more of the past style of Joel, are we missing his old stuff? Well, the album's overall performance is very good, maybe excellent with songs like "Modern Woman" and "Matter Of Trust" that boost the morale of the album, but songs like "Getting Closer" is very average and show the struggle that Joel is producing with his busy and tiring life. Maybe 3 years wasn't enough for a break, but I bet the people of the 80's were still missing him due to the dull music produced around that time. The duets of the album (Ray Charles and Cindi Lauper) were fantastic and were such a nice extra to the album and it tis the only time that Joel used duets in his albums. The album is very enjoyable, but just don't expect the Joel that you knew that made "The Stranger".
Album Rating: 3.8/5 (rounded to 4/5)