Glass Houses

Billy Joel

Columbia Records, 1980

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


I hate it when people can predict what I'm going to do in a conversation or situation. My family is particularly good at this, and it annoys me to no end. Why? I don't like to be pegged down as doing this or that when something happens. Billy Joel must have been feeling the same way in 1980. His previous albums had been deemed by the critics to be "soft" or "ballad heavy." So what did Joel do? He went out and recorded Glass Houses, a blatant attempt to prove the critics wrong.

Around the time of Glass Houses' recording, the music industry was changing rapidly. Disco was now dead, and punk and new wave were starting to take shape. While very little of the songs on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Glass Houses sound like punk, the attitude is relatively similar. Joel's albums always have had an edge to them, reflecting the darker side of humanity, and Glass Houses fits in well with that disillusionment. "Closer To The Borderline" features a man on the verge of snapping as the toils of life bear down on him. "Sleeping With The Television On." "I Don't Want To Be Alone Anymore" deal with strong senses of isolation and desires for companionship. Glass Houses is definitely not an upbeat album.

That being said there are some positive moments on the album. The French Flavored " C'etait Toi (You Were the One)" is pleasant romantic number. One of the hits, the acoustic driven "Don't Ask Me Why" is probably the most lightweight moment on Glass Houses, but that doesn't detract from it's quality. Most people would know "You May Be Right" as the biggest hit, and it is deserving of its success. It's got a great chorus, and rocks more than the usual Bill Joel hit.

As I said earlier, Glass Houses reflects the musical tastes that were en vogue at the time. This is a stripped down, guitar oriented sound that the listener is presented with, very different from previous albums. "It's Still Rock N Roll To Me" and "All For Leyna" very much resemble the sound of '80s rock. The latter's opening especially reminds me of Toto's "Hold The Line" And once again, Joel turns in a very impressive vocal performance. Whether it be a gritty, snarling vocal required for "You May Be Right" or shades of falsetto on "C'etait Toi" Joel is up to the task.

The two Billy Joel albums I owned before Glass Houses were The Stranger and An Innocent Man, both records I would describe as "poppy." Now, both are favorites of mine, because good pop is, well, enjoyable. However, the fact that Glass Houses was such an effective rock record was a surprise, and a welcome one. What does this teach us? Critics are always wrong.... except for us.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



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