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Eight of Billy Joel's previous studio albums made the Top 10 on the charts. That his songs are superbly crafted only makes matters worse, of course. Rock 'n' roll, hard-core critics insist, should sound anything but crafted; it should hit us as a primal howl from the gut. But by that standard, Joel's album, River of Dreams, comes as a surprise, because it is a cry from something approaching the depths, wrote reviewer Greg Sandow, for Entertainment Weekly.
There are no light moments on the album, either lyrically or musically — all the songs are filled with middle-age dread, even the two best moments, the gospel-inflected title track and his ode to his daughter, Alexa Ray — "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)." Those two songs have the strongest melodies.
Released in 1993 when Joel was 44, River of Dreams wants to tell us that the world is a complicated place. And (as he notes in a slice of musicalized philosophy called 'Shades of Grey') the people we'd better watch out for are 'those who never have doubts.'
The songs rock hard, and his music and singing are persuasive. River of Dreams is a popmeister's epiphany, a pensive record that also manages to be irresistible.
|1. No Man's Land|
|2. The Great Wall Of China|
|3. Blonde Over Blue|
|4. A Minor Variation|
|5. Shades Of Grey|
|6. All About Soul|
|7. Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)|
|8. The River Of Dreams|
|9. Two Thousand Years|
|10. Famous Last Words|