Billy The Entertainer
Andre S. Grindle | Brewer Maine | 11/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a commentator on his rags-to-better-rags-to-near riches life as a musician in New York City Billy Joel was coming up roses during his early hitless years in the mid 70's,right along with his contemporaries Springsteen,Jackson Browne and veterans like Dylan. In terms of it's concept this album basically picked up where Piano Man but,unlike that one nothing on this album became very commercially successful and it still remains a somewhat obscure item in his catalog. That reasoning being the mere fact Billy was known primarily for hits and not as an AOR character. Yet while he was seeking those hits this album not only went right for the album rock sound pretty straight up while at the same time expanding on the previous albums themes. One story song follows another here and not only that a couple of instrumentals too. The title track leads off the back,a fairly typical song for Joel but you can also hear a faint twinge of synthesizer in the mix. "Los Angelenos" is the perfect kind of jazz-funk tinged rocker with it's fender rhodes and bumping groove-the fairly loud guitars (for Billy at this point that is) kind of puncuating the tunes theme of urban youth California street life of the period. Many of these tracks show Billy's talents with his variation as a jazz flavored singer/songwriter-telling a witty "board with the folks on a Sunday afternoon" story on "The Great Suburban Showdown" and seeming to fall hard in love with a hard working prostitute on "Roberta". "The Entertainer" really does pick up where the title song of the last album left off:the "piano man" is now singing songs for the AM radio and realizing the many unfair and obnoxious aspects of the music industry. Interesting that despite his gorgeous melodies and way with songwriting there are times when Billy Joel seemed to have more the attitude of a punk than a confessional songwriter. Actually he was both and on "Last Of The Big Spenders" and the great rocker "Weekend Song" you see that in your face. The two instrumentals here are fantastic. Your gonna want to get up and dance when "Root Beer Rag" comes on;the influence of Scott Joplin comes through as Billy pulls through on the idea of a "rock n ragtime" song-not a bad subgenre of music to jumpstart and the combination ends up being boogie woogie in the end more or less. "The Mexican Connection" has sort of a latin pop-jazz sort of flavor to it and,musically it would prove very significant to the one he'd use on his breakthrough The Stranger a couple albums later.Any pop music and/or Billy Joel fan who missed out on this one should head to your record store,who at this point usually have this relatively unknown album in consistant stock for some reason and at least take a listen to this because you might be surprised at what you'll find."