Top ten best deep cuts by Billy Joel

Joel has given us great singles but some of his best songs are ones we do not hear as much.

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“ROOT BEER RAG” from Streetlife Serenade (1974)

Billy’s brief sojourn to the West Coast ended with his third album, Streetlife Serenade. After this, he would return to NY. Despite the presence of his second top 40 hit, “The Entertainer,” it is not a particularly good album. But the instrumental piano workout, “Root Beer Rag,” truly stands out.

At the 1974 Oscar Awards, George Roy Hill’s The Sting was the big winner. The period piece prominently featured the ragtime music of Scott Joplin, and composer Marvin Hamlisch took home one of the film’s seven awards for his Joplin-based scoring. Joel borrowed the title of Joplin’s theme song in The Sting for “The Entertainer.” And he wrote his own absurdly catchy rag as well. It showcased his lightning playing and his ability to mimic some of the best of traditional American music.

“SUMMER, HIGHLAND FALLS” from Turnstiles (1976)

Billy Joel could pound out a piano rhythm with the best of them. But he could also use his piano to backstop lovely songs about relationships. “Summer, Highland Falls” could have easily toppled over into pretension with its multi-syllabic rhymes and pop psychology. Yet somehow, he pulls off a verse like “How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies – Perhaps we don’t fulfill each other’s fantasies – And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives with our respective similarities – It’s either sadness or euphoria.”

Turnstiles is an integral album in Joel’s career. None of its songs charted upon initial release in the US. Since his previous two albums both had some modest hits, Turnstiles was viewed as a disappointment at first. But when it came time for Joel to release his first live album – 1981’s Songs in the Attic – he included more tracks from Turnstiles than from any of his other albums. “Summer, Highland Falls” was one of the four Turnstiles cuts that got a full live treatment.