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.

Michael Putland/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
5 of 7
Next

“SCANDINAVIAN SKIES” from The Nylon Curtain (1982)

“Laura” was not a political song, but a good part of The Nylon Curtain was. Two of the three released singles (“Allentown” and “Goodnight Saigon”) dealt directly with hot-button current events. “Scandinavian Skies” may or may not be political in nature. Its lyrics are cryptic. But in its music, it is pure John Lennon.

Joel speaks often of his infatuation with, and his debt to, the Beatles. Along with the doo-wop arrangements that would come to dominate Joel’s later-‘80s songs, the Beatles were his biggest early influence. The influence can be felt throughout The Nylon Curtain, but nowhere more potently than on “Scandinavian Skies,” With the assistance of synth master Rob Mounsey, violin virtuoso David Nadien, and especially conductor Marin Alsop and her String Fever ensemble, Joel crafts a soundscape that is highly reminiscent of “I Am the Walrus.”

“NEW YORK STATE OF MIND” from Turnstiles (1976)

I’m not sure why “New York State of Mind” was never released as a single. Three other tracks from Turnstiles were singles, and of them, only “I’ve Loved These Days” comes close to being as good as this one. “New York State of Mind,” as the title suggests, is the most obvious homage Billy wrote to his home state. As previously noted, Turnstiles marked his return to NY. He opened the album with “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” and closed out side one with his simple jazzy piano and the pronouncement “I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line – I’m in a New York state of mind.”

Joel takes his time with the song, jamming by himself for about a minute before beginning to sing. His regular band joins in the first verse, and then strings arranged by Ken Ascher provide a highly romanticized quality by the time the second verse dawns. Then it’s long-time collaborator Richie Cannata’s turn to take over. Cannata’s sax solo places you directly in Manhattan’s jazz scene. Billy Joel was home.