By 1989, it had been three years since Billy Joel had released 1986's The Bridge, which despite solid sales and some solid songs (e.g. "A Matter of Trust") seemed to be somewhat of a step back. Still, the intervening three years had been eventful ones for Billy as he had played historic concerts in the Soviet Union, released a 2-disc live album, Kohuept, and raised his young daughter, Alexa Ray, with wife Christie Brinkley.
Billy came back strong with his 11th studio album Storm Front which went to number one on the charts and featured three top 40 hits. The album had a harder, bluesy edge than did its predecessor. Billy worked with a new producer, Mick Jones (from Foreigner), and had replaced most of his recording and touring band with new musicians including the talented multi-instrumentalists Crystal Taliefero and Mindy Jostyn (drummer Liberty DeVitto and saxophonist Mark Rivera remained) which gave Billy and the music a fresh perspective and sound.
In some ways, this was a return to the blue-eyed soul and rock that Billy had first started out playing in his 60s bands The Lost Souls (later the Commandos) and The Hassles. Songs like "That's Not Her Style," "When In Rome," "I Go To Extremes" and the title track "Storm Front" were clearly reminiscent of that genre. Billy also continued exploring political and social causes and themes in the touching "Leningrad" and "The Downeaster 'Alexa.'" And he released what may his most tender and heart-breaking song, "And So It Goes," which was actually written back in 1983. (Continued bel0w)
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The most popular song off the album, however, was the idiosyncratic "We Didn't Start The Fire" which reached number one on the charts. The lyrics were simply a string of notable events or figures from the past four decades, and the chorus was rather routine, but it caught the attention of many people, and launched thousands of high-school term papers, projects, and videos. Billy had always been a history buff and has said that if he had not become a musician, he may have become a history teacher.
Storm Front was not a return to Billy's singer-songwriter days as some hoped, so it may have disappointed some older fans, but it won him many new ones. While there may not be one singularly brilliant song on the album (though "The Downeaster Alexa" and "And So It Goes" come close), the album is a testament to Billy's versatility and enduring musicality. Whether you are a fan or not, you have to respect Billy Joel for always trying something different, never simply repeating the last successful album.
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A collection of several music videos from Storm Front were released on video as Eye of The Storm, including a live version of "The Downeaster Alexa" that is not available on other videos/DVDs. Billy's concert at Yankee Stadium in 1990 was also released on video and DVD as Billy Joel: Live from Yankee Stadium. Billy also appeared on Mick Jones' self-titled album from 1989 on the song "Just Wanna Hold," as well the music video for the song, with Christie Brinkley. Billy and Mick appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in 1989 and performed the song, see episode. Billy appears briefly with Paul Schaefer and the rest of the Late Night band throughout the episode including at 4:58, 5:56 and 32:36.
AllMusic (overly critical)
Classic Rock Review
Ultimate Classic Rock
"Billy Joel, On Fire Again," Rolling Stone (January 25, 1990)
Ultimate Classic Rock (good article about the creation of Storm Front)
Billy briefly discusses Storm Front from The Complete Albums collection, and how Mick Jones of Foreigner became the producer. Visit BillyJoel.com and Vevo for more videos.
This is an MTV Rockumentary from 1990 in which Billy discusses the Storm Front album and tour, as well as his career generally. There was a good 20/20 interview with Lynn Scherr from 1990, but these are no longer posted.
Released: 17 October 1989
Recorded: The Hit Factory Times Square Studio, New York, NY
Right Track Recording, New York, NY; The Warehouse Studio, Vancouver, British Columbia; The Power Station, New York, NY Spring-Summer, 1988-1989
Producer: Billy Joel, Mick Jones
All Songs written by Billy Joel
Billy Joel: vocals, acoustic piano, clavinet, accordion, Hammond organ, harpsichord, synthesizers, percussion
Liberty DeVitto: drums, percussion
David Brown: lead guitar, Midi guitar solo on Storm Front
Joey Hunting: rhythm guitar
Crystal Taliefero: percussion
Schuyler Deale: bass guitar
Jeff Jacobs: synthesizers, horn arrangements
Don Brooks: harmonica
Mick Jones: guitar on "Storm Front", guitar solo on "State of Grace"
John Mahoney: keyboards, keyboard programming
Sammy Merendino: electronic percussion
Kevin Jones: keyboard programming
Doug Kleeger: sounds effects
Dominic Cortese: accordion
Itzhak Perlman: violin on "The Downeaster 'Alexa'"
Lenny Pickett: saxophone
Andrew Love, Wayne Jackson: The Memphis Horns
Bill Zampino: choral arrangement
Chuck Arnold: choral leader
Arif Mardin: orchestral arrangement
Background vocals: Billy Joel, Mick Jones, Richard Marx on "Storm Front" and "That's Not Her Style", Crystal Taliefero, Jeff Jacobs, Patricia Darcy-Jones, Frank Floyd, Brian Ruggles, Joe Lynn Turner, Ian Lloyd, Brenda White King, Curtis King.