Billy Joel: Turnstiles

MAY 1976 (36 YEARS AGO)
Billy Joel: Turnstiles is released.
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
Turnstiles was the fourth album by Billy Joel, released in May, 1976.
In part, the album was made to celebrate Joel’s return to New York City after his sojourn in California. Three of the album’s tracks reference New York: “Summer, Highland Falls”, “New York State of Mind” and “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”. In addition, Joel begins the album with “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” (inspired by The Ronnettes song “Be My Baby”) and also includes “I’ve Loved These Days”, a tongue-in-cheek expression of regret at leaving behind Hollywood’s decadence.
Though it produced no hits, Turnstiles is an essential Billy Joel album, the one that marked his transition from cultish singer-songwriter to budding pop-rock god–from Dylan wannabe to Dion wannabe, if you will. While Joel’s world-weary cynisicm remains in the polysyllabic ballad “Summer, Highlands Falls,” he does some real growing up here. “Angry Young Man” (which is introduced by the gymnastic piano workout “Prelude”) finds him condemning other youthful cynics and pledging to get on with his life. To Joel, getting on meant rocking out, which he does in spades on Turnstiles.
“Miami 2017” was his first stab at the pop-epic form that would blossom one album later with “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.” “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” playfully steals a beat from the Phil Spector songbook, presaging Joel’s later explorations into ’50s and ’60s pop. On “New York State Of Mind” Joel borrows from a previously hidden influence–R&B crooner and fellow piano man Ray Charles–and comes up with one of his greatest songs, and one of the best anyone’s written about the Big Apple.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic
There’s a reason Turnstiles begins with the Spector-esque epic “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” Shortly after Streetlife Serenade, Joel ditched California — and, by implication, sensitive Californian soft rock from sensitive singer/songwriters — for his hometown of New York. “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” was a celebration of his move, a repudiation of his past, a fanfare for a new beginning, which is exactly what Turnstiles was. He still was a singer/songwriter — indeed, “Summer, Highland Falls” was his best ballad to date, possibly his best ever — but he decided to run with his musical talents, turning the record into a whirlwind tour of pop styles, from Sinatra to Springsteen. There’s little question that the cinematic sprawl of Born to Run had an effect on Turnstiles, since it has a similar widescreen feel, even if it clocks in at only eight songs. The key to the record’s success is variety, the way the album whips from the bouncy, McCartney-esque “All You Wanna Do Is Dance” to the saloon song “New York State of Mind”; the way the bitterly cynical “Angry Young Man” gives way to the beautiful “I’ve Loved These Days” and the surrealistic apocalyptic fantasy “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” No matter how much stylistic ground Joel covers, he’s kept on track by his backing group. He fought to have his touring band support him on Turnstiles, going to the lengths of firing his original producer, and it was clearly the right move, since they lend the album a cohesive feel. Turnstiles may not have been a hit, but it remains one of his most accomplished and satisfying records, clearly paving the way to his twin peaks of the late ’70s, The Stranger and 52nd Street.
All songs written and composed by Billy Joel.
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood” – 4:36
“Summer, Highland Falls” – 3:15
“All You Wanna Do Is Dance” – 3:40
“New York State of Mind” – 5:58
“James” – 3:53
“Prelude/Angry Young Man” – 5:17
“I’ve Loved These Days” – 4:31
“Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” – 5:12

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