Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Billy Joel 17: Fantasies & Delusions

This is one of those albums we hesitate to discuss at any length, mostly because, since it’s a classical experiment, we’re in no way schooled enough in the genre to be authoritative. But music means different things to different people, and it helps that Fantasies & Delusions isn’t awful.
This is a suite of solo piano music composed by Billy Joel, apparently so complex that even he himself didn’t feel up to performing it himself. It’s packaged studiously, resembling the cover of sheet music, with only his name in big letters to make it easy to find on shelves, and a photo of himself with pianist Richard Joo on the back.
As solo piano music, it fits nicely in the background, less obtrusive than most classical dabblings by the likes of Paul McCartney or Joe Jackson. It’s very melodic, not at all atonal or avant-garde. Listed as Opuses (Opi?) 1 through 10, presented out of order, most tracks are between seven and eleven minutes, so something like the minute-long “Invention In C Minor” stands out easily. “Air (Dublinesque)”, which closes the album, recalls “And So It Goes” to an extent, before losing itself in an approximation of a jig. Still, considering his knack for a melody, and his tried-and-true method of building songs from simple piano themes, it’s a shame that there aren’t more hummable passages. Of course, were he to release an album of his hits performed a la George Winston, paring the familiar songs back to their roots, he’d likely get slammed for retreading.
So while it’s harmless, Fantasies & Delusions is worthy of any collection that also includes recordings by any of the other masters of classical piano performing pieces by any great dead composer. If this provides a gateway to Artur Rubenstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Mitsucko Uchida (the list goes on), then the listener is in for a journey and a half.

Billy Joel Fantasies & Delusions (2001)—3

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