Saturday, November 30, 2013

Classic(al) Joel: Fantasies & Delusions Is Entirely Different For Billy Joel!

The Good: Enjoyable, easy-to-listen to, music, Well-played, Good duration
The Bad: Entirely derivative of Chopin.
The Basics: Billy Joel’s classical music album Fantasies & Delusions may as well be a lost Chopin album . . . which is both good and bad for the work!

I am always impressed when musical artists get to a point in their careers where they can do pretty much whatever they want. Once a real artist achieves a certain level of success, they gain a cache with the fans, critics and record companies and I like to see what they do with that. Many of the female musical artists I like have a tendency to burn the house down and do whatever they want, whatever they truly want, with their career after they are established. Annie Lennox fulfilled her contract and then started releasing the music she wanted to independently, Alanis Morissette’s musical style almost entirely changed after Jagged Little Pill (reviewed here!) gave her the financial freedom to create again. In the case of Billy Joel, after decades of writing and performing on albums that all went multi-platinum and selling out stadium tours (on his own or with Elton John), Joel released Fantasies & Delusions.

Fantasies & Delusions is a classical music album, entirely composed by Billy Joel and performed by pianist Richard Joo. Why does Joo perform the Piano Man’s works? Who the hell knows? It’s hard to imagine that Billy Joel couldn’t handle playing his own music (though, come to think of it, after decades at the piano does Billy Joel have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?!), but that is how Joel went for his Classical album.

And it’s good. Fantasies & Delusions is a solid twelve-track, ten song (or Opus) musical journey that clocks out at over an hour and fourteen minutes. Played entirely by Richard Joo, Fantasies & Delusions holds together as an album that is contemplative and curious, never disturbing or soaring. Instead, the listener meanders along the cerebral tunes that Joel creates and Joo plays, taken more where the listener imagines than the composer directs.

With a sound that is very much one man and a piano, without any lyrics, Fantasies & Delusions sounds like a lost album of Chopin nocturnes and waltzes. Chopin, as my favorite composer, should be quite a compliment to Billy Joel and Fantasies & Delusions. Unfortunately, it is also the album’s greatest detraction. After listening to Fantasies & Delusions seven times, I am left with remarkably little to write about it. The ten tracks all sound like something Chopin would have created.

The journey of Fantasies & Delusions is not at all unpleasant, but it ends up as somewhat indistinct and nebulous. This is good background music for reading to or painting to, but not an inspiring or particularly evocative album. While enjoyable for those who love Classical music, it is easy to see why it is a sales anomaly in the Billy Joel library. Still, the sheer creativity of it is admirable and it is refreshing to hear Joel go in an entirely different direction with Fantasies & Delusions.

For other Billy Joel reviews, please check out:
Piano Man
52nd Street
Glass Houses
The Nylon Curtain
An Innocent Man
The Bridge
Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II
River Of Dreams
12 Gardens Live


For other musical works, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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