Billy Joel is a musician who has always been capable of greatness. The Stranger is a brilliant slice of singer songwriter greatness, and Cold Spring Harbor is a genuinely pretty album that remains ripe for rediscovery. He could even knock out a novelty hit like “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” with insolent ease. Sadly such powers would give Billy Joel the confidence that his audience would purchase any old crap that he knocked out, hence this, the beyond-awful An Innocent Man album.
An Innocent Man is basically Joel’s homage to the music of his youth brought blended with hideous early 80s synthetic production sounds. During a period of New Romanticism, Classic rock acts wrestling with plastic production values and the rise of empty gestured stadium rockers like U2 and Simple Minds, An Innocent Man plunged even further into unimaginable depths of insipid blandness.
An Innocent Man doesn’t even hold any draw for nostalgia value. It is just a steaming lump of god-awful songs, truly horrific 80s production techniques and more cheese than a curd convention held on a dairy farm in Wensleydale. For all the attempts at nostalgic doo-wop on “The Longest Time”, it’s still a suffocating cellophane-wrapped product of the 80s. Then of course there’s bloody “Uptown Girl”, a song so bloody awful that it can lead a mild mannered individual such as myself to let out uncontrollable screams of horror.
I would be relatively indifferent to Billy Joel were it not for An Innocent Man, after all in his prime, he was more than capable of writing a pleasing tune. Even towards the end of the 80s, he could still unleash something as potent as “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, a song which economically delivers the joint life-story of his generation in under five minutes. However, there are no such winners on An Innocent Man. This whole album is simply an audio folly from an over-confident artist who expected his audience to appreciate a clumsy re-working of a style of music that he enjoyed in his youth. Quite simply put, An Innocent Man is the huge blot on the career of Billy Joel that I can never forgive him for.