Billy Joel Peter Reilly - Essay

Peter Reilly

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Glass Houses" lives up to absolutely no preconceptions, expectations, generalities, or genres other than those Billy Joel himself has chosen to establish. There isn't one instance in which he's coasting, or repeating himself, or taking a second (easy) shot at a favorite subject or theme. This album is a continuation of the kind of work he began to show he was capable of with "The Stranger" and after that with … "52nd Street."… The ten songs here are uniquely Joel: sharp, immediate, often harshly funny vignettes about the way things are now with his characters, about their genuine emotional impulses, not their coy philosophizing or maudlin poeticizing about them….

Interestingly, a new, wryly charming facet of Joel's talent is beginning to move front and center here. It's Still Rock and Roll to Me is one example: it manages to be simultaneously satirical, endearing, and hilarious…. Sleeping with the Television On is another. It has the kind of droll but unregretted sadness of lived experience that one might expect more from a French chansonnier than from a kid from Long Island, but it works beautifully….

But you mustn't take only my word for any of this; get "Glass Houses" and hear for yourself. I can't give guarantees, but I can give you odds that you'll be regularly amused, often touched, and continuously entertained by an album you'll be playing again and again. (p. 75)

[Billy Joel's] secure and able talent places him among the best American songwriter/performers now working…. "Glass Houses" proves that it is all there: the music is there, the ideas are there, and the ability to execute both superbly is there. Billy Joel has reached an exciting and singular moment in his career: the first big crest. But there are going to be more of those—just as there were for, shall we say, Irving Berlin? (p. 76)

Peter Reilly, "Billy Joel's 'Glass Houses': Beyond Category," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1980 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 44, No. 6, June, 1980, pp. 75-6.