Picks and Pans Review: The Bridge

updated 09/15/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Billy Joel

Even at his considerable best, Joel is as funny as a brick. He can also be grim when his melodies and arrangements start getting heavy-handed, and that's the case on eight-ninths of this cumbersome album. Joel has said he wanted to get away from the nostalgic tone of his previous LP, An Innocent Man, but this one sounds like a songbook from a yuppie rock musical. There's the tune Running on Ice: "I could never understand why the urban attitude is so superior/ In a world of high-rise ambition most people's motives are ulterior." On A Matter of Trust, he sings, "I know you have doubts/ But for God's sake don't shut me out." Modern Woman (from the film Ruthless People) includes the lines: "You want to make a move/ But you feel so inferior/ 'Cause under that exterior/ Is someone who's free." Cyndi Lauper, who would have seemed a natural for Modern Woman, is wasted in a nondescript duet with Joel titled Code of Silence. Among the nine songs on this LP, only one redeems it to some extent—Baby Grand, a bluesy ode to the piano. Joel shares the song in a duet with one of his idols, Ray Charles. Unpretentious and seemingly heartfelt, it's an affecting performance of a song that ought to end up in every piano-playing singer's repertoire. As for the rest of the album, Joel would do well to accept the congratulations he deserves for having the courage to try something different and then write it off to experience. (Columbia)

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