Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Billy Joel: An Innocent Man [Columbia, 1983]
His art album having gone platinum and failed to clear bottom line, Joel comes at his poor neglected generation direct, peddling a nostalgia no one will mistake for philosophy. And although he's still a wordy bastard who can't leave a simple piece of music alone, the pre-Beatle "concept"--unmistakable references to the Four Seasons and Otis Redding (as if Otis entered Billy's world before the Beatles, but never mind) marking a selfconsciously simplified musical orientation--does rein in his showbiz ornateness. A good half of these songs have the timeless melodic appeal of the greatest pop (the greatest pre-rock pop, but never mind)--the chorus he stole from "L. v. Beethoven" is by no means the most pleasing thing here. And though his Stax horns are way too ornate, that doesn't mean they're no fun. B+