River of Dreams was Billy Joel’s final pop music album, released in 1993 after over 20 years of pop hits all over the world (it wasn’t his final album altogether though – he would release a classical album a few years later, and in recent years he has been releasing live albums from recent tours). My dad bought this album when it came out (or roughly about then), and I would have only been about 7 years old at the time. I remember hearing the album a lot then, and I must confess I still listen to it at lot now, even though I now own all of his other albums, too.
Interestingly enough, recently in an interview Billy himself admitted that this was one of his two favourite albums (the other being 1981’s The Nylon Curtain). He also discussed how he knew this would be his last album, with the final song “Famous Last Words” being his way of saying that he was calling it quits in terms of songwriting, that he had given it everything he had to give and felt now was a good time to go. And although there are many great songwriters who go on for decades, there are definitely a lot who don’t seem to know when to stop, so it’s kind of nice to hear of one who is just being honest with themselves.
For me, this album just captures so much of who Billy Joel is and was as a musician – it really is only the sort of album one can make after the sort of career he had, with that kind of experience. It has the pop songs, it has the ballads, it has the huge soul numbers, it even has a couple of funkier songs on it. If you have never heard this album in full, you are missing out in my opinion.
The song I have decided to include is the title track, “The River of Dreams”: