Columbia 53003

Producer: Dan Kortchmar

Track listing: No Man’s Land / The Great Wall of China / Blonde Over Blue /A Minor Variation / Shades of Grey / All About Soul / Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) / The River of Dreams / Two Thousand Years / Famous Last Words  

August 28, 1993
3 weeks

 

Billy Joel initially began to work on his first album since 1989’s Storm Front in the summer of 1992. “But I had been through some pretty hairy legal mine fields at that point,” he says. “So my take on how life was going was not the greatest, so I put off writing.”  

Joel’s legal battles actually dated back to 1989, when he sued his for­mer manager Frank Weber for fraud. In 1992, he filed a lawsuit against his former attorneys, Allen Grubman and Arthur Indursky, for fraud, malpractice, and breach of contract. To help himself get through the legal hassles, Joel turned to the music of some of his favorite composers—Beethoven, Chopin, and John Lennon. “I realized that a lot of these guys maybe weren’t in such a great mood when they were writing, but that was okay, because they expressed what they were feeling very eloquently.”  

“When I finally sat down and did the bulk of the writing on the album, it came very naturally,” Joel says. So natu­rally, in fact, that much of the music came to Joel in his sleep, including the album’s title track. “I keep trying to shake that song off,” he says. “I woke up one morning and I had this thing in my head. I heard it as this old doo-wop song done by guys on a street corner, but I felt like it wasn’t the type of thing that I wanted to write at the time, because it was too lighthearted, but it wouldn’t go away.”  

Joel decided to sequence the album in the order that the songs were written. After composing “All About Soul,” Joel came down with a case of writer’s block. For inspiration, he turned to his seven-year-old daughter, Alexa Ray, and wrote “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel).” Says Joel, “That song enabled me to rush out ‘River of Dreams,’ which had been going around in my head about sleepwalking and dreams. It all made sense. How do you get into a dream state? You go to sleep. How do you get to sleep? Someone sings you a lullabye.”  

It was while working on River Dreams — his first album to clec Number One and his second consecutive chart-topper — that Joel stumbled upon a personal revelation. “The writing process for me is difficult, because I dream the music and I forget it. When I’m able somehow to get the dream to recur in m conscious mind, there is a moment of insecurity, some people call it inspiration. Sometimes there is a feeling, ‘Wait a minute, haven’t I heard this before?’ And the answer is, ‘Yes, you’ve heard it before, stupid, you dreamt it and then you forgot it.’ ”

The piano man’s wife at the time, supermodel Christie Brinkley, also played a role in River of Dreams, contributing the cover portrait of Joel rounded by the dreamlike imagery of several of the album’s songs.

THE TOP FIVE
Week of August 28, 1993  
1. River of Dreams, Billy Joel
2. Sleepless in Seattle, Soundtrack
3. Black Sunday, Cypress Hill
4. Janet, Janet Jackson
5. Core , Stone Temple Pilots