Billy Joel’s keyboardist and Music Director David Rosenthal has attentively arranged all the tracks from Joel’s 1989 album to combine the piano parts and vocal melodies into playable arrangements with accurate transcriptions of those classic piano parts that are integral to each song. The huge hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is included along with nine other classics: And So It Goes * The Downeaster “Alexa” * I Go to Extremes * Leningrad * Shameless * State of Grace * Storm Front * That’s Not Her Style * When in Rome. Includes a foreword by David Rosenthal as well as great photos of Billy throughout and copies of his handwritten lyrics.
Click to read David’s Foreword
Storm Front was released in 1989 and entered the Billboard Charts at #1. It was Billy’s 11th studio album of original material. Co-produced by Billy and Mick Jones, this was the first album since 1976 without producer Phil Ramone at his side. It was a stormy time in Billy’s life on many fronts – changes in the band, lawsuits with former management, turbulent events in America and the world at the time, all of which impacted and influenced the music and lyrics on this album.
These challenges are also represented in the album’s iconic artwork. Billy describes the cover image and concept, “The flag you see on the cover is a hurricane flag, #10 on the Beaufort scale, red with a black square in the middle. It means the worst weather conditions possible. When you see that flag you don’t go anywhere. Either you pull your boat out of the water, or you head out to sea and drive into the face of the storm.”
The first single from the album was “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and is one of the few songs where Billy wrote the words first. It was a number one single in many countries around the world, yet remains Billy’s least favorite composition musically. However, it’s rapid fire lyrics (pulled from worldwide events during Billy’s life starting with his birth in 1949 to his inspiration for the song in 1989) engage people of all ages and the energy of the song ignites audiences whenever we perform it live.
Having played keyboards in Billy Joel’s band since 1993, I have an inside perspective into his music. Accordingly, Billy asked that I review every note of the sheet music in his entire catalog of songs. As a pianist, he entrusted me with the task of correcting and re-transcribing each piece to ensure that the printed music represents each song exactly as it was written and recorded. This is the latest edition in our series of revised songbooks in the Billy Joel catalog, which began with The Stranger songbook back in 2008.
The challenge with each folio in Billy’s catalog is to find musical ways to combine his piano parts and vocal melodies into playable piano arrangements. First, the signature piano parts were transcribed and notated exactly as Billy played them. The vocal melodies were then transcribed and incorporated into the piano part in a way that preserves the original character of each song.
“Leningrad” (a personal favorite of mine) was written about Billy’s experiences on his trip to Russia in 1987. He captures the feeling of Russia not only through the lyrical pictures in the story he tells, but also in the movement and the voice leading in his chord changes. The mood for the song is perfectly set up in the intro which is transcribed exactly.
The simple beauty of “And So it Goes” is instantly notable, but a closer look at Billy’s piano voicings reveal brilliant contrasts of dissonances and resolves which enhance the tension in the lyric. The exact piano voicings he played in the intro and in both intro reprises are accurately notated here in the sheet music. The vocal melodies are combined into the piano voicings to create a playable part.
Itzhak Perlman was the guest violinist who performed on “The Downeaster Alexa” (although in the liner notes he is credited as “World Famous Incognito Violinist”!). His characteristic parts help create the mood of rising and falling seas and passing sea gulls in this powerful song about the struggles of the Long Island baymen. In this revision of the sheet music, Itzhak’s violin parts are now captured in the piano accompaniment that supports the vocal melodies, and his solo is integrated into the piano part.
On “State of Grace”, I combined the cathedral organ part and the high-octaves piano part to capture as much of the character of this section as possible when playing it only on piano. The melody of the guitar solo is combined into the piano part to create a playable part.
The energetic rocker “I Go To Extremes” fades out on the recording, so I included an optional ending which is the same as we perform it live.
The signature sax lines in “When in Rome” are included and woven into the piano parts. The guitar solo in “Shameless” is also written into the piano part.
All of the songs in this collection received the same astute attention to detail. The result is sheet music that is both accurate and enjoyable to play, and remains true to the original performances.
Billy and I are pleased to present the revised and now accurate sheet music to the timeless album Storm Front.