I cannot understand why Turnstiles was not a huge commercial success. It would sell a million copies over time but when compared to the sales of its predecessor, The Stranger, that figure would pale in comparison.
The album features some of Billy Joel's most consistent songwriting. The vocals and particularly the musicianship are first rate, having used the members of his stage band rather than studio musicians for the recording process. It would also effectively conclude the first phase of his solo career. Four albums, Cold Spring Harbor through Turnstiles, would all be piano based for the most part and not have the polish of his most popular work. They would, however, yield a number of enduring songs that would be concert staples throughout his career. They would also hold up well, continuing to be very listenable as the decades passed.
There are a number of memorable tracks contained on this release, but none are better than the two songs that bookend the album. “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” is up-tempo pop/rock that features a mixture of piano, sax, and drums which support Joel’s energetic vocal. A live version would become a deserved hit single later in his career. “Miami 2017 (I've Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)” makes my top ten Billy Joel songs, its apocalyptic vision beginning with a piano and building on a guitar sound. If you want to hear this song in all its live and sonic glory, just pick up a copy of Songs In The Attic and give it a listen.
And then we have all the songs in between. “New York State Of Mind” has a jazz feel to it and remains a favorite of many New York sports teams. “Prelude/Angry Young Man” is one of the more creative compositions of his career, showcasing his piano skills for the first couple of minutes and then transitioning to a song about rebellion and failure. “I’ve Loved These Days” is a nostalgic look at life and its passing. And “Summer, Highland Falls” is another excellent piano based tune.
Turnstiles is an album that may be lost among his more popular recordings, but it is required listening for even the most casual fan of Bill Joel.