Saturday, April 25, 2015

29: River of Dreams - Billy Joel

Continuing the theme of secular songs with a spiritual feel, Billy Joel's last real Big Hit has such an infectious gospel groove it's hard not to be caught up in it. While the lyrics themselves aren't massively Scriptural (I don't think the 'Jungle of Doubt' features too often in the Psalms) there's an expression of a deep fascination with the world of dreams and imagination and the spiritual aspect that people ascribe to that kind of stuff. The lyrics in the final tumbling bridge section are, while still filled with doubt and questions, undoubtedly also filled with a hope and an understanding that there's something there to explore, to experience and to become immersed in:

"Not sure about a life after this, God knows I've never been a spiritual man;
Baptized by fire, I wade into the river that is running to the Promised Land."

Add to that a good dose of foot-shuffling rhythm, gospel-blues notes and Joel's always-strong vocal and it's easy to forget it's basically just a song with three chords, repeated over and over (bridge excepted). And there's even a version - the "original" studio version according to the box-set I have - which seamlessly incorporates the theme from 'Goodnight My Angel' (from the same album) into the song. I couldn't find that version on YouTube or elsewhere, so here's the original video from the single.

I don't think it's physically possible to listen to it without at least slight movement of the head and taps of the feet. See if you can manage it.

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