I've said it about Bon Jovi and I'll say it about Billy Joel; the "typical" fan irritates me because they like the music for the weakest reasons. A good beat, nostalgic and/or politically targeted lyrics, and pop mediocrity in general helped just about every album of Billy's aside from The Bridge into excessive-selling "classics" with some great songs and some adequate ones. This album is not a majority fan-favorite.
But "The Bridge" is good. Consistently good, actually. A common criticism is that it is a victim of 80's formula and production, but I only somewhat agree with that. Indeed, without naming names, suffice to say that there are MANY other 80's albums that were far less full of artistic integrity.
The album kicks off with a great piano statement, if underdeveloped. The Piano Man indeed had not betrayed his roots for the synths-of-the-day, rather, he combined them with THE PIANO, which was vital for him, the music industry at the time, and myself, all for various reasons. I often talk about the union of heart and brains, which for me is what really makes a good album. I find "This is the Time," "A Matter of Trust," and "Temptation", beyond catchy. They are highly emotional, but they also connect with the emotions in a familiar-yet-unique sort of way, if that makes sense. Billy's always had the rare talent of making simplicity endure the test of time, but i find the songs on this album FAR more MUSICALLY interesting than the dragging, monotone strums of "Captain Jack" and "Only the Good Die Young" and "Tell Her About It".
Now that I have probably made a few million enemies, I should probably get to the nucleus of "The Bridge." "Baby Grand" is one of those songs that comes along that you have to react with a "This is perfect." The presence of Ray Charles put it beyond perfect, but the song itself is just amazing. The chords are a little more complex than Billy's usual recipe, the lyrics are very touching, and the SOUL and FEEL are so deep that you can play this quite a lot before being tired of it. Everything about this song, from Billy and Ray, right down to each piano lick, is as tasteful as tasteful can get, and this is one of those songs that is the reason that music exists in the first place.
There's another duet, "Code of Silence", with Cyndi Lauper, which is pulsing and sensitive all at once, and another all-around great song. "Big Man on Mulberry Street" is also a bit complex in the horn orchestration, and just like all the others here, a bit unique. "Getting Closer" is a great way to end things, on a very positive thematic note.
The only song that screams "too 80's" is "Modern Woman", with a poor choice in synth timbres, and for me a song with unnecessary subject matter. Listening to that song and then some of the others in a certain order may taint the ears with a general residual impression of "80's", but 1) at worst it's still not that much and 2) that in itself isn't the worst thing in the world.
None of Billy Joel's recordings will ever be considered a "desert island disc" for me, his albums are just too short and simple, and I think for more than a few of his fans, there's a nostalgic bug (which there's nothing wrong with). But "The Bridge" is one of his more interesting and emotional albums, and its 40 minutes has very little filler. To just start getting into Billy (which doesn't seem possible), don't get this first, but don't wait too long to get it, either. Again, don't let others (including me) make your opinions for you. His career is filled with great music all over the place.