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Tuesday, 29 May 2018
Billy Joel - 52nd Street (1978)
Released October 1978
Recorded at A & R Studios, New York City
Released in 1978, at the height of punk, following on from the phenomenal worldwide success of the previous year’s “The Stranger”, this was also a top seller. Joel’s mix of New York street tales against a piano and jazzy brass backing taped in to the tastes of those for whom punk never happened. I was a punk in 1978, but I still liked this.
The lead-off single the catchy “My Life” helped to popularise the album, but it was by no means the standout track. That honour, for me, lay with the Phil Spector meets Bruce Springsteen and The Righteous Brothers on the mighty “Until The Night”. Great atmosphere and a killer chorus. Very New York. Indeed, this is such an NYC album, just as “The Stranger” was, and “Turnstiles” before it, to be honest.
Also impressive is the Latin-flavoured “Rosalinda’s Eyes” and the soulful tones of “Half A Mile Away” and the atmospheric New York bar-room piano jazz of “Zanzibar”.
“Stiletto” is a suitably pointed little number, both lyrically and musically, while “Honesty” is just a typical Joel heartfelt ballad and “Big Shot” sees Joel in New York Italian mode, putting down someone who has got above his/herself - “you got the Dom Perignon in your hand and the spoon up your nose”. Joel’s songs, while often thought to be just romantic, often betray a hard, street-wise edge.
The title track is a short, almost half-song to finish off this assured album and leaves you wanting more.