Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Billy Joel - Streetlife Serenade (1974)

I am the entertainer, the idol of my age....


Released October 1974

Recorded at Devonshire Sound Studios,  Hollywood

Billy Joel was not quite the finished product here in 1974, but with each consecutive album release, the quality got better and better. This is another step along the way.


1. Streetlife Serenader

2. Los Angelenos
3. The Great Suburban Showdown
4. Root Beer Rag
5. Roberta
6. The Entertainer
7. Last Of The Big Time Spenders
8. Weekend Song
9. Souvenir
10. The Mexican Connection                          

Joel was in that “grandiose rock ballad” groove at this time, and the first two tracks, Streetlife Serenader with its strong piano, ballady vocals, pounding drums and the slightly funky Los Angelenos with its great drum sound are fine examples of that and lyrically strong too. Incidentally, both appear in good live versions on the live Songs In The Attic album. The Great Suburban Showdown is a typical Joel song in both lyrics and delivery, backed by a country-style steel guitar and delivered against a fetching melody. Nice organ break too. Roberta is a touching, rather unique song about a prostitute.

The standout track is, of course, The Entertainer where Joel muses on how his latest album will end up in the discount bin “like another can of beans” and moans about his big hit Piano Man being cut down to 3.05 at the behest of the record company in search of a chart hit. Often a world-weary cynical side to many of Joel’s lyrics.

Last Of The Big Time Spenders would not have sounded out of place on 1977’s The Stranger. The quirky Weekend Song sounds Elton John/Leon Russell-ish and Souvenir is a short, but evocative final vocal ending to what is an often overlooked album.

A couple of instrumentals are on here too, leading one to wonder whether he was running a bit low on new songs, or maybe he just wanted to showcase his ivory tinkling skills and prove he was indeed a piano man. In reading up about the album, it was in fact true - he hadn’t had time to write any new material but the record company were pressurising him to get the album completed. Root Beer Rag is certainly a fun workout though. The Mexican Connection is less frantic, more melodic.

Although there is no sign that this has been remastered like many of the subsequent albums, I have no problem with the sound. It sounds full and defined. Good enough for me.

Below is a clip of Joel performing The Entertainer on The Old Grey Whistle Test


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