52nd Street (1978)

1. Big Shot 2. Honesty 3. My Life 4. Zanzibar 5. Stiletto 6. Rosalinda's Eyes 7. Half a Mile Away 8. Until the Night 9. 52nd Street


Proving that The Stranger was no fluke, Joel set out to record his most ambitious album to date which really doesn't try to replicate anything from his most recent album, nor anything else, really, that he'd ever done before. Looking at the album cover, we see Joel in his trademark jacket, tie, jeans and sneakers, clutching a trumpet and looking angry and hungover in some sleazy alley in the city streets. This may lead you to believe that this is to set the mood of this particular record as being a bit dark and a bit angry. Yet with some notable exceptions, this really isn't the case. Known for his eclectic styles, this album is really "all over the place" but in a very good way. He tackles as many musical styles as he can get his hands around, and thinking back to the fact that 1978 wasn't really a year known for producing great music, he accomplishes his goal remarkably.

Big Shot is the bitter opener to the album, which, as stated earlier, seems to "fit" what you think the mood of the album should be. He sounds rightly pissed off in this song about a "high society" date that went pretty sour. Other than Stiletto, another fine piece which seems to be about an abusive relationship (where both parties are guilty), the rest of the album is quite light in terms of its attitude.

There are saxophones, trumpets, clarinets and other brass instruments galore. He sounds like he's trying to replicate all of the music styles found on the real 52nd street. Zanzibar is probably the best song that never was, that manages to mix rock and roll with some pretty smooth jazz, including a mean trumpet solo. Rosalinda's Eyes is a pretty piece that is smothered in instruments that incorporates styles of a greek love song. Until the Night is another sleeper with lush orchestral accompaniment that probably never gets played in concert simply because you can't really cut a song like this live.

Some times the pieces can sound a bit dated, as Joel confesses about his hit song My Life (according to Joel, the song didn't "age well"). This is more of a fault to the style of the production that was popular in the late seventies as opposed to the quality of the song. Consequently, this song became the biggest hit song on the album since it was obviously "catered" to the radio audience. Honesty is another sweet song that shows of Joel's softer side well, and everyone seems to know the piece pretty well.

The closing song, 52nd Street seems a bit of a disappointment simply because it's never really given time to develop into what feels like a proper song. At less than two and a half minutes, it serves more as a coda to the album (remember Souvenir?) than an actual song. It's a strong coda, however, as Joel accomplishes a very fine piece and is able to tackle this project quite well that made him more of a household name. He was now on what would become a very big hot streak.

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