Songs in the Attic (1981)

1. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway 2. Summer, Highland Falls 3. Streetlife Serenader 4. Los Angelenos 5. She's Got a Way 6. Everybody Loves You Now 7. Say Goodbye to Hollywood 8. Captain Jack 9. You're My Home 10.The Ballad of Billy the Kid 11.I've Loved These Days


This was a pretty cool idea. After three latter day albums of incredible success, Billy Joel probably took a long, thoughtful look at his earliest work and decided that there was a lot of good stuff on those early records, but since he was young, inexperienced, and without a lot of decent advice, those albums just didn't sound as good as the probably could have. Since re-recording those studio albums really wasn't a feasible option, Joel decides to show the public just how good these songs can sound by offering a live album filled his earlier, mostly unnoticed, material.

So the "live" album isn't really what you might expect. After all, arena rock was in full force in 1981, and supergroups were putting out live albums left and right. So initially, it was a bit of a shock that this one sort of broke the mold. Especially when the timing seemed perfect for Joel to release something of the sort (i.e. a show packed with "hits"). The good news is that nothing disappoints here. Yes, this is mostly unfamiliar stuff, but give Joel credit for knowing what songs of his were capable of being memorable with the right care and attention.

Joel writes a pretty extensive "explanation" for the album on the original LP package stating that songs that were done the way he wanted initially (such as Piano Man) are not featured here because they would sound basically the same. Many of these songs that were unheard of by most, would later be "known" by the success of this album. This is true going beyond the "hits" here. Say Goodbye to Hollywood and She's Got a way were pulled as singles from this album, and were welcomed warmly by fans everywhere, but there are so many other songs that became well known as well because of this album. Miami 2017 , Summer, Highland Falls and The Ballad of Billy the Kid were all given new lives, and as good as the original Captain Jack was, it doesn't come close to the powerful version here.

One thing that's slightly distracting is that Joel recorded these songs in separate styles of venues - some in 15,000 seat arenas and others in intimate smaller clubs. He gives his reasons in the above mentioned linear notes, but I found it a bit too distracting going back and forth between atmospheres. I would have preferred all of the songs in an arena setting. I'm surprised more artists haven't tried to copy this one in terms of its intentions.

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