Sunday, June 14, 2009

Album of the Day #155: 52ND STREET - Billy Joel

Artist: Billy Joel

Title: 52nd Street
Label: Columbia
Year: 1978
Songs: Big Shot/Honesty/My Life/Zanzibar/Stiletto/Rosalinda's Eyes/Half A Mile Away/Until The Night/52nd Street
Written by: Billy Joel
Produced by: Phil Ramone In Association With Home Run
Thoughts: Inside the bad album cover sits a good record, if a little disappointing after the grandiosity of The Stranger. What makes it disappointing is the fact that it copies its' predecessor, not quite exactly, but there are far too many similarities. Ramone's production is pretty much the same but at least he shows the knack of knowing which songs to over-do and which ones need an understatement.
One of the major stylistic changes though isn't in the musical sense, but it is in Joel's lyrical direction. On The Stranger, there are more personal songs, like "Just The Way You Are" and "She's Always A Woman". On 52nd Street, though, the songs are more character driven and obviously not about himself. These are characters and situations that might only find homes on 52nd Street in New York.
Aside from the hit singles, I think "Honesty" is easily a central masterpiece on the album. It's such a beautiful song (and ain't it the truth?) that balances out the harder stuff, like the excellent side two opener "Stiletto". Whenever I listen to the album, I still find that "Rosalinda's Eyes" and "Half A Mile Away" fall a little flat, but thankfully "Until The Night" has the ability to lift side two a little bit so it doesn't feel like the entire side is filler. However, the quick "52nd Street" ending is a little silly and I really think Joel would have been better off ending the LP with "Until The Night", even if it does only make it an eight-track album.
From a non-critical point-of-view, it is still an enjoyable album, but I still think The Stranger deserved a little bit of a better sequel.

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