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Billy Joel|52nd Street

52nd Street

Billy Joel

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Once The Stranger became a hit, Billy Joel quickly re-entered the studio with producer Phil Ramone to record the follow-up, 52nd Street. Instead of breaking from the sound of The Stranger, Joel chose to expand it, making it more sophisticated and somewhat jazzy. Often, his moves sounded as if they were responses to Steely Dan -- indeed, his phrasing and melody for "Zanzibar" is a direct homage to Donald Fagen circa The Royal Scam, and it also boasts a solo from jazz great Freddie Hubbard à la Steely Dan -- but since Joel is a working-class populist, not an elitist college boy, he never shies away from big gestures and melodies. Consequently, 52nd Street unintentionally embellishes the Broadway overtones of its predecessor, not only on a centerpiece like "Stiletto," but when he's rocking out on "Big Shot." That isn't necessarily bad, since Joel's strong suit turns out to be showmanship -- he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances. He also knows how to make a record. Song for song, 52nd Street might not be as strong as The Stranger, but there are no weak songs -- indeed, "Honesty," "My Life," "Until the Night," and the three mentioned above are among his best -- and they all flow together smoothly, thanks to Ramone's seamless production and Joel's melodic craftsmanship. It's remarkable to think that in a matter of three records, Joel had hit upon a workable, marketable formula -- one that not only made him one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers. 52nd Street is a testament to that achievement.

© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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52nd Street

Billy Joel

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1
Big Shot (Album Version)
00:04:03

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Composer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

2
Honesty (Album Version)
00:03:53

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - David Spinozza, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Robert Freedman, Orchestrator - Robert Freedman, Horns - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

3
My Life (Album Version)
00:04:44

Donnie Dacus, Background Vocal - Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Peter Cetera, Background Vocal - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

4
Zanzibar (Album Version)
00:05:10

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - MIKE MAINIERI, Marimba - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

5
Stiletto (Album Version)
00:04:41

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

6
Rosalinda's Eyes (Album Version)
00:04:40

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Ralph MacDonald, Percussion - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - MIKE MAINIERI, Marimba - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Guitar - George Marge, Soprano - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

7
Half a Mile Away (Album Version)
00:04:08

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Ray Simpson, Background Vocal - Ralph MacDonald, Percussion - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Babi Floyd, Background Vocal - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - Eric Gale, Electric Guitar - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Milt Grayson, Background Vocal - frank floyd, Background Vocal - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Dave Grusin & The Quintet, Horns - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Zack Sanders, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

8
Until the Night (Album Version)
00:06:36

Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Robert Freedman, Orchestrator - Robert Freedman, Horns - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - David Friedman, Percussion - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Guitar - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer - Phil Ramone, Producer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

9
52nd Street (Album Version)
00:02:26

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Performer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Jim Boyer, Re-Mixer - David Martone, 2nd Engineer - Steve Khan, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Khan, Electric Guitar - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Doug Stegmeyer, Background Vocal - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Re-Mixer

(P) 1978 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Resenha do Álbum

Once The Stranger became a hit, Billy Joel quickly re-entered the studio with producer Phil Ramone to record the follow-up, 52nd Street. Instead of breaking from the sound of The Stranger, Joel chose to expand it, making it more sophisticated and somewhat jazzy. Often, his moves sounded as if they were responses to Steely Dan -- indeed, his phrasing and melody for "Zanzibar" is a direct homage to Donald Fagen circa The Royal Scam, and it also boasts a solo from jazz great Freddie Hubbard à la Steely Dan -- but since Joel is a working-class populist, not an elitist college boy, he never shies away from big gestures and melodies. Consequently, 52nd Street unintentionally embellishes the Broadway overtones of its predecessor, not only on a centerpiece like "Stiletto," but when he's rocking out on "Big Shot." That isn't necessarily bad, since Joel's strong suit turns out to be showmanship -- he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances. He also knows how to make a record. Song for song, 52nd Street might not be as strong as The Stranger, but there are no weak songs -- indeed, "Honesty," "My Life," "Until the Night," and the three mentioned above are among his best -- and they all flow together smoothly, thanks to Ramone's seamless production and Joel's melodic craftsmanship. It's remarkable to think that in a matter of three records, Joel had hit upon a workable, marketable formula -- one that not only made him one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers. 52nd Street is a testament to that achievement.

© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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