52nd Street - Billy Joel (vinyl review #4)

In 1978, The Piano Man (aka Billy Joel) released a double Grammy winner called 52nd Street. This was the first Billy Joel album I ever acquired, and it is definitely my favorite of his.

1. Big Shot – Here’s a real kickin’ track to start us off. I love the heavy drums and guitar paired with the piano he has going in the background. Billy gets feisty and sings about a guy with an ego that couldn’t keep it to himself. I love the brass instrument that comes in about halfway through; I’m not that educated in the brass family so I can’t tell you what exactly what it is. It might be saxophone – but whatever it is, it’s friggin’ cool and funky. I love the slightly distorted guitar we hear until the song fades out. This is definitely a fun and powerful number to start off the album.
2. Honesty – The piano intro starts off sounding sort of sad. Billy tenderly sings about admirable qualities you can find in a person, while honesty is rare though it is the most important. You can really hear the sadness the song is trying to get across when the chorus comes around and his tone changes. I also feel like I hear some strings going on in the background during the chorus, and that definitely gets you into that melancholy state of mind. His voice begins to get super emotional and loud, and you begin to feel everything he is feeling. This song describes a problem that everyone who’s ever lived has encountered during their lifetime; such a down-to-earth song about how deceitful people can be.
3. My Life – A polar opposite to the previous song, this one takes us to a happy place. Billy shows off some groovy key work here. Throughout this entire song, his piano skills are showcased tenfold. This track talks about fending for yourself and owning your life. The clapping and the happy piano contrasts slightly with the fight-back lyrics over top of it. This song has such an uplifting message, though: Even though people will try to tell you differently, it is YOUR life, after all.
4. Zanzibar – As soon as you hear the keys begin to roll in with the intro, you think, “This song sounds so familiar.” It sounds like a song that you have known for all of your life, even though you haven’t – there’s just something about it that sounds so memorable. All of the songs on this album tell a story, and to me, this one has a bunch of stories within it. The easiest one to pick out is Billy taking his dad’s car out to cruise with a girl that he wants to get to second base with. About halfway through the song, there’s a really killer trumpet(?) solo. Near the end of this song, it gets especially jazzy. When I heard the drums take a turn, I got excited; I love jazz drumming. This song is perfect for driving on the town at night. Le jazz hot.
5. Stiletto – The intro fits well with the title; both have a sexy vibe, and there’s no other way to describe it. The song sounds unusually happy for the topic it discusses. I believe it’s about a man who has fallen in love with a girl that broke his heart multiple times, but he keeps going back to her because he can’t stay away. I love how the amazing piano solo is followed by some super heavy saxophone; to me that just makes the song fun. While the instruments are lively, the lyrics are desperate and pained. I love it when songs do this, as you know. Billy Joel is just really good with his stiletto here.
6. Rosalinda’s Eyes – This is, and has always been, my favorite song on the album! The music is super slow, but it has a funky, Latin vibe to it. I think I can hear maracas in there, and maybe some cowbell or something. This song tells a story of a struggling musician who is in love with a Cuban girl that always supports him and stays faithful no matter where his career takes him. I heard this song for the first time while watching Freaks and Geeks; the song is used during a scene where the geeks fall in love with an exchange student, which I found to be very fitting. I’ve been in love with this song since first listen. The flute solo is a really nice touch, and the vocal harmonies in this song are amazing. This track is such a fun song about love, which I tend to have a soft spot for.
7. Half A Mile Away – The trumpets that we start out with in this song are full of sass. This is illustrated later in the song. When Billy starts singing, though, the song becomes cheerful-sounding. He sings about typical lust-for-life sorts of things – sneaking out of the house at night, drinking with buddies, etc. I really started to understand what this song meant when the chorus came around and he said, “My other life is just a half a mile away.” Boy, can I relate to that one. As it turns out, this song is also about finding yourself in a situation as follows: you want to be yourself and be independent, but your parents’ (and everyone else’s) approval conflicts with that. That is a huge topic that almost any teenager has to deal with. This song spoke to me and I often find myself thinking about it. Billy did well here.
8. Until The Night – This song was an eyebrow-raiser for me the first time I listened to it. Compared to the rest of the album, Billy sings in a much deeper tone here. That isn’t a bad thing; I found it perfect for the song’s message. At first, I couldn’t quite tell what this song was about. I just knew that it was meant to be sad because the vocal harmonies mixed with the gloomy instruments. The line, “I just might make it until the night, until the night, when I see you again,” clarified that this song is about being lonely until reuniting with your lover. As the song progresses, it turns more and more into a ballad; the strings arrangements in the background set it in stone. The saxophone this ballad is pouring out just makes you want to get Billy in his car and send him home super fast so he can see his partner. He just might make it.
9. 52nd Street – Someone, please tell me what is said in the beginning. I can’t figure it out and it frustrates me to no end. Other than that, this song brings back the jazz element. All of the instruments together create a deep track, and Billy really shows his Ray Charles side here. I thought that made the song sound more sensual. I really liked the fact that we got to end the album with a super hot, jazzy number.

This album shows Billy Joel’s sophisticated jazz side and earned him a lot of success. It was actually the first album to be commercially released on CD (the more you know). I highly suggest this album if you want to become an adult – and don’t forget to puff out your chest and say, “Tax exemption.”
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You are correct about the instruments on Big Shot and Zanzibar.
Great review, and thank you for taking my request. - PetSounds

Thank you and no problem~ - LizardKing99