After the popularity of The Stranger, Billy Joel had a tough album to try to follow up. His most popular release to that point, it also picked up multiple Grammy Awards including Song and Record of the Year. Either the pressure didn’t get to him, or it helped him thrive, as 52nd Street was both a commercial and critical success, giving him his first Grammy for Album of the Year. Employing Phil Spector as his producer and aiming to tell the story of a day in New York City, Joel produced an album that has gone 10x Platinum to this point, and thanks to Kevin Gray and Impex Records, has a high quality vinyl reissue to please the fans of it.
Releasing 52nd Street on 180g vinyl is a bit ironic in that it was the first album ever to be released on CD when Sony put the original CD player on the market. The reissued vinyl came out of it’s jacket in perfect shape, nice and thick but with no visible warping, and very little dust or debris on the surface. The original Columbia Records sticker is present on the album which takes up just a single LP. Once the album began to play, it was certainly worth the expense of picking up a new copy over one of the many used copies out there.
The background of the record was almost dead silent. Between songs I could hear the faintest bit of surface noise, but while the album played that was few and far between. On Big Shot, the amount of bass contained on the LP was surprising as I don’t recall hearing that much on either of his Greatest Hits CD releases, or on the 52nd Street original CD. One criticism that I had read on the recent CD reissues (which I haven’t heard myself) is that they are almost too laid back and relaxed compared to the original, but Big Shot was bold with an in-your-face sound and bass track to match. The mixing from Spector puts Joel and his piano front and center most of the time, pushed up to the front of the sound stage. Other performers are pushed off to the sides a bit in comparison, but are still there. I wouldn’t say the soundstage is particularly deep or expansive on the album, but it is certainly direct.
The album continues the impressive start with Honesty and My Life, both of which have continued to be popular hits for Joel to this day. Side One ends with Zanzibar, which sounds good, but isn’t a particularly strong track in my view. Side Two might not have the hits of the first side, but it’s a very strong collection of songs without a real weak point among them. While 52nd Street might not be as strong an overall album as The Stranger was from start to finish, it has a collection of songs that are still wonderful today, and the reissue from Impex records brings them home strong. A good addition for a Billy Joel fan.
Eric Clapton Unplugged is one of the most popular albums from the 1990′s, and one of the best albums from come from MTV’s Unplugged series and a winner of the 1992 Grammy for Album of the Year. Until now it has never been available in the USA on vinyl, but Warner Brothers has finally corrected that wrong with a beautiful, 180g double LP pressed at Pallas in Germany.