Streetlife Serenade

Billy Joel

Clumbia, 1974

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Piano Man was far from being a subpar effort from a young and upcoming Billy Joel, but in a change from the norm in the music industry, the albums following his true debut declined in quality. Streetlife Serenade represents the lowest point in Joel’s career until the vacuous emptiness of The Bridge.

Three albums in, Joel sounds very very tired. Given the fact that he would reject the California scene for his next work, one can only assume that he was already fed up with things by 1974. With the exception of a few tracks, this album refuses to live up to any standards fans have of Billy Joel.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only true hit off this record was “The Entertainer,” a jaunty little numbers that draws from a number of different sources, including bluegrass. Lyrically, I’ve always found this track to be fascinating, because the man just tears the industry a new hole. Keep in mind this is only a year after the wide-eyed innocence of “Piano Man.” Joel has never been afraid to express cynicism regarding a variety of issues, and it’s no different here.

The clear-cut second best number, “Los Angelenos,” captures Joel in a rocking mood expressing his general disdain for Hollywood. The live version of this track on My Lives is the definitive version, infusing more energy than the studio recording, but it is still a decent track in its original conception.

Problem is, it’s tough finding positives for everything else. There are two instrumentals, “Root Beer Bag” and “The Mexican Connection.” The former makes an effort to capture a honky tonk vibe, but fails to keep the interest. The latter is conceived in an entire different matter, playing out as Joel’s attempt to craft a wide-ranging epic number. Thing is, he already did it better with “The Ballad Of Billy The Kid” an album earlier.

To be honest, there’s not much more I really want to say about Streetlife Serenade. It inspired a very low amount of emotion, which is something one can almost always count on with a Billy Joel album.  Instead, a general feeling of malaise permeates the music. The stories are tired, the characters uninteresting. Things would indeed get better with Turnstiles, but not much.

Rating: D+

User Rating: C


It's funny. This album doesn't get much of a write up anywhere and it's probably my least listened to BJ album. But it's not the songs but the arangements that make it that way. I would love to hear Billy play the songs off this album with nothing but his voice and his piano. I'm sure you'd find something a little closer to the Cold Spring Harbor style. Iplay these songs all the time on my piano and they really tell a great story. The Mexican Connection is one of the greatest pieces of piano music ever and Souvenir is simply beautiful work. Still a great listen.

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