Billy Joel’s keyboardist and Music Director David Rosenthal has attentively arranged all the tracks from Joel’s iconic 1978 album, combining the piano parts and vocal melodies into playable arrangements with accurate transcriptions of those classic piano parts that are integral to each song. Includes a foreword by Rosenthal along with great photos of Billy and copies of some of his handwritten lyrics. Features all nine songs: Big Shot • 52nd Street • Half a Mile Away • Honesty • My Life • Rosalinda’s Eyes • Stiletto • Until the Night • Zanzibar.
Click to read David’s Foreword
52nd Street was Billy’s first album to top the Billboard charts. Released in 1978, it was the second album produced by Phil Ramone and it yielded three Top 40 hits (My Life, Big Shot, and Honesty), two Grammy Awards (Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male), and a Grammy Nomination for Song of the Year (Honesty). It would later become the first album ever to be released commercially on CD.
Coming off the breakthrough success of his 1977 album The Stranger, Billy was feeling very confident. He had gone from playing clubs, theaters and colleges to headlining arenas. Creatively though, he was determined not to replicate The Stranger. He decided to try something different by hiring jazz musicians to enhance the band and bring their influence onto the record. It worked perfectly, inspiring Billy to push the boundaries of his songwriting and bring his music to a new place. Some examples are the sophisticated chord structures of “Rosalinda’s Eyes” and the jazz sections of “Zanzibar” featuring solos by legendary trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.
Having played keyboards in Billy Joel’s band since 1993, I have an inside perspective into his music. Accordingly, Billy asked that I review every note of the sheet music in his entire catalog of songs. As a pianist, he entrusted me with the task of correcting and re-transcribing each piece to ensure that the printed music represents each song exactly as it was written and recorded. This is the latest edition in our series of revised songbooks in the Billy Joel catalog, which began with The Stranger songbook back in 2008.
The challenge with each folio in Billy’s catalog is to find musical ways to combine his piano parts and vocal melodies into playable piano arrangements. First, the signature piano parts were transcribed and notated exactly as Billy played them. The vocal melodies were then transcribed and incorporated into the piano part in a way that preserves the original character of each song.
Although each of the verses on “My Life” sound similar, there are subtleties in the piano accompaniment and in the arrangement that change from verse to verse. All of the verses have been written out (rather than using repeats) in order to capture the subtle differences in the vocal melody and in the piano answers. On the original recording it fades out, so I added an optional ending which is how we play it live.
Billy’s Fender Rhodes part on “Rosalinda’s Eyes” plays a big role in the character of the song. There are subtle changes in his voicings on each of the verses so here again I wrote out each verse in its entirety to preserve these differences. On the record the flute and marimba parts vary slightly each time the main riff returns and this is reflected into the written piano parts in the sheet music.
The characteristic horn lines on “Half a Mile Away” have been included through most of the song. In some places the horns overlap the vocals, but both are written out wherever possible so that the essence of the character of the song is preserved. The unison horn soli section is accurately transcribed and made into a playable piano part.
“Until The Night” was recorded in the style of the Righteous Brothers as a tribute to their music which Billy loves so much. For the choruses on this one I wrote in piano voicings that capture the vocal harmonies and preserve the integral character of those harmonies. The climactic sax solo after the bridge has been captured into a playable piano part.
The classic intro and ending piano parts in “Honesty” are written exactly as Billy played them, and “Stiletto” has all of Billy’s signature piano solos transcribed note for note. The ending of Stiletto fades out on the record so I added an optional ending which is how we play it live.
All of the songs in this collection received the same astute attention to detail. The result is sheet music that is both accurate and enjoyable to play, and remains true to the original performances.
Billy and I are pleased to present the revised and now accurate sheet music to the classic album 52nd Street.