Picks and Pans Review: Songs in the Attic

updated 11/02/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

Billy Joel

Too often "live" rock albums are like reheated leftovers. Joel has managed to confound the cliché and come up with the best idea for a performance LP since Jackson Browne's classic Runnin' on Empty. With the help of his producer, Phil Ramone, Joel selected some of the better tunes he wrote before he hit the big time in 1977 with the release of The Stranger. Then he took his stage band on the road and managed a spontaneity that breathes new life into them. He uses a crack team of studio musicians to cut albums, but what he loses in precision by using his loyal stage troupe he gains in the magic of old friends playing together. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway), poignant in the studio, sounds dramatic in Madison Square Garden. Say Goodbye to Hollywood, written in 1975 as he was leaving Tinseltown, gets a burst of Spectoresque energy from the audience at the Milwaukee Arena. His 1971 antidrug anthem, Captain Jack, takes on great power as crazed Philly fans stupidly cheer every time he snarls the lines about getting high. Overall, the 11 offerings on the LP provide growing evidence that Billy's body of work has flexibility and amazing durability.

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