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Released - 1977 on Columbia Records. Produced by Phil Ramone
Billy Joel - Vocals, Piano, Electric Keyboards and Synthesizers
Doug Stegmeyer - Bass
Additional Musicians: Ralph MacDonald, Hugh McCracken,
Dominic Cortese, Steve Burgh, Richard Tee
Al songs written by Billy Joel
This is Billy Joel's best written album, yet I sometimes wonder if you had to live on Long Island at the time of its release to get all of what he was writing about here. I was living there back then, about to leave New York State for the west; perhaps this album helped me realize how badly I needed to get away from that place.
The Stranger starts off with as good a song as any, "Moving Out (Anthony"s Song)", and at the time, I was a kid who had moved away from home about a year before this song came out. Boy could I identify with this tune, not only from simple lyrics like "you can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime", as I was working just that to put enough money together for my New York getaway, and realizing for the first time in my life that our government did stick it to you with overtaxing your paycheck when you put in more than 40 hours of work in a week. But there was something else about this song. Back in the crazy neighborhood that I moved out of, I had a friend named Anthony who had an aunt with the last name of "Leone", who lived two doors down from him. All the kids on the street loved Mrs. Leone, this mind you, in a time when teenaged kids didn't care to be hanging with their elders. But Mrs. Leone was different, she was just the kind of person who would had left a note on the door telling her nephew "to move out to the country"! The fact that Billy Joel himself grew up in the town just to the north of ours, also reminded us that he knew the area well. We all knew which "medical center" he was singing about in the song that Sergeant O'Leary worked across from. As it was, Joel played piano in those same bars on the same street the medical center was located on, before he made it big.
Most of the other songs on this album are tops too, with the totally full of feeling hit ballad "Just The Way You Are," written about his then first wife. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is another winner, with its great lyrics telling the story about Brenda and Eddie, a couple who everybody knows in the real world.
Billy had another hit with "Only The Good Die Young," if you ever dated a high school Catholic girl from Long Island back in the '70s, then you know that he hits this one right on the money! There are two other better than average songs found on The Stranger, "She's Always A Woman", and the title cut. Yet there are three filler songs on here that are very forgettable. The only real problem with this and most other Billy Joel albums, is his lack of any great guitar parts in his songs. Billy should have taken the clue from rock's other piano man, Elton John, who never was afraid to add great guitar riffs all over his tunes. I believe Joel would be more endeared to the Classic Rock crowd had he also went this route, after all, you can only go so far with a piano as you main instrument; and although his insertion of some fine sax playing on a few songs here worked, "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" would be a pure ten if the sax was dropped and a strong guitar riff had been added in it's place.
The Stranger was Joel's breakout album. All artists have one album that you should start off with if you want to learn a bit more about them, and this is the one to do so with Billy Joel, you will get to know his music style a bit better with The Stranger.
- Keno, 2004
To listen to some soundclips from THE STRANGER or to purchase it click on:The Stranger
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