The Stranger (1977)

1. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) 2. The Stranger 3. Just the Way You Are 4. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant 5. Vienna 6. Only the Good Die Young 7. She's Always a Woman 8. Get it Right the First Time 9. Everybody Has a Dream Bonus Songs from 30th Edition Release: 1. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway 2. Prelude/The Angry Young Man 3. New York State of Mind 4. Just the Way You Are 5. She's Got a Way 6. The Entertainer 7. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant 8. Band Introductions 9. Captain Jack 10.I've Loved These Days 11.Say Goodbye to Hollywood 12.Souvenir


On Billy Joel's fifth album in six years, he finally gets everything just right in a very big way. His first several albums had a lot of great moments scattered throughout webs of inconsistencies, so hearing this masterpiece really isn't a total surprise. Producer Phil Ramone is brought in to produce - a man with a long history of working behind the controls as an engineer, a mixer and a producer. His credits involved some of the softer, but more respected names in the industry, such as James Taylor, Chicago, and Paul Simon. Of course he also worked with Alice Cooper. Whatever the reason, Ramone is the perfect missing piece to an incredibly beautiful, you somewhat complex jigsaw puzzle.

The biggest change here isn't necessarily the music but the muscle behind Joel's performance. He's singing with much better conviction. Whether it's the adolescent replicating of wild teenage hormones (Only the Good Die Young), the Long-Island neighborhood storyteller (Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)) or the helpless romantic writing a sweet love song to his then wife Elizabeth (Just the Way You Are). All of the above mentioned tunes were strong singles receiving plenty of airplay, something he really only ever had with Piano Man a few years back.

Not surprisingly, all of the songs here probably could have been massive hits had they been released for radio airplay. The styles may change quickly from track to track, but the quality remains solid throughout. The best piece on the record (and many of his fans would state his best piece ever) is the seven and-a-half minute epic piece Scenes From An Italian Restaurant which is actually about two or three songs expertly blended into one tune. This song seems to identify with so much of Joel's character that it's not a surprise that it's such a fan favorite that has never gotten old and still remains a high crescendo of his live shows.

Sadly, Vienna isn't as well known as it should be. Sad, because it's another one of those simple pieces that most everyone would immediately fall in love with if they heard it, but it also tends to get lost with all the great songs here. She's Always a Woman is probably the weakest thing here. That's weakest, not weak. Again, it was one of the four hit singles from the record. Rounding out the album are Get it Right the First Time that is a bit dated and another great forgotten track Everybody Has a Dream.

Some of argued this was his peak. While that's debatable, the good news is that Joel's popularity would never diminish from this point on throughout his career. Even when he stopped making pop records in 1993, he would tour for the next several decades. This was the start of the great ride.

(NOTE: In 2007, Sony released a 30th anniversary edition with a bonus live disk from a show in 1977. The show makes it worth it to buy the collection once more.

Back To Main Page
Go To Next Review