Billy Joel – The Stranger

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MICHAEL

No stranger to “The Stranger”.

I grew up on Long Island, about 9 miles from Oyster Bay where this local hero was from.  In 1977 & ’78 “The Stranger” album was on New York radio non-stop.  Album oriented stations WNEW & WPLJ played the longer cuts such as  “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and the more provocative “Only the Good Die Young”, while “Movin’ Out” , “Just the Way You Are” and “She’s Always a Women to Me” were all over the charts on the pop stations.  Needless to say, 40 years later these songs are still well ingrained in my head.

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At one time or another I have owned “The Stranger” on vinyl, cassette, CD and digitally.

billy-concertIn December of 1977 I witnessed Billy “The Kid’s” homecoming concert at Nassau Coliseum.  He was all over the stage riding high on the early success of this album which was issued just a few month before.  Together with good friends and neighbors we sang along with the  Piano Man, belting out this album’s hits and some favorites from previous records.  He ended the evening as he often did exclaiming “Don’t take any shit from anyone!”.  You just don’t forget magical teenage nights like that.

Listening to “The Stranger” all the way through for the first time in many years,  I was reminded of how well Joel tells a story, giving life to this collection of colorful characters.  The images of Brenda and Eddie are vivid,  the pain of a stranger is  deep and oh those Catholic School girls…  it is still feels very original.

I always liked the way the album featured a diverse range of songs.  There are quiet piano ballads, raucous bar band tunes, anthemic serenades and loungy love songs.  His dynamic piano playing together with Richie Cannata’s sax and Liberty Devito’s drums gives many of these studio recordings an almost live feel.

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MAX

I also really enjoyed this album. Billy Joel is an incredible artist and performer. He conveys so much passion when he sings. I found myself hanging on his every word, hungry for him to tell me another story.  Even though I didn’t know much of this music before listening to the reord, there were a couple of familiar tunes. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, and “Only the Good Die Young” are all classics with rocking drums.

It was interesting to hear the different ways he uses the piano throughout the album. In “Everybody Has a Dream”, there is a layered gospel feel that preaches hope, with long and short notes that talk to you.  In “Just the Way You Are” the keyboard slowly romances and blends with the harmonies, adding a cool, laid back attitude to this love ballad.   Alternatively, “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” showcases a grand piano that  starts with a slow almost classical feeling and then everything speeds up with a rock progression that goes just as fast as our greasers Brenda and Eddie.

This was a really great experience, with many awesome songs. Glad I could hear it.

The Stranger is #70 on the Rolling Stone Magazine 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list

It seems such a waste of time

If that’s what it’s all about

Good luck movin’ up

I’m movin out