About The Stranger by Billy Joel:
Ranked 67/500 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Billy Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States. He has had multiple Top 10 hits in the '80s and '90s, all of which he wrote singlehandedly. He is also a six-time Grammy Award winner, has sold over 100 million records worldwide and was inducted into almost every Hall of Fame there exists. Joel retired from recording pop music in 1993 but continues to tour, often with Elton John.
'The Stranger' is his fifth studio album, originally released in 1977. While his four previous albums had been moderate chart successes, this was his breakthrough album. It remains Joel's best-selling non-compilation album to date. 'The Stranger' contains nine songs, many of which are now considered "classic Joel". Much of the album's success is attributed to Joel's collaboration with producer Phil Ramone, whose innovative production methods complemented Joel's songs. This fruitful collaboration would continue for a decade.
Whereas a handful of Joel’s preceding efforts feature a near-flawless mix of melodic arrangements and poignant lyrics, the aspects he sought in order to graduate into a more serious artist arrive here via Ramone’s more muscular, fleshed-out, and rock-enabling production. The streamlined approach slightly strips back the sweeping developments heard on Piano Man and Turnstiles, and on this edition, lays bare the core of the material, allowing the vocalist’s bittersweet yearning, rollicking 88 notes, and working-class conviction to emanate with full-bodied detail, vivid color, and grand-scale dynamics.
A Grammy winner for both Record and Song of the Year, “Just the Way You Are” epitomizes Joel’s balladic reach, his ability to transfer wistful sentiments and lovelorn emotions. He also flashes a mean streak. The animated “Only the Good Die Young” bounces and hops to an updated classic-R&B rhythm and, underneath its beauty, “She’s Always A Woman” hints at trouble underfoot. And then there’s the New York-centric, character-rich poetry of the vignettes.
Akin to many of his influences, Joel nails the grit, personality, specificity, descriptiveness, and behavior of protagonists that populate “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and “Scenes From an Italian Diner,” each equally at home on The Stranger as well as on a Broadway play or on a golden-era Hollywood film soundtrack. No wonder that, just months after its original release, Joel was no longer a stranger to any of the music-loving public. He would never look back.