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Billy Joel|The Stranger

The Stranger

Billy Joel

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Billy Joel teamed with Phil Ramone, a famed engineer who had just scored his first producing hits with Art Garfunkel's Breakaway and Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years for The Stranger, his follow-up to Turnstiles. Joel still favored big, sweeping melodies, but Ramone convinced him to streamline his arrangements and clean up the production. The results aren't necessarily revelatory, since he covered so much ground on Turnstiles, but the commercialism of The Stranger is a bit of a surprise. None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as "Just the Way You Are"; he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as "Only the Good Die Young"; and the glossy production of "She's Always a Woman" disguises its latent misogynist streak. Joel balanced such radio-ready material with a series of New York vignettes, seemingly inspired by Springsteen's working-class fables and clearly intended to be the artistic centerpieces of the album. They do provide The Stranger with the feel of a concept album, yet there is no true thematic connection between the pieces, and his lyrics are often vague or mean-spirited. His lyrical shortcomings are overshadowed by his musical strengths. Even if his melodies sound more Broadway than Beatles -- the epic suite "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" feels like a show-stopping closer -- there's no denying that the melodies of each song on The Stranger are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the album. Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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The Stranger

Billy Joel

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1
Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) (Album Version)
00:03:30

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

2
The Stranger
00:05:10

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Composer - Ralph MacDonald, Percussion - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

3
Just the Way You Are (Album Version)
00:04:50

Steve Burgh, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Phil Woods, Alto Saxophone - Didier Deutsch, Mastering Engineer - Ralph MacDonald, Percussion - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Darcy Proper, Mastering Engineer - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

4
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Album Version)
00:07:36

Steve Burgh, Electric Guitar - Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Composer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Dominic Cortese, Acordeon - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

5
Vienna (Album Version)
00:03:34

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Composer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Dominic Cortese, Acordeon - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

6
Only the Good Die Young (Single Version)
00:03:55

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

7
She's Always a Woman (Album Version)
00:03:21

Steve Burgh, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Ted Jensen, Mastering Engineer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

8
Get It Right the First Time (Album Version)
00:03:56

Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Billy Joel, Composer - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Raloph MacDonald, Percussion - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

9
Everybody Has a Dream (Album Version)
00:06:36

Gwen Guthrie, Background Vocal - Billy Joel, Vocal - Billy Joel, Piano - Billy Joel, Synthesizer - Billy Joel, Performer - Billy Joel, Composer - Billy Joel, Lyricist - Richard Tee, Organ - Ralph MacDonald, Percussion - Patti Austin, Background Vocal - Phoebe Snow, Background Vocal - Richie Cannata, Organ - Richie Cannata, Flute - Richie Cannata, Tenor Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Soprano Saxophone - Richie Cannata, Clarinet - Lani Groves, Background Vocal - Jim Boyer, Engineer - Phil Ramone, Producer - Steve Kahn, Guitar - Steve Kahn, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Steve Kahn, Electric Guitar - Hiram Bulock, Electric Guitar - Doug Stegmeyer, Bass - Hugh McCracken, Acoustic Baritone Guitar - Patrick Williams, Orchestrator - Liberty DeVitto, Drums - Phil Ramone, Producer - Phil Ramone, Engineer

(P) 1977 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Album Description

Billy Joel teamed with Phil Ramone, a famed engineer who had just scored his first producing hits with Art Garfunkel's Breakaway and Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years for The Stranger, his follow-up to Turnstiles. Joel still favored big, sweeping melodies, but Ramone convinced him to streamline his arrangements and clean up the production. The results aren't necessarily revelatory, since he covered so much ground on Turnstiles, but the commercialism of The Stranger is a bit of a surprise. None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as "Just the Way You Are"; he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as "Only the Good Die Young"; and the glossy production of "She's Always a Woman" disguises its latent misogynist streak. Joel balanced such radio-ready material with a series of New York vignettes, seemingly inspired by Springsteen's working-class fables and clearly intended to be the artistic centerpieces of the album. They do provide The Stranger with the feel of a concept album, yet there is no true thematic connection between the pieces, and his lyrics are often vague or mean-spirited. His lyrical shortcomings are overshadowed by his musical strengths. Even if his melodies sound more Broadway than Beatles -- the epic suite "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" feels like a show-stopping closer -- there's no denying that the melodies of each song on The Stranger are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the album. Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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