Billy Joel “The Stranger”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#474 in the Series and # 26 in the Whale Wednesday Series) is Billy Joel, The Stranger.

We don’t feature greatest hits albums here on “Cool Album of the Day.” I swear we don’t! Yeah, I know this had about five of them on it, but it’s not a greatest hits album, I promise, it’s not!

The Stranger was released in 1977 and houses some of Billy Joel’s most well-known songs. It just might have been the peak of his career.  It answers “yes” to the question about “Standing the test of time.”  Many of these tracks are part of his live shows to this day.  Many of these songs are still being played regularly across the country at any given time.

The album actually did not make it to #1 on The Billboard 200 Album chart.  It peaked at #2. 

Four singles did chart.  They were in order of release and peak position.  “Just The Way You Are” #3,” Moving Out (Anthony’s Song)” #17, “Only The Good Die Young” #24 and “She’s Always a Woman To Me” #17.  “The Stranger” and “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” also got tons of airplay.

The single “Just the Way You Are” also was honored with two Grammy Awards.  Producers Billy Joel and Phil Ramone won for Song of the Year while writer Joel won for Record of the Year.

Phil Ramone has often been given much of the credit for The Stranger’s success.  He’s been named as being responsible for Billy allowing for a more stripped down version of his sound.  Radio liked that.  Radio played the songs.

One of the things I’ve always liked about the earlier Billy Joel era was his band, especially drummer Liberty DeVitto. He’s one of the best and he really put his sound into these recordings. Just listen to “Only the Good Die You,” especially a live version.

If you haven’t heard the story about the recording of the track then you must watch and listen to the bonus video below. It’s quite humorous.

— Larry Carta

Track listing

All songs by Billy Joel.

Side 1

  1. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” – 3:30
  2. “The Stranger” – 5:10
  3. “Just the Way You Are” – 4:52
  4. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” – 7:37

Side 2

  1. “Vienna” – 3:34
  2. “Only the Good Die Young” – 3:55
  3. “She’s Always a Woman” – 3:21
  4. “Get It Right the First Time” – 3:57
  5. “Everybody Has a Dream/The Stranger” – 6:38

Personnel

  • Billy Joel – acoustic piano, vocals, electric keyboards, synthesizers
  • Doug Stegmeyer – bass guitar
  • Liberty DeVitto – drums
  • Patrick Williams – orchestration
  • Richie Cannata – tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute, organ, tuba
  • Steve Khan – six and twelve string electric guitars, acoustic rhythm guitar, high string guitar
  • Hiram Bullock – electric guitar
  • Hugh McCracken – acoustic guitar on “Just the Way You Are”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, “She’s Always A Woman”, “Get It Right The First Time” and “Everybody Has A Dream”
  • Steve Burgh – acoustic guitar on “Just the Way You Are” and “She’s Always A Woman”; electric guitar on “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”
  • Phil Woods – alto saxophone on “Just the Way You Are”
  • Ralph MacDonald – percussion on “The Stranger”, “Just the Way You Are”, “Get It Right The First Time” and “Everybody Has A Dream”
  • Dominic Cortese – accordion on “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Vienna”
  • Richard Tee – organ on “Everybody Has A Dream”
  • Phoebe Snow – background vocals on “Everybody Has A Dream”
  • Lani Groves – background vocals on “Everybody Has A Dream”
  • Gwen Guthrie – background vocals on “Everybody Has A Dream”
  • Patti Austin – background vocals on “Everybody Has A Dream”

Links

BONUS VIDEO: Billy Joel talks about the creation of “Only The Good Die Young”
Very entertaining


Posted by Larry Carta


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