The Stranger, Billy Joel's fifth solo album, was his artistic and commercial breakthrough. Released in September 1977, it went on to become Columbia Record's best-selling album of all time, surpassing Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water. Billy teamed up with producer Phil Ramone, who was the first producer to embrace Billy's regular band, and it was a perfect match. The single "Just The Way You Are" won Grammy awards for Song of The Year and Record of Year, although it almost never made it on the album since Billy and his band originally thought it was too sappy. "Movin' Out, "Only The Good Die Young," and "She's Always A Woman" became hits as well, and the album gave us two of Billy's best songs: "Vienna" and the epic "Scenes from An Italian Restaurant."
Having returned to New York in Turnstiles, Billy embraced and wrote about what he knew best, New York and New Yorkers (including greater suburban New York). He wrote about the folks who work hard all their lives just to get a place in Hackensack and the disillusionment with that life ("Movin' Out"), the young turks trying to get a girl ("Only the Good Die Young"), and old friends reminiscing about Brenda and Eddie, and what was and should have been ("Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.") In between, Billy explored the complexities of relationships ("The Stranger" and "She's Always A Woman"), and wrote a love song for the ages ("Just The Way You Are"). He gently exorted us to slow down and take in life ("Vienna") and closed with a gospel-like prayer about the virtue of love ("Everybody Loves A Dream"). The Stranger was a pop masterpiece, a defining album of the 1970s.
The album struck a chord with people of all generations and backgrounds. The Stranger captured and encapsulated our hopes, dreams, worries, memories, and emotions like few albums had. Most people, fans and critics alike, consider this to be Billy's best album and one of the all-time best pop albums. Rolling Stone ranked it #67 on its list of top 500 albums of all time. I would rank it even higher.
The special 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition of The Stranger (below) was released in 2008 and consisted of re-mastered versions of all songs on the album. The Legacy Edition also featured a second CD disc with a re-mastered version of a concert in June 1977, Live in Carnegie Hall, featuring songs from that concert. The boxed set edition of the Legacy Edition also contained a DVD of Billy's television concert in the UK from 1978, Live on the Old Grey Whistle Test, which also contains a short documentary about the making of The Stranger. This was a very well-done product, one can tell that Sony Legacy really put considerable amount of thought and effort into it. It was a befitting way to recognize what has become an iconic album for the Baby Boomer generation, and other generations. Read more about it here including the Nassau concert 1977.
Listen to an in-depth "Inside The Studio" interview with Billy Joel in 1977 about The Stranger. Listen to an even more in-depth series of podcasts on The Stranger celebrating the 30th anniversary of its release.
(requires Adobe Flash)
(click links for lyrics)
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)
5. Vienna (3;34)
6. Only The Good Die Young (3:55)
7. She's Always A Woman (3:21)
8. Get It Right The First Time (3:57)
9. Everybody Has A Dream/The Stranger (reprise) (6:38)
1. Miami 2017 (live) (5:11)
2. Prelude/Angry Young Man (live) (6:05)
3. New York State of Mind (live) (8:20)
4. Just The Way You Are (live) (4:56)
5. She's Got A Way (live) (3:08)
6. The Entertainer (live) (6:09)
7. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant (live) (7:35)
8. Band Introductions (spoken) (2:02)
9. Captain Jack (live) (6:51)
10. I've Loved These Days (live) (4:29)
11. Say Goodbye To Hollywood (live) (6:45)
12. Souvenir (live) (2:09)