Stephen Chapman

The second incarnation of my blog

Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #70 Billy Joel – The Stranger

Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.

At number 70 is Billy Joel with The Stranger from 1977, which became his biggest selling album.  To my surprise, I read that Billy Joel hasn’t made an album of new music since 1993. That’s a long time for a once prolific songwriter.

The album kicks off with Moving Out, a single from late ’77 and sounds a little lightweight at times and apart from the line “will give you a heart attack ack ack ack ack ack”, it’s a pleasant opener. As with most songs on the album, the song is a short story.

The title track starts with an atmospheric moody feel, but becomes a funky(ish) piece that sounds unfinished and as if to confirm that, it fades back into the moody piano/whistle part.

The first single from the album was the massive hit, Just the way you are, was said to be disliked by Joel and was close to being left off the album. It’s about his wife and loving her the way she is… before leaving her for supermodel Christie Brinkley. It may sound twee, but it’s a very good melodic song and I’m sure has been the opener at many a wedding reception.

Scenes from an Italian resturant and Vienna are trying too hard to be “big” and neither hits the mark.

We’re soon back into quality with the uptempo 50’s beat Only the good die young and then a true classic She’s always a woman, a personal song with a theme of loving a woman who may be flawed. The awful rhyming of Eden and Bleedin’ is only just about forgiven!

Get it right the first time is a guitar laden funky(ish again) song that I am sure would fit nicely into a Broadway show as could the closer Everyone has a dream.

Overall I found the album a bit underwhelming and the narrow production may have influenced that; the sound is very much that of pre-punk 1977. However, the classic singles carry the rest of the songs easily and you cant fault the legacy that Billy Joel built up and continues to play live to packed arenas.


My rating: 6/10

Standout tracks:  Just the way you are, She’s always a woman

Listen to the album here.

See the Top 100 here.

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This entry was posted on November 6, 2014 by in music and tagged , , .

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