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Old 02-28-2016, 10:01 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Stranger by Billy Joel

This has been on my to-do list forever. I finally decided to listen to it after watching Oliver and Company after years (for those unlearned in the ways of Disney *cough* unlikely *cough* and/or Charles Dickens adaptations, Billy Joel plays the Dodger). However, I didn't expect anything like his hard rockin' 80's beat bomb "Why Should I Worry." They play tons of Billy Joel in my area, and I knew what to expect. Sadly, I can't get into that Billy Joel as much as I did the song from Oliver and Company. But I do not deny the album's greatness.

The album has a lot of different influences, including a majority of piano rock with a singer/songwriter sense of heart, akin to Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection (perfection). The album starts with the radio hit "Movin' Out." Which, now that I hear it on the album, is a great song in its own weird way. However, I don't feel that it set the standards for the rest of the album, and should not be the opener. However, songs like "The Stranger" and "Just the Way You Are" are so full of heart that Billy's sense of emotion is perfect for his scene. He was pretty much a part of the same scene as Elton John, and part of the same style. And I have to say, songs like "Vienna" and "Italian Restaurant" are so very romantic. Billy Joel knows romance. I'm not even a romance fan. In fact, I find a lot of it downright cheesy (which is ironic since Bat Out of Hell is my favorite album). Billy Joel does it right, probably better than ol' Elton.

And when the romance is done, we get to real energy, pure, ecstatic, rock 'n' roll energy with "Only the Good Die Young," which is probably the best song on the album. I mean, I can hardly think of a song more dance worthy, filled to the brim with clever lyrics. But we get back to heart, sadness, love, soul in "She's Always a Woman." Except for that one time she was a man, but we don't want to get into that. I mean, "Only the Good Die Young" was perfect already, and here we have another kind of perfect. With "Get It Right the First Time," energy is built quickly, and quickly turns itself into near perfection (which the opening drum riff made me expect). And Billy's vocals are more roughly exercised here, getting close to what he pulled off in Oliver and Company. And Finally, we have "Everybody Has a Dream," where a gospel feel turns Billy Joel temporarily into Rod Stewart, but so much better. What a way to end the album: a gospel choir singing of dreams. But wait! What's this? A hidden track? A beautiful short, reprise of The Stranger, one that's deep, depressed and not depressing, one that's a perfect ending to any album.

Still, I wish Billy Joel worked his vocals more. I mean, he did a great job on the album, but he had somethin' nothing short of awesome in Oliver and Company. So I wished I could've heard some things like that. But still, the album was almost perfect upon the first listen. I felt the second half was much better, partially because Movin' Out is a little annoying. But still, Billy Joel sings with whatever mood is necessary, and his voice has so much heart, happiness, sadness, as if his vocals had lived a full life. I was no Billy Joel fan before, but now I think I may be and I'm looking forward to his other albums even if this is said to be his best.

97/100
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Old 02-28-2016, 10:18 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The closest thing to that Oliver and Company song is probably Storm Front or Glass Houses.

Phenomenal album and one of my top five ever for sure. Billy did five songs off it when I saw him live.
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Old 04-04-2016, 10:45 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Definitely Billy's piece de resistance.

I cannot for the life of me understand why he did not transpose the first two tracks. The Stranger, with its introductory whistle that is also heard at the end of the album, is the obvious choice for the opening track, or so I would have thought.
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