BILLY JOEL > The Stranger

Billy Joel’s fifth album, The Stranger, was his breakthrough; four of the album’s tracks landed in the Top 40, the album itself reached No. 2, and the song “Just the Way You Are” picked up two Grammys.Label: Columbia/Legacy
Rating: ★★★★☆

Billy Joel’s fifth album, The Stranger, was his breakthrough; four of the album’s tracks landed in the Top 40, the album itself reached No. 2, and the song “Just the Way You Are” picked up two Grammys. This 30th anniversary edition features a remastered version of the album (by the record’s original producer, Phil Ramone) that makes Joel’s melodic pop positively sparkle-a pop that stands at odds with the frequently bittersweet commentary of the lyrics. The opening track, “Movin’ Out,” is a perfect example of this; a song that sounds celebratory, until you realize the singer’s cheerily dealing a withering blow toward modern-day acquisitiveness. It’s these songs, along with the mini-suite of nostalgia “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” that give the album a bite that’s ultimately more pleasing than romantic ballads like “Always A Woman.” The Legacy Edition version of the album comes with a CD of a previously unreleased live show from 1977. But Joel fans will want to opt for the Deluxe Limited Edition, with its DVD featuring two promo films, a “making of” documentary, and, best of all, Joel’s appearance on the BBC’s The Old Grey Whistle Test.