Stranger

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The CD that’s stuck in my desk player at present (3 days non-stop to be exact) is the 30th Anniversary edition of Billy Joel’s The Stranger. His melodies are so good they make my skin crawl. Seriously. But what really started to hit me with this particular album is that, in additional to being a master melodist, Joel has a knack for writing accurate introductions, outtros, interludes, recurring melodic themes, codas…integrating those kinds of movements into his songs. It’s a format/style that some writers try their hand at but fail miserably; the experiment doesn’t work, the disparate sounds don’t coalesce, the tempo is too far off, the injection of something new and different just doesn’t fit, etc. … Joel knows how to make these fit, like a mad-hatter conspiring with reckless abandon, but actually pulling it off. I don’t think anybody does it better than Joel and The Beatles (I’m thinking “A Day in the Life”-ish songs). The CD that’s stuck in my desk player at present (3 days non-stop to be exact) is the 30th Anniversary edition of Billy Joel’s The Stranger. His melodies are so good they make my skin crawl. Seriously. But what really started to hit me with this particular album is that, in additional to being a master melodist, Joel has a knack for writing accurate introductions, outtros, interludes, recurring melodic themes, codas…integrating those kinds of movements into his songs. It’s a format/style that some writers try their hand at but fail miserably; the experiment doesn’t work, the disparate sounds don’t coalesce, the tempo is too far off, the injection of something new and different just doesn’t fit, etc. … Joel knows how to make these fit, like a mad-hatter conspiring with reckless abandon, but actually pulling it off. I don’t think anybody does it better than Joel and The Beatles (I’m thinking “A Day in the Life”-ish songs). 

He’s got the ear of a composer. He’s kind of “America’s Street Composer,” come to think of it. Still looking into this realm of Joel’s repertoire, I was already sold on his inclination toward sweeping musical transitions (“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, among others), but the title track nailed me this time around. My ear has always gotten stuck on the AMAZING piano intro/outtro, and I had never paid any attention to the lyrics. The funky groove and licks threw me off and I don’t think I ever took the middle of the pie seriously. I do now. The lyrics are great. Give it a listen. Re-visit. 

“Everybody Has a Dream,” the closing track, is the song I didn’t know until now…but it’s slowly becoming a new Joel favorite. 

And this is on the album too: “The stained-glass window you’re hiding behind/never lets in the sun/Darlin’ only the good die young.” Niceee Dr. Joel, very nice. -DW 

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