Friday, December 13, 2013

67 The Stranger (1977) Billy Joel

  1. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
  2. The Stranger
  3. Just the Way You Are
  4. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
  5. Vienna
  6. Only the Good Die Young
  7. She's Always a Woman
  8. Get It Right the First Time
  9. Everybody Has a Dream/The Stranger (Reprise)

Most artists can be fairly neatly categorised by their radio station genre. Led Zeppelin are a classic rock band, Simon and Garfunkle are easy listening, Madonna is a pop station aimed at girls, Radiohead usually get put on alternative radio and then artists like Frank Zappa just don't fit into anyone's radio station and have to be discovered for themselves.

Part of the reason for Billy Joel's fame is the fact that he covers more radio bases than his contemporaries. He's played on radio so much because so many stations can play his music. The Stranger has spread its tracks across more radio programming schedules than most artists manage in their career.

Only the Good Die Young appears on a lot of classic rock playlists with its fast tempo, loud groove and salacious lyrics about a young man trying to convince a good Catholic girl that she should come out from behind her stained glass curtain and give up that whole virginity thing which the singer clearly feels is over rated.

But if that's not doing it for you why not turn the dial where you'll find Just the Way You Are on an Easy Listening radio station where the heartfelt love lyrics and gentle feel make it a huge hit with those who like their music unchallenging but aurally pleasing.

A bit further down the dial, She's Always a Woman will probably be playing on a pop station aimed at the female listener who likes straight forward pop music with affirming lyrics.

Tucked away in the lesser touched regions of the dial you might even find a more adventurous station that's prepared to play all 7 minutes 37 seconds of Scenes from An Italian Restaurant with its multiple moods and running length that takes it outside the time limit normally permitted mainstream radio. It's probably being introduced by a cooler DJ who feels the need to justify his selection by admitting that "The Piano Man" might have enjoyed mainstream success but he was capable of creating some more interesting music as well.

It's an impressive achievement for an artist to manage and makes you appreciate that while Joel might be known for his signature tune and for recent tours with Elton John playing to massive stadiums of rich people, when he was an angry young man he was a rock and roller prepared to push some boundaries and play some interesting stuff.

Personally I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Stranger. I'd pretty much written Joel off as just a piano balladeer with occasional rock leanings but I caught myself really enjoying a lot of what he was playing. Scenes from an Italian restaurant is actually a great song. It's three separate songs which work together as a unified whole joined together by Joel's piano playing which is actually extremely impressive. The man can really belt those keys. Back when Ben Folds Five were huge and everyone was raving about Fold's ability and how revolutionary it was to have a talented piano player in place of a guitarist in a rock outfit Joel must have been clearing his throat regularly and saying "Excuse me?" to anyone who would listen (unless he was at home rolling naked in huge wads of cash and giggling, which is just as likely).

Joel's voice is actually pretty impressive too. There are songs that have no piano theatrics but get by on the strength of his ability to belt out a rock and roll tune. He's a talented guy.

A new appreciation for The Stranger isn't enough to make me want to go out and hunt down the man's catalogue and become a huge new fan but its given me a new respect for an artist I'd previously written off as not for me.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I bought this album thinking that it was a Billy Idol album, but this sounds nothing like Billy Idol! This garbage sounds awful! That idiot on the album cover should put that mask on in order to hide his massive shame over the pile of crap that this album REALLY is!"

-I believe this is a joke. At least I hope so. If it isn't then I continue to marvel at how people can do extremely silly things and then think "I must tell the entire internet about how silly I am"

So is this album like an old friend for you or a total stranger? Let me know below

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