The Stranger is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Billy Joel, released on September 29, 1977 by Columbia Records. It was the first of Joel’s albums to be produced by Phil Ramone, whom he would go on to work with for all of his albums up until his 1986 album, The Bridge.
Recorded within the span of three weeks, The Stranger was released a year following Joel’s previous studio effort, Turnstiles, which had sold modestly and peaked low on the US charts, prompting Columbia to consider dropping Joel if his next release did not sell well. Joel wanted the album to feature his newly-formed touring band that had formed during the production of Turnstiles, which consisted of drummer Liberty DeVitto, bass player Doug Stegmeyer and saxophonist Richie Cannata. Seeking out a new producer, he first turned to veteran Beatles producer George Martin before coming across and settling on Ramone, whose name he had seen on albums by other artists such as Paul Simon.
Spending six weeks at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200, The Stranger is considered Joel’s critical and commercial breakthrough. Four singles were released in the US, all of which became Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, including Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) and She’s Always A Woman (both no. 17). “Just the Way You Are”, the album’s breakthrough single which was inspired by Joel’s wife at the time, Elizabeth Weber, peaked at No. 3, aided by a performance on an episode Saturday Night Live and 2 Grammy awards in 1978 for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. “Only the Good Die Young”, a song about a boy coming on to a Catholic woman, initially sold poorly but received a performance boost following apparent controversy surrounding the lyrics’ subject matter, and ultimately peaked at 24 on the US charts. Other songs from the album, such as “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Vienna”, have become staple songs of his career and are frequently performed in his live shows. It remains his best-selling non-compilation album to date, and surpassed Bridge Over Troubled Water to become Columbia’s best-selling album release, going on to pass over 10 million units worldwide. It was ranked at No. 70 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Wikipedia
1. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” 3:30
2. “The Stranger” 5:10
3. “Just the Way You Are” 4:52
4. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” 7:37
5. “Vienna” 3:34
6. “Only the Good Die Young” 3:55
7. “She’s Always a Woman” 3:21
8. “Get It Right the First Time” 3:57
9. “Everybody Has a Dream” 6:38