Album #371 – The Stranger

Album #371

Last week, the music world lost one of it’s finest producers. Phil Ramone had worked with countless artists including: Anne Murray, Barbra Streisand, Paul Simon, The Band and Billy Joel. In fact, Ramone’s first partnership with Joel was The Stranger. This album was Joel’s commercial breakthrough. Yes, he did have a hit two years earlier with Piano Man and the precursor to The Stranger, Turnstiles, had it’s fair share of staples. But, never before did Joel have a massive selling album. In fact, this album remains Joel’s biggest selling studio album. Ramone’s production gave Joel the chance to focus on his arrangements and energy. Listening to this album is like hearing Joel live in concert. The same energy level is present throughout. Joel can not only rock and roll but, there is also a sensitive side. Take the album’s massive hit ballads: She’s Always A Woman and Just The Way You Are. These songs are brilliantly written and Ramone’s production makes them stand out. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant brilliantly combines Joel’s two strong suits: ballads and straight up rock, in a way that he could not of done without Phil Ramone. I also like the fact that the members of Joel’s band play on every track. He could have used session musicians but, for the most part, Joel’s band (consisting of bassist Doug Stegmeyer, multi-instrumentalist Richie Cannata and drummer Liberty DeVitto) are well represented here. Because of this, the energy of Joel’s performances shine through, just like they did on the previous album Turnstiles, which was the first to feature Joel’s band. Because the Ramone-Joel partnership proved to be a success, they would remain a team for the next nine years. Yes, Ramone produced ALL of Joel’s chart hits and studio albums between 1977 and 1986. This was the prime of Joel’s career. He was huge. And thanks to Phil Ramone, Billy Joel ended up being a force in the rock world, even if he only played the piano. Other highlights include: Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (complete with motorcycle sound effects), The Stranger, Vienna, Only The Good Die Young and Get It Right The First Time. Overall, I give The Stranger, 5 out of 5.

Next: Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers

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