Personnel: Billy Joel (vocals, harmonica, piano, organ, keyboards); Hiram Bullock, Steve Burgh, Steve Khan, Hugh McCracken, David Brown (guitar); Richie Cannatta (fiddle, flute, soprano & tenor saxophones, organ, keyboards); Phil Woods (alto saxophone); Richard Tee (organ); Doug Stegmeyer (bass); Liberty DeVito (drums, percussion); Ralph MacDonald (percussion); Phoebe Snow, Lani Groves, Patti Austin (background vocals).
Recorded at A&R Recording, New York, New York.
He's known to many as an inoffensive pop balladeer, but at the arguable peak of his career in the late '70s, Billy Joel released his darkest, most emotionally charged album. THE STRANGER abandons the grandstanding and broad melodic sweep of Joel's earlier records for a more intimate, introspective sound, effectively communicating Joel's ruminations on the perils of life and love. "Movin' Out" is something of an existentialist anthem, chronicling the way people's dreams are often irreparably crushed. The ominous-sounding title tune examines the many guises with which lovers disguise themselves in their attempts to entrap and deceive each other. "Only the Good Die Young" is hedonism at it's most iconoclastic. Even "She's Always a Woman," ostensibly a romantic piano ballad, is full of thorny, less-than-complimentary observations about its subject. Joel's emotional honesty would never be this clear-eyed and unabashed again.
Rolling Stone (p.96) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]here's impressive variety here: contemplative ballads...and impressionistic epics....Joel's melodic genius invites comparisons to Paul McCartney..."
Rolling Stone (12/11/03, p.113) - Ranked #67 in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" - "...The real pleasure here is the specificity of the lyrics in the rock songs located in New York..."
Q (Magazine) (p.118) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "After four albums yielded only minor-league status, Billy JOel penned the most durable songs of his career....He was at the top of his game here."
Blender (Magazine) (p.93) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "A record where saxophones trump guitars and the piano is nearly the cradle of civilization, THE STRANGER cut against any number of grains in the era just after disco and punk had broken out..."