Friday, July 04, 2008

Billy Joel's First Laugh

There are 9 songs on Billy Joel's 1977 breakthrough, The Stranger, now out as a 2CD Legacy set. And I can hum every one of them. Including the 2 songs that end the album as filler. This is what makes great albums. Can you sing every song on it? Joel went for it on this album. After Piano Man, sales were average. And all his best instincts are on view here. The New York Piano, the New York Characters and Joel's popcraft. He'd get close with 52nd Street and Innocent Man, but here he was most tuneful. He doesn't do "Just The Way You Are" anymore, and that's too bad. It's an evergreen, for sure, but it's still soft-rock gold. Legacy has added a June 1977 concert as a DVD and it includes "Songs From An Italian Restaurant" and "Just The Way You Are". It's an interesting artifact. It's Joel right before he's about to blow up. By the end of the year The Stranger is selling and Joel never looks back.
I'm always amused that some critic's hated Joel. I think they were reveiwing his personality more than the music. How can you resist an album as tight as this? Or maybe they just hated the big ballad single. Joel hasn't made an album since 1993 and they one new song he did for his new wife was a dud, so his catalog hasn't grown from "Piano Man" upward. Maybe he has nothing more to give. He doesn't seem that interested in Pop music, but still sells out his catalog on tour. In the end he's got the first laugh at all those who wished he would've gone away 31 years ago.
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