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Billy Joel (then & now)

THE STRANGER: 30th Anniversary Edition
Billy Joel

In the summer of 1978, the first test tube baby was born. Bjorn Borg beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon. Lee Iacocca resigned as president of Ford Motors. And I was a fifteen-year-old New Jersey kid painting houses, listening to WPLJ and waiting for the DJ to play my then favorite song, "Moving Out" by Billy Joel.

The song spoke to me. Lines like "Working too hard can give me a heart attack-ack-ack..." and "Is that all you get for your money?" seemed especially appropriate as I slid behind a thorn bush to paint some hard-to-reach trim.

"Moving Out" was just one of the gems from Joel's breakout, The Stranger. The album was full of songs that spoke to me. "Just The Way You Are" was what I desperately wished to sing to my secret crush Caroline Roth. "The Stranger" indulged my teenaged deep thoughts about identity and the different faces we show the world. "Only The Good Die Young" helped me flip an imaginary bird at the Catholic Church, which had been trying to spoil my Sunday mornings all through childhood. And "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" was a fantasy tailor-made for a Goombah kid from Jersey.

I loved The Stranger. Even years later, when it became uncool to like Billy Joel, I still loved it. So needless to say, I was excited when a 30th anniversary deluxe 3-Disc reissue arrived.

The album proper is remastered, sounding shiny, new, and a little louder. No extra tracks or demos. If you liked it then, you'll like it now.

And then there's the bonus material. A 24-page booklet features liner notes by David Fricke and many unseen photos. Disc Two, Live At Carnegie Hall, is a complete concert recorded June 3, 1977. Joel and his band are in rip-roaring form, blowing through extended versions of "Angry Young Man," "The Entertainer," "Say Goodbye To Hollywood," and "Captain Jack," as well as early versions of songs from The Stranger.

Disc Three, a DVD, contains live promo videos, a making-of documentary featuring interviews with Joel, Phil Ramone and band members, and best of all, a rare 1978 hour-long set from the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test. Frizzy-haired, smart-alecky and firing on all musical cylinders, Joel is caught in a riveting performance of "Miami 2017," "New York State Of Mind," "She's Always A Woman" and more.

A completely worthwhile update of the piano man's finest moment, with extras galore. Get yours today.
• Bill DeMain

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