Sunday, August 10, 2008

Review: Billy Joel - The Stranger (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Label: Sony Legacy

Released: July 8, 2008

Billy Joel is a top-notch songwriter, but there's always been something that I just didn't like. Maybe it's the showtune quality of many of his songs, maybe it's that many are geared toward adults, maybe it's because he often tells the stories of characters I just can't bring myself to care about. Anyway I look at it, I can appreciate him, but I can't get into him.

That being said, I don't think I need to go into the details of The Stranger. If you don't know these songs, you must have spent the last 30 years in a fallout shelter or something. They're practically anthems of the post-60s Baby Boomers who had cut their hair, forgotten their protests and were gearing up to vote for Reagan in a few years. The Stranger is, as it always has been, a great album...if you like that kind of thing.

So, the question with this Deluxe 30th Anniversary Edition is, "Does this re-packaging make it worth buying again?" Well, if you have a thing for nice vinyl, this is your opportunity to get The Stranger in all of its 180 gram glory. The LP only includes the original tracks, but it does come with a download code for the album as well as the bonus disc, a show recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1977. It is always nice to get a live recording that comprises a single show, but it's also nice to get one that shows an artist freed from the studio and firing on all cylinders. While the Carnegie Hall show does occasionally find Joel in fine form, it is largely no more spontaneous that his studio records. None of the banter gives any insight into Joel himself or the songs. It's a good bonus for serious Billy Joel fans, but non-essential for the rest of us. The CD version also comes with a live DVD of Joel's 1978 appearance on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test. Because I have the LP, I can't comment on the DVD, but I suspect the high-quality vinyl is a bigger attraction than his BBC appearance. Either way, Billy Joel fans get something good, but most of us can probably live with our old copy of The Stranger.

Original Album:
Satriani: 7/10
Zappa: 6/10
Dylan: 8/10
Aretha: 5/10
Overall: 7/10

Carnegie Hall Bonus Material:
Satriani: 7/10
Zappa: 6/10
Dylan: 8/10
Aretha: 3/10
Overall: 6/10

If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Blogger The Mad Hatter said...

It's funny, I just recently I said something on Master Cianan's blog about him. Billy Joel is somewhat of an unordained hero here (I actually live where he wrote about and lived), and he is played on every type of radio station throughout New York. I personally think he's pretty schmaltzy for his career and if I met him I'd think he was a total schmuck. But he did three good things: Piano Man, The Stranger and sticking up for Sinatra at the Grammy's. Granted, neither of the first two were amazing albums, but I still dig 'em. "Italian Restaurant" is probably one of the best things he ever did.

10:15 PM  

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