His 1977 #2 smash, with Just the Way You Are , and more.
This, pop superstar Joel's breakout LP, came years after he first hit the charts with the novelty-ish "Piano Man." In the meantime, the New York-based songwriter released two lackluster and stylistically confused platters that blunted interesting songs with a sound that was neither Elton mellow nor Elton attitude. Produced by Phil Ramone, The Stranger
took those who had written Joel off as a one-hit wonder by surprise ("Just the Way You Are" was among the biggest hits of 1977) and it remains a solid introduction to Joel's restless muse at a crucial point in his career. It invited a few comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, with its prominent sax breaks, hard-edged rebel-rockers ("Only the Good Die Young"), and slice-of-life dramatics ("Scenes From an Italian Restaurant"), recounting life in a lower middle-class (Eastern Urban) setting; but Joel's chameleonic, formalist approach to pop wasn't to be so easily pigeonholed (Glass Houses
, The Nylon Curtain
, An Innocent Man
...). --Don Harrison