Billy Joel – The Stranger

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • A Shootout Winning pressing – Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, a strong Double Plus (A++) on side one, and rockin’ from start to finish
  • The sound is huge, open and spacious with plenty of driving energy and a big punchy bottom end thanks to Phil Ramone’s engineering
  • The Stranger, Only the Good Die Young, Vienna, Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, She’s Always A Woman – some of Joel’s strongest songwriting is here
  • 4 1/2 stars in the AMG: “Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.”

See all of our Billy Joel albums in stock

We recently completed a shootout for the album and this copy was absolutely KILLIN’ it. After playing a stack of mediocre Strangers, we are completely confident in saying that you’ll have a VERY hard time finding a copy that sounds this good.

The Stranger is chock full of some of Joel’s biggest hits, including Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young and She’s Always A Woman. AMG raves about this one (4 1/2 stars) and it’s easy to see why — this is the kind of pop music that still sounds fresh 40 years (!) after it was recorded and might just be good for another forty years.

Both Sides

The best copies of The Stranger — like this one — have a BIG BOTTOM END. The bass is tight and note-like, very unlike the average pressing which is blurry down low.

Billy’s piano almost never has extension up top as well as the WEIGHT of his hands pounding on the keys — this copy has the best of both worlds. This is some of the best energy and life we have ever heard on any copy.

Both sides are open and spacious with plenty of Tubey Magic, the kind they still had in 1977. As most of you know, by the ’80s this rich, solid, natural sound was practically nonexistent.

Most Copies Don’t Deliver The Goods

I can’t even begin to tell you how sleepy and veiled the sound is on the average copy. What good is Billy Joel’s music when you can’t tell how passionately he’s beltin’ out these heartfelt numbers? How boring is piano-based rock when the piano has no weight?

One mistake we made years ago was assuming that the earliest pressings cut by Robert Ludwig would be the best. They can be wonderful, but most of them sure aren’t — especially on side one, where they tend to lack extension up top. For whatever reason, he seemed to do a much better job cutting side two.

Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.


Side One

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
The Stranger
Just the Way You Are
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

Side Two

Only the Good Die Young
She’s Always a Woman
Get It Right the First Time
Everybody Has a Dream