Billy Joel - The Stranger
Album Comparisons: The Stranger
The Stranger proved to be Billy Joel's commercial and critical breakthrough, featuring a number of songs which have since become radio staples, such as "Movin' Out," "Just the Way You Are," "Only the Good Die Young," and "She's Always a Woman." While arguably not Joel's best album (I give that crown to An Innocent Man), it's nevertheless a bona fide classic. The remastered version of The Stranger was, however, the first real disappointment for me from the Legacy reissue series. After picking up two brilliant, fully dynamic CD releases (Bob Dylan's Dylan and the Bowie mix of Iggy & The Stooges' Raw Power), I had high expectations for this one, so imagine my dismay when I popped it into my CD player and found that, unlike the other two, it had been given the "brickwall of sound" treatment. And it's a shame because this is such an iconic and classic album. How does the deluxe Legacy remaster compare with the earlier 1990 U.S. CD release?

Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)

1990 CBS CD release

Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)

The Stranger

1990 CBS CD release

The Stranger

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

The Stranger

Just the Way You Are

1990 CBS CD release

Just the Way You Are

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Just the Way You Are

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

1990 CBS CD release

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

Vienna

1990 CBS CD release

Vienna

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Vienna

Only the Good Die Young

1990 CBS CD release

Only the Good Die Young

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Only the Good Die Young

She's Always a Woman

1990 CBS CD release

She's Always a Woman

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

She's Always a Woman

Get It Right the First Time

1990 CBS CD release

Get it Right the First Time

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Get it Right the First Time

Everybody Has a Dream

1990 CBS CD release

Everybody Has a Dream

2008 Columbia/Legacy remaster

Everybody Has a Dream
And the winner is: 1990 CBS release. While the original release arguably appears too quiet and the remastered release too loud, a close, careful inspection of the waveforms does show that the original levels do in fact look appropriate given the lack of compression employed. The remastered CD is yet another victim of the usual practices of our time, with clear evidence of limiting being particularly noticeable on the louder, more upbeat numbers. The main reasons to purchase the Legacy series release are the bonus CD of live performances and the copiously illustrated liner notes included with it, additions may or may not make it worth picking up for a fan who already owns the earlier disc. And in all fairness, the remaster does sound good even with the manipulation of the audio. As far as content and packaging are concerned, I give this one unhesitatingly to the Legacy set, but I'm not rating the extras here, I'm rating the original collection of songs, and thus I'm giving this t the earlier 1990 release.