David Rosenthal, Billy’s keyboardist and Music Director, has carefully arranged all the tracks from Joel’s classic 1977 release to combine the piano parts and vocal melodies into playable arrangements while transcribing those classic piano parts that are integral to each song. Features all nine songs: Everybody Has a Dream • Get It Right the First Time • Just the Way You Are • Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) • Only the Good Die Young • Scenes from an Italian Restaurant • She’s Always a Woman • The Stranger • Vienna. Also includes a foreword by David Rosenthal.
CLICK to read David’s Foreword
Released in 1977, The Stranger was Billy Joel’s breakthrough album. It spent six weeks at number 2 on the Billboard charts, being outsold only by the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It featured the new band that Billy had formed during the Turnstiles recordings, and for this album he added veteran producer Phil Ramone. The combination was magical and The Stranger became the first of six Billy Joel albums that Ramone would produce.
Billy’s first four albums prior to The Stranger had not sold well (even though the song “Piano Man” received extensive airplay).and Columbia had threatened to drop Billy if the new album didn’t do well. Fortunately that didn’t happen, as The Stranger yielded four top 40 hits: “Movin’ Out”, “She’s Always a Woman”, “Only The Good Die Young”, and “Just The Way You Are”, the latter of which won two Grammys in 1978, for Song of The Year and Record of the Year. The songs “Vienna” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” were not formally released as singles but they both received extensive airplay and have remained as mainstays in Billy’s live show to this day.
Having played keyboards in Billy Joel’s band since 1993, I have an inside perspective into his music. Accordingly, Billy asked that I review every note of the sheet music in his entire catalog of songs. As a pianist, he entrusted me with the task of correcting and re-transcribing each piece to ensure that the printed music represents each song exactly as it was written and recorded. This is the latest edition in our series of revised songbooks in the Billy Joel catalog.
The challenge with each folio in Billy’s catalog is to find musical ways to combine his piano parts and vocal melodies into playable piano arrangements. First, the signature piano parts are transcribed and notated exactly as Billy played them. The vocal melodies are then transcribed and incorporated into the piano part in a way that preserves the original character of each song.
On “She’s Always a Woman”, the piano part is written with the rolling piano arpeggios and acoustic guitar parts combined with the melody into a playable piano part that sounds like the record.
For the intro and ending of “The Stranger”, the thematic piano melody and the accompanying chord voicings are transcribed exactly. During the whistle section, the piano voicings are modified slightly so that the whistle melody can be played at the same time as the accompaniment.
In prior versions of the sheet music for “Just The Way You Are,” the famous Fender Rhodes intro had the Dsus chord incorrectly written as a D Major chord. Over the years Billy joked about this many times in interviews and lectures and I’m pleased to report that this has been corrected! His classic intro is now accurate – the Dsus chord is correctly voiced along with all the exact notes he played on the signature intro. Many other chords, voicings and melody notes have also been corrected throughout the song. Even the iconic sax solo by Phil Woods is written out with supporting harmonies and made into a playable piano part.
The instantly recognizable intro to “Italian Restaurant” is written exactly as Billy played it and the flashy opening to the Brenda and Eddie section is transcribed note for note. The piano embellishments throughout the song are captured wherever its possible to play them in between the vocal melodies. At the end of the Brenda and Eddie section, the main theme returns as symphonic reiteration, followed by a beautifully composed classical style variation on the verse. This too is written out exactly as Billy played it.
The catchy piano intro on “Only the Good Die Young” is written exactly as Billy played it. On the recording the song fades out so I included the ending exactly as we play it live, featuring Billy’s flashy piano break into the final ending chords.
All of the songs in this collection received the same astute attention to detail. The result is sheet music that is both accurate and enjoyable to play, and remains true to the original performances.
Billy and I are pleased to present the revised and now accurate sheet music to the classic album The Stranger.