The first post of the month always features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Despite the fact that he had already released songs like “Piano Man,” “New York State of Mind” and “The Entertainer,” it took Billy Joel until his fifth album to hit the big time. After The Stranger hit in 1977 though, weddings were never the same again.
Lowtide – The Stranger
Lowtide’s MySpace page describes them as “the musical equivalent of a computer virus,” which is pretty accurate. They didn’t seem to bother learning the real words here, so it’s viral in every sense of the word: unexpected, annoying, and infectious. [Buy]
Alex D’Castro – Just the Way You Are
Billy Joel is as sick of this dreck as you are. “I feel hypocritical [playing this song],” he told the New York Times a few years ago. “I divorced the woman I wrote it for.” Perhaps he should revert to the less schmaltzy version he sang for Oscar the Grouch in the ‘70s. Or perhaps he should check out with swinging salsa version. [Buy]
Titta and Trombetta – Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Any Billy Joel cover that doesn’t employ a lick of piano deserves props, particularly if it’s substituted with a double-acoustic guitar jam. [Buy]
Ingrid Graudins – Vienna
Billy Joel has listed “Vienna” as one of his two personal favorites (the other being “Summer, Highland Falls”). It’s certainly among his most personal, detailing the time while on a trip to see his estranged Austria-dwelling father he saw a 90-year old woman sweeping the street and realized how much America abandons the elderly. “I thought ‘This is a terrific idea – that old people are useful -and that means I don’t have to worry so much about getting old because I can still have a use in this world in my old age,’” he said years later. “I thought ‘Vienna waits for you…’” [Buy]
The Diamond Family Archive – She’s Always a Woman
A song that puts the “z” in “cheeze,” “She’s Always a Woman” gets a surprisingly sensitive treatment from these banjo-and-mandolin folkies. And listening to that voice, you’ll want to be the woman he’s singing about. [Buy]
Kool T – Get It Right the First Time
Last November one website sponsored a Billy Joel beat-making contest where would-be DJs could only use sounds from the original tapes of this and “Stiletto.” Most are exactly as terrible as you might expect, but Kool T took a few hooks from “Get It Right” and created something almost unrecognizable. It’s technically a remix I suppose, but you find me a decent cover of this song and we’ll talk. [Buy]
The Manhattans – Everybody Has a Dream
The Stranger ends with this quiet gospel-tinged number, but these Philly soul sensations blew it wide open in a 1978 single that went to #65 on the R&B charts. [Buy]