He's known to many as an inoffensive pop balladeer, but at the arguable peak of his career in the late '70s, Billy Joel released his darkest, most emotionally charged album. THE STRANGER abandons the grandstanding and broad melodic sweep of Joel's earlier records for a more intimate, introspective sound, effectively communicating Joel's ruminations on the perils of life and love. "Movin' Out" is something of an existentialist anthem, chronicling the way people's dreams are often irreparably crushed. The ominous-sounding title tune examines the many guises with which lovers disguise themselves in their attempts to entrap and deceive each other. "Only the Good Die Young" is hedonism at it's most iconoclastic. Even "She's Always a Woman", ostensibly a romantic piano ballad, is full of thorny, less-than-complimentary observations about its subject. Joel's emotional honesty would never be this clear-eyed and unabashed again.