Billy Joel (featuring Phil Woods): Just The Way You Are
Just The Way You Are
Billy Joel (vocals, acoustic piano, electric keyboards, synthesizers)
Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (Columbia)
Richie Cannata (tenor & soprano saxes, clarinet, flute, organ), Steve Khan (guitars), Hiram Bullock (electric guitar), Hugh McCracken, Steve Burgh (acoustic guitars), Doug Stegmeyer (bass), Liberty Devitto (drums), Ralph McDonald (percussion).
Composed by Billy Joel.
Recorded: probably 1977
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Billy Joel might have created the consummate piano lounge song here if he hadn't already done so four years earlier with "Piano Man." This ditty alone must have paid for a couple of houses in the Hamptons plus a few divorce settlements, as it still gets played every day at wedding receptions, karaoke bars and oldies radio stations. For a song that was schmaltzy and mushy to begin with (but eminently hummable and catchy), producer Phil Ramone pulled out all the stops to make it even more so, with a warm electric piano, heavily reverbed sound, infinitely layered choral backing vocals and, of course, a sultry saxophone.
At least Ramone chose wisely when it came to who would play that most romantic of instruments. Alto giant Phil Woods, having made his mark in bop decades earlier, had already proved remarkably adaptable to pop on Steely Dan's "Doctor Wu." Now he outdid himself. His sweet, sympathetic lines fit Billy Joel's pop standard so perfectly, they become essential to it. Woods delivered arguably the most recognizable sax solo in all of adult contemporary music.
Despite its mawkish tendencies, "Just The Way You Are" does hit the bull's-eye on soft rock, even if that might be a dubious dartboard for some. But Woods's sax work is an unequivocal delight.
Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron