Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: Foreigner "Can't Slow Down"

I didn't think we'd ever have the pleasure of reviewing a new record from Foreigner, the classic rock and AOR band that first formed back in late 70s. I imagine some fans are confused as to how the current line up can justify calling themselves Foreigner, seeing that the only conserved founding member is Mick Jones. But we're not here to debate that, we are here to tell you if the record is worthwhile.

The first thing that struck me about "Can't Slow Down" is how well this group of guys have captured the trademark Foreigner sound. Kelly Hansen (Hurricane) became the new lead vocalist since Lou Gramm's second departure in 2003. Much like Arnel Pineda substituting for Steve Perry in Journey, Hansen sounds remarkably close to Gramm, yet still retains enough of his own style that a discerning ear can tell the difference. Hansen does an excellent job on this record.

But the second reason why this record is such a pleasant surprise pertains to the simple fact that Mick Jones brought a batch of very solid AOR songs to the studio table. Always wise to balance rock with melody, Jones and the boys aim to please with this set of punchy and catchy tunes. While I found the ballads to be largely uninteresting ("As Long As I Live" being an exception), the record makes up for this with plenty of midtempo and upbeat numbers.

Does the record sound dated? Yes and no. They kept the keyboards down to a minimum, so that element of their 80s heyday is unnoticeable. But Foreigner is bringing saxy back with this record! Numerous songs feature some in your face sax, which is something I've not heard much of since the 80s.

Highlights include "In Pieces", "Living In A Dream", "Lonely", and the title track. Another cool one is the closer, "Fool For You Anyway", which is a horn-laced and soulful retro rocker in the finest Joe Cocker tradition (long time fans will recognize this song from Foreigner's debut CD many years ago). I had a lot of fun with this record - like I said, it was a pleasant surprise. Lyrically and musically, "Can't Slow Down" largely sticks to the classic AOR formula, but there is a charm and energy here that makes the record worthwhile. Younger acts can learn a lot from these seasoned rockers who once again demonstrate that memorable songs start with good hooks.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Foreigner on MySpace. Official site


Anonymous said...

Nice review! As a long time Foreigner fan, I was surprised as well. I could have done without a few of the ballads, but overall it's a very good album. Kelly Hansen does sound a lot like Lou! He does a great job. FYI, Fool For You Anyway, is a remake from the first Foreigner Album.

Bill's Music Forum said...

Hi there - shame on me! I should have known that and will fix it. Thanks for the kind words on the review and pointing out my oversight. Cheers --Bill