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Review: Foreigner - Extended Versions

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Review: Foreigner - Extended Versions

Most people may know the Extended Versions series tends to be a cheap way of reissuing previously released work, but there are some albums out there that are, in fact, exclusive US releases for the label. This is one such release.

Sadly, Lou Gramm no longer fronts the band due to a number of personal circumstances and a bust up with Mick Jones, the other main character in the band who’s been there since the beginning.

A Little Background

Foreigner has been a success story since their self-titled first album in 1977. Through times a changing and solo releases from both Lou and Mick during the ‘80s, the last Foreigner studio release from the band was Mr. Moonlight in 1994. That was Lou Gramm’s last with the band.

In 1997, Lou was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, which took a lot out of the guy but he fought it and managed to get back to what he knows best – live tour work. He hit the road with Mick Jones for a tour in 2000. I saw one of their performances and Lou still seemed good vocally, but you could see from the guy’s physique that the treatment had been rough on him.

In 2001 Mick and Lou broke up and the future of Foreigner seemed uncertain. In 2002 they made up again and toured for Foreigner’s 25th Anniversary, which was documented on a DVD in 2003. Lou now tours with his brothers, Ben and Richard, as the Lou Gramm Band.

Courtesy William Morris Agency
I have to report, though, that these days Lou has a tough time hitting many of those notes and, very sadly, my wife and I have left his shows two years running. We really felt for the guy who wanted to do the show, but really had a few problems vocally. He’s still touring, so perhaps he’s found those magic notes again. We hope so, as he and Mick Jones wrote some great songs!

This Release

So, what’s Mick Jones been up to and what is this new release and why as an Extended Versions release?

Well, in March 2005 Mick announced the lineup of the new Foreigner band, a strong group of musicians featuring: Kelly Hansen (ex-Hurricane and Heaven and Earth band) – lead vocals; Jason Bonham (ex-too many to list!) – drums; Jeff Pilson (ex–Dokken, MSG, Dio, Rock Star movie band) – bass and vocals; Jeff Jacobs – keys and vocals; and Tom Gimbell – guitar, sax, flute, vocals.

I’ve yet to see this lineup live, but from the sound of this CD, I can’t wait! Mick has got it right here, it’s a really strong lineup, one that can back up Kelly’s lead vocals with some excellent harmony. This album was recorded on the 2005 tour in Vegas. It rocks!

There's a Downside

The downside -- yes there’s a downside -- is the lack of tracks that are included here. In Europe, Foreigner Live is getting a full blown release, more tracks and better packaging. Guess the US has got a raw deal on this for now, but they’ll probably reissue it again here in full later on!

Mick apparently wondered about how much interest there would be for new Foreigner product without Lou in the band, probably based on the response to the release in 1991 of Unusual Heat, the only other Foreigner release without Lou.

Don’t worry, Mick! Opening with “Head Games,” the album is off to a flying start. Kelly’s the guy for the job, no doubt!

“Cold As Ice” is up next and I’m stunned. The whole presentation and harmony vocals … WOW!

Then we have “Waiting For A Girl Like You” which they perform so well, such a full sound.

It’s back to the rock with “Dirty White Boy” -- with a cheesy introduction, but the song is totally killer!

Then they play “Starrider” from the first album, and it still sounds great today. You’d seriously think this was a rejuvenated version of the original lineup. Awesome, clocking in at almost seven minutes!

The mid-90s Foreigner -- l-r: Bruce Turgon, Mick Jones, Lou Gramm, Jeff Jacobs

Photo by Allyn J. Borino, courtesy Hard To Handle Management
Then another from the first album, “Feels Like The First Time,” introduced by Mick himself this time, saying, “I want us to be on our best behavior up here and I want you to be on your worst!” Cute, Mick.

The next track, “Urgent” completely threw me with the intro on this version. I had to pick up the CD case to see what it was! It then gets on track and again, and they don’t disappoint. Great sax playing here!

“Juke Box Hero” keeps things on track (in which they’ve included a snippet of Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love”) before getting back into Hero. John Bonham would’ve been proud of his son here!

Another classic Foreigner ballad is next: “I Want To Know What Love Is.” They really get the audience into it. The track here almost sounds more soft than their original version.

To finish, what would you want to hear? “Hot Blooded”? You got it! What a rocking closing track. Well worth picking up this great release from the bargain / budget price racks as it IS new from Foreigner and it’s great!

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