Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is – The Ballads

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Review by Brian McGowan

E.A.R.Music

Demonstrating that a successful brand can be repackaged many times over, and that a rich back catalogue can be mined indefinitely, Mick Jones’s band have released more compilations than studio albums. The only constant is this: you can never please all the people all the time. Tracks that should have been included / excluded being the usual subject of complaint (so, in true compilation spirit, where the hell is ‘I Don’t Want To Live Without You’?).

The Ballads includes tracks old and new, recorded with Kelly Hansen, the ex-Hurricane vocalist who replaced Lou Gramm in 2005, and proved to be a surprisingly snug fit. It actually sounds fresh. The tracks taken from 2010’s Can’t Slow Down (the first and only studio album so far with Hansen) confirm the sound of a re-energised band. Five of the fourteen tracks here are  from that album. Add ‘Save Me’, written with by Jones with his step daughter, Samantha Ronson, and a brand new recording, ‘The Flame Still Burns’, which he originally wrote for the movie, ‘Still Crazy’, and you could argue that half the album is the work of the newer, older, wiser Foreigner.

And it’s that dichotomy between old and new that makes The Ballads interesting as well as entertaining. Jones’s artful development of the band’s sound through the eighties, mixing compact riffs with joyful hooks, by layering rich harmonies over sharp dressed melodies, has gone full circle. A true disciple of the less-is-more philosophy, Jones subtracts where other producers add. So many other bands in the genre overwork a song till the magic is either sanded away or buried beneath an inch of gloss.

Jones’s manner of writing has shifted as well. Lyrically, the brooding heartache and youthful sensuality that filled earlier material has given way to the elegance and sophistication of songs like ‘In Pieces’ and ‘I Can’t Give Up’, powered by a spare, streamlined energy, told like stories unfolding face to face, or veering off tangentially, adding some sweet soul Motown style to ‘Fool For You Anyway’.

Taken from the Acoustique experience, ‘Say You Will’ and ‘Double Vision’, songs perhaps not thought of as being suitable for an acoustic treatment, sound remarkably lean and nuanced. Jones’s infectious aural hooks clearly don’t need the emphasis of cranked up studio electricity to make them work. Outstanding interpretations of bittersweet memories and the ache of unrequited love, carried high on the heft of expressive, closely knit harmonies and warm, uncluttered guitars.

Only a band who can deploy a considerable weight of well known back catalogue material could deliver an album like this. Foreigner may not be unique in that sense, but they are an increasing rarity.

Foreigner - Ballads9 out of 10

Foreigner have announced a UK Tour in April 2014 so click here for details

Track Listing:

  1. I Want To Know What Love Is
  2. In Pieces
  3. Waiting For A Girl Like You
  4. When It Comes To Love
  5. Feels Like The First Time
  6. Say You Will
  7. The Flame Still Burns
  8. Save Me
  9. I can’t Give Up
  10. Fool For You Anyway
  11. As Long As I Live
  12. I’ll Be Home Tonight
  13. Double Vision
  14. Long Long Way From Home

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. As I recall, Fool For You Anyway appears on Side 2 of the debut Foreigner album, and was possibly covered and put out as a single by The Average White Band.

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