Foreigner 4

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Foreigner 4Foreigner 4 was a platinum-selling commercial blockbuster for the group Foreigner in 1981. It spawned several highly successful singles and began the group’s transition from a hard rock band to a more mainstream, pop outfit. Aside form being the group’s fourth studio album, ‘4’ symbolizes Foreigner’s downsizing from six-members (as they had been since their inception in 1976) to a four member band.

Released in 1977, 1978, and 1979 respectively, the group’s fist three albums – Foreigner, Double Vision and Head Games – were each more successful than the last. However, co-founders Al Greenwood and Ian McDonald were fired from the band by guitarist and primary composer Mick Jones who wanted more creative control in the band’s direction.

Jones collaborated with producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who had recently had huge success with AC/DC’s Back In BlackForeigner 4 was recorded at Electric Lady Studios and featured several songwriting collaborations between Jones and lead vocalist Lou Gramm, who had especially strong performances throughout this album.


4 by Foreigner
Released: July 2, 1981 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Mick Jones and Mutt Lange
Recorded: Electric Lady Studios, New York, 1981
Side One Side Two
Night Life
Juke Box Hero
Break It Up
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Luanne
Urgent
I’m Gonna Win
Woman In Black
Girl On the Moon
Don’t Let Go
Band Musicians
Lou Gramm – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Mick Jones – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Wills – Bass, Vocals
Dennis Elliott – Drums, Vocals

 

The opening track “Night Life” is a natural extension of tracks from Head Games as a riff and beat driven rocker with a catchy hook which capitalizes on the post-disco party themes of the day. “Juke Box Hero” is a much more original track, starting with a deep synth bass and a heartbeat-like kick drum by Dennis Elliott during initial verse. Led by Gramm’s dynamic vocals, the song builds to a crescendo leading up to the chorus hook, with storytelling lyrics about a wanna be rock star. “Break It Up” is the ultimate example of Jones’s rock style as a rudiment filled guitar/riff and choppy piano tune which may be the best overall track on the album. The song’s spectacular arrangement also features great bass throughout by Rick Wills and finishes with a slight but effective guitar lead during the outro.

Foreigner in 1981

Foreigner the rock band of the 1970s met Foreigner the ballad churners of the 1980s at the junction of “Waiting for a Girl Like You”. Dominated by keyboards throughout, from the ethereal synth with descending riff in the opening, to the slow and measured electric piano which guides the verses and choruses, the song became a Platinum-selling power ballad with the unique distinction of spending a record-setting 10 weeks at number 2 on the American pop charts without ever reaching the top. “Luanne” finishes the album’s first side as a pure rocker with some 50s, 70s and 80s elements mixed together for an overall pleasant and entertaining tune. The smash #1 hit “Urgent” starts with a unique, sharp synth riff and popping bass that makes for a pure rock dance track. Gramm’s vocals place it solidly on the rock side more than the dance side, but the song has a uniform vibe which makes it infectiously catchy. The song also features a signature saxophone lead by guest Junior Walker.

Through the rest of the second side of the album, Foreigner 4 has tracks of more standard rock fare, not terrible but not enough to make this album a classic. “I’m Gonna Win” is a hard rocker with good, accessible and dynamic vocals as it builds throughout in intensity and energy. “Woman in Black” is a song where Jones really shines on guitar on many levels, providing a chorus of entertaining rock riffs and licks throughout with the many different textures throughout this composition. “Girl On the Moon” has a haunting quality with pedal-drenched guitars interacting with suddenly appearing synth motifs. On this track, a short but interesting bridge and lead section follows the first chorus. The album wraps with “Don’t Let Go”, an incomplete song which seems to have the makings of a really solid track but falls just a bit short.

Foreigner 4 was an immediate hit in its day, hitting #1 position on the Billboard album chart for 10 weeks. Through the years, the album reached platinum level 6 times over and, despite latter pop success, would be Foreigner’s commercial peak.

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1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1981 albums.

 

Head Games by Foreigner

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Head Games by ForeignerHead Games was the third studio album released by the rock band, Foreigner, in three years and continued their incredible success by reaching the Top 5 on the album charts and selling over five million copies. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, the third producer employed in three album, Head Games has a grittier sound than its predecessors, with driving rock elements and sprinkles of synthesized embellishments. But what truly makes this album unique among Foreigner albums is the fact that the best material is not the popular radio tracks, but found within the mostly unheralded songs in the heart of the album.

Originally formed in 1976 by veteran musician Mick Jones and ex-King Crimson guitarist Ian McDonald, Foreigner got its name from the fact that half of the original sextet was British and half was American (therefore no matter where they performed, three band members were “foreigners”). After auditioning several singers, Jones brought on Lou Gramm, a little known singer from Rochester, New York. After rehearsing for six months, the group scored a recording contract before even playing their first gig and released their self-titled debut in early 1977. The album was a raving success, staying in the Top 20 for the better part of a year and spawning a world tour into 1978. Double Vision was released in the summer of 1978 sold even better than the debut.

Prior to the recording the album, bassist Rick Wills was brought on as the newest member of the band. Jones wrote or co-wrote most of the material which was all new and written in the studio over the course of a couple months in 1979. One track recorded but left off the original LP was “Zalia”, a collaboration among Jones, McDonald and Gramm, which was later included on a CD re-issue.


Head Games by Foreigner
Released: September 11, 1979 (Atlantc)
Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker, Mick Jones, & Ian McDonald
Recorded: Atlantic Studios, New York, June–July 1979
Side One Side Two
Dirty White Boy
Love On the Telephone
Women
I’ll Get Even with You
Seventeen
Head Games
The Modern Day
Blinded by Science
Do What You Like
Rev On the Red Line
Group Musicians
Lou Gramm – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Mick Jones – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Ian McDonald – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Wills – Bass, Vocals
Al Greenwood – Keyboards
Dennis Elliot – Drums, Vocals

The pure rocker with unrelenting drive and slightly controversial lyrics “Dirty White Boy” opens the album as the hardest rocking song Foreigner had done to that point. Still, the track was accessible enough to reach the Top 20, peaking at #12 on the Pop charts. Jones stated the song was a veiled tribute to the late Elvis Presley, who had “changed the shape of music completely with the kind of heritage that he left”. “Love On the Telephone” revives the more traditional sound of Foreigner in the late seventies. Here Jones switches from guitar to his piano skills, holding down the rhythm with highly melodic vocals and multiple synths floating on top.

The wild, picked, single note riff introduces “Women”, a track with some Southern rock flavorings. The mostly classic rock arrangement (with some boogie piano added later) has no real verse/chorus structure, just a uni-directional drive with a few bridge sections. Gramm’s vocals are very reserved through the first verses but grows in intensity through the latter part of the song as Jones’ lyrics employ a repetitive word method;

Women that you write songs about, women who turn around and kick you out, women you dream about every night, women who stab you in the back with a switchblade knife…”

“I’ll Get Even with You” starts with a bright guitar riff with synth accents through the intro and into the melodic verses with simple hooks, while “Seventeen” is the first and only song on the album that is not top grade, as the melodies seem a little forced to fit a particular style. The title song has a sweeping, synth-driven approach which was ahead of the 1980s style it would help inspire. Compositionally, “Head Games” is catchy but, aside from the intro and identical bridge part, Gramm’s melody and vocals pretty much carry this track completely.

“The Modern Day” is pure new wave with very reserved vocals and otherwise good movement throughout. There are acoustic textures during the bridge, which seem to be added for pure fun and unique entertainment in this mid-tempo pop song. By contrast, “Blinded by Science” is dramatic and theatrical. Built with Jones’ minor-key piano chords beneath Gramm’s soaring vocals, this multi-part mini-suite returns to the opening hook between the various sections, which feature multiple synth textures and just the right enough of guitar riffing for effect.

As great a songwriter that is Mick Jones, the two finest overall songs on the album were written by Gramm and lesser known composers in the band. “Do What You Like” was co-written by McDonald and is the best unheralded song that Foreigner ever recorded. McDonald provides the core of this upbeat, acoustic folk number, accented by the bouncing bass lines of Wills and the steady beat with rolling drum fills by Dennis Elliot. Then comes all the extra sonic flavorings, Gramm’s strong but melancholy lead vocals, synth accents, a potent lead riff, and a plethora of background vocal choruses, which all combine to make this the best song on the album. This leaves “Rev On the Red Line” as the second best song on the album. Co-written by keyboardist Dennis Elliot, this closing track is a classic rock, car song about drag racing with dynamic vocals by Gramm and a great musical vibe throughout.

Head Games continued Foreigner’s success which continued deep into the 1980s. However, not everyone was invited share the success, as Jones decided to remove co-founders McDonald and Greenwood from the lineup prior to the group’s next album 4. By paring back the group to a four piece, Jones was in firm control of all the music and compositions of future Foreigner material.

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1979 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.