It's been a long, long time since the phrase "new Foreigner album" could be bandied around, without people pointing and mocking. In fact, it's been 16 years since the under-performing Mr. Moonlight record was released, and their last with original vocalist Lou Gramm. But Foreigner founder member Mick Jones hasn't been idling since reactivating the Foreigner name five or so years back, after a post-Gramm split hiatus. Instead, he's taken the band around the world and back again, playing live and reminding people of why they sold so many records the first time around. And there was a good reason for them selling over 50 million records worldwide. They had really great songs. It's simple but true, although so many bands seem to forget how essential it is. Which will be why this became the first Foreigner album to crack the Billboard Top 30 since Inside Information back in 1987. And now, us lucky foreigners are getting the chance to hear it for ourselves.
Jones is the only current Foreigner member with any attachment to the name, but the lynch-pin of the new new band is undoubtedly vocalist Kelly Hansen, a singer who deserved to be brought back from obscurity two decades after his star briefly shone with Hurricane. Mick Jones has also picked his rhythm section well with bassist Jeff Pilson (ex Dokken / Dio / MSG) sitting in beside new drummer Brian Tichy (Ozzy / Slash / Glenn Hughes), himself a replacement for Jason Bonham on the drum stool. It's a potent lineup, chock full of rock quality.
But it would all be for nothing if the record itself turned out to be rubbish. Thankfully, Mick Jones' writing mojo is still intact, even if he does err on the side of ballad. Although I suspect that was always going to be the case, given what the general public remember Foreigner best for. But it's when he digs out the rock guitars that it all works best for me. The opener, "Can't Slow Down" is the best of them, a track glistening with AOR class, but the seventies Foreigner throwback of "Too Late" runs it a close second, with it's Ian McDonald style keyboard sound. Elsewhere, "When It Comes To Love", brings in that patented "Urgent" saxophone sound, and there's more upbeat melodic rock in the shape of "Ready" and "Give Me A Sign". However, if it's a ballad you want, then look no further than "I Can't Give Up", which is up there with the best of them, featuring a flawless vocal from Kelly Hansen. The album also has a great sound, courtesy of producer Marti Frederiksen, best known for his Aerosmith collaborations, although Jones does bring in his stepson, Mark Ronson, to produce one number.