Foreigner - '40'

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Foreigner - '40'

There's been close to twenty Foreigner compilations, though this is probably the best (so far!).

With certain bands of similar legacies, you'll almost certainly have a greater affinity to one or the other in a "Manchester United or Manchester City" kind of way; whether it's British Metal institutions (Iron Maiden or Judas Priest?), LA Sleaze kings (Guns 'N' Roses or Mötley Crüe?) or AOR cornerstones (Journey or Foreigner?). Personally I'm for the latter of all the above (opening analogy included) and, in Foreigner's case, just one track – let alone their roll call of anthems – seals the deal; 'Urgent'. Every single instrument, from Mick Jones's clipped, sparse guitar intro to the sublime bass groove of Rick Wills and Dennis Elliott's metronome precise drum beat, conspires to create the most intoxicating of musical masterpieces. Add to this Thomas Dolby's slick synth programming, Mutt Lange at the production helm and a vocal performance by Lou Gramm that could turn stone to liquid gold... and we haven't yet come to the solo! Not, you'll be aware, a guitar solo, but a towering behemoth of a sax solo by Motown great Junior Walker that bristles with biblical soul and possesses, when listened to whilst at the wheel, an incredibly persuasive effect on your right foot.

All of the mega hits – 'Cold As Ice', 'Waiting For A Girl Like You', 'Juke Box Hero', 'I Want To Know What Love Is' and more – are naturally present on disc one (tracks one to twenty-one), as are brawnier staples such as 'Hot Blooded', 'Dirty White Boy' and 'Head Games'. The second disc (tracks twenty-two to forty) focuses on Foreigner's less-heralded latter years and contains a surprising wealth of treats, including a quartet of numbers lifted from 2009's 'Can't Slow Down', Foreigner's last album of original songs which boasts the addition of Dokken's Jeff Pilson on bass and backing vocals along with former Hurricane/Unruly Child singer Kelly Hansen.

This pair are towering assets that shine especially brightly on the full-throttle driving title track and 'In Pieces', a searingly emotive powerhouse built on Pilson's pulsating four-string foundation. The breezy 'Save Me' was released as a new (electric) track on 2011's 'Acoustique' and features a decidedly Prince-sounding deviation before the outro, while 'Soul Doctor' is a surprisingly heavy number lifted from a 1992 compilation and featuring Gramm back in the fold (after the sole Johnny Edwards-fronted 'Unusual Heat' album, released in 1991 and represented here by the raunchy 'Lowdown And Dirty').

Gripes? Well the fact that there's been close to twenty Foreigner compilations – though this is probably the best (so far!) – is clearly overkill, and as fine as the recent line-up's sparkling acoustic rendition of 'Say You Will' is, it's no substitute for the thrillingly vital Gramm-fronted 1987 original which really warranted inclusion here too. The two most recent recordings, 'Give My Life For Love' and 'The Flame Still Burns' lack the snap and fizz of the '...Down' material, but that doesn't mean that this current Foreigner incarnation doesn't have it in them, it's just high time – and time isn't in the greatest abundance – for them to prove that they can indeed cut a brilliant follow-up eight years on. Oh, and make this the last compilation fellas, please!

Caesar Barton

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