Thursday, March 9, 2017

Xenophonia





 On March 8,1977 the British/American supergroup Foreigner released their self-titled debut album. Founded by ex Spooky Tooth Mick Jones ( who wrote "Feels Like The First Time"), the former King Crimson member Ian McDonald ( at least half responsible for the 1971 psychedelic classic McDonald and Giles) and vocalist Lou Gramm, Foreigner sold five million copies of its debut thanks to its hit singles "Feels Like the First Time"(US#4) ,"Cold as Ice" (US#6) and " Long, Long Way From Home" (US#20). 

    
This somewhat formulaic classic rock radio mainstay, like its even better follow-up Double Vision, quickly found an audience, vaulting the band into major stardom. Creem Magazine readers voted Foreigner the best new band, over the likes of The Babys and Cheap Trick.



The critics were not necessarily kind. Robert Christgau summing up the feeling in this way in his C graded review: "You've heard of Beatlemania? I propose Xenophobia."

And from Rolling Stone's John Milward:


Foreigner's influences are hardly alien -- two parts Bad Company and one part ELO spiced with just a pinch of Roxy Music. Endowed with an assured studio sound and strong writers (lead guitarist Mick Jones wrote or collaborated on all the material), Foreigner's debut album speaks with the kind of authority increasingly common in the Seventies hard-rock world of instant stars. 


 "Long, Long Way from Home" is Foreigner at its best, lead singer Lou Gramm pumping out the chunky rocker with the characteristic ease of Bad Company's Paul Rodgers but without that singer's occasional heavy-handedness. Synthesizer and a sax round out the rocker's edges, giving it the barest hint of Roxy sophistication. Thick harmonies serve the same function for the other uptempo standout, "At War with the World," though little could have saved the tired lyrical and musical ideas of the riffy "Headknocker." 

The melodic feel and production of the ballads and midtempo material reveal ELO sources -- "Woman Oh Woman" is a particularly fetching soundalike. The swirling vocals and stately guitar of "Starrider" reveal similar pop influences, but like most of Foreigner's tunes, the lyrics add little to the song's final impact. While more than half of these tunes are powerful performances, none of them invites much emotional involvement.


 Foreigner clearly has the moves to step into the big time, but needs a bit more time to gel before the group can offer more than already proven formulas. Unfortunately, in these days of prepackaged phenomena, such development sometimes seems secondary to producing a slick and marketable recorded sound. So while Foreigner already looks like a strong contender, one hopes success doesn't rob them of the time and space they need to grow.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these clips. I've been a Foreigner fan since they began. Saw them in concert back in the day, and again more recently. Though the lineup has changed quite a bit, their music is still great and still relevant. A shame what happened to Lou Gramm, but their new singer Kelly does the songs proud, and is also a great entertainer and front man. Bought one of their newest albums with Kelly, and it has a couple of real hits on it. I hope Mick keeps this group going forever!

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