Each Tuesday, AllYourScreens takes a look at five deep tracks from a familiar classic rock, pop or R&B artist.
When it's self-titled album was released in 1978, it seemed as if Foreigner had come out of nowhere and begun to crank out radio-friendly rock hits. There was just a hint of prog rock keyboards, buttressed by chunky guitar riffs and hooks so strong you could hang a small car off of them.
But guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones had already had a long career, beginning with a couple of minor solo UK hits in the early 1960s. He had written hits for some European musicians, played with Gary Wright in a reformed Spooky Tooth and contributed to albums such as George Harrison's "Dark Horse." Keyboardist Ian McDonald was a founding member of King Crimson. Lead singer (and co-writer of a lot of Foreigner's hits) Lou Gramm had previously released two unsucessful but critically acclaimed albums as a member of the band Black Sheep. So given the amount of experience and talent joining together, it's not a surprise that Foreigner was able crank out six Top 20 hits in a row.
For all of their rock expertise, many casual fans might them best for the string of power ballads they released in the second half of their chart career. 1984's "I Want To Know What Love Is" was their lone #1 hit, and both "Waiting For A Girl Like You" and "I Don't Want To Live Without You" also hit the top five of the music charts. While those are those fine songs, if you're not familiar with these non-hit deep tracks, you'll missing out some great music:
Album: "Double Vision"
Track: "You're All I Am"
Power ballads came pretty easy for Foreigner, even in the early years of the band. While "You're All I Am" was never released as a single, Lou Gramm's silky vocals combined with some subtle solo guitar playing from Mick Jones makes this a track which really could have been a hit.
Album: "Head Games"
If the title track of this album isn't filled with enough blustery rock-macho posturing, this deep track about a hot 17-year-old heartbreaker has enough boisterous testosterone in it to make David Lee Roth blush: "I spent a lot of time/And I spent a lot of money/Don't want no other fool/To put his hand on you."
Album: "Can't Slow Down"
Track: "Can't Slow Down"
Most bands from the 70s and 80s who are still touring have given up releasing new music. There aren't a lot of radio stations interested in playing new music from classic rock bands and to be honest, much of the stuff that does get released pales into comparison to the hits we know and love. 2009's "Can't Slow Down" isn't a great song, but it's strong enough that it could have been included on the band's early albums without any noticeable drop in quality from the other tracks. It's a great upbeat rock with a reasonably catchy hook. An impressive effort for a band that has been touring for years with only one original member of the band (Mick Jones).
Album: "Head Games"
Track: "Do What You Like"
There are plenty of other great deep tracks on "Head Games," an album that is crammed with riffy odes to bro-rock romance. But I find myself coming back to this mid-tempo track. It doesn't have a particularly strong hook, but Gramm's vocals just wash over you and it's example of the band's musical balancing act at its best.
Album: "Alive & Rockin' (Live At The Bang Your Head Festival, Balingen, Germany - 2006)
Track: "Juke Box Hero/Whole Lotta Love"
I'll be the first to admit this isn't a track I'd listen on a regular basis. But this 15-minute opus is entertaining mostly because it's so unlike what you expect to hear from Foreigner. The song begins with three minutes of drum and keyboard meanderings before very slowly sliding into "Juke Box Hero." And after a lot of blustery riffs, the song slides pretty easily into the Led Zeppelin classic track "Whole Lotta Love." It musically makes a lot of sense when you listen to the progression and while the vocals won't make you forget Robert Plant, they are energetic and well-intentioned in a very good cover band sort of way.