• Category: Music

Deep Track Tuesdays: Five From Foreigner

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"
Track: "Seventeen"

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.

  • Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: Music

Review: 'Chicago And REO Speedwagon: Live At Red Rocks'

When I was younger, one of the things I promised myself is that I wouldn't become one of those sad old guys still listening to the music of his youth 30 or 40 years later. I loved music as a teen and was reading Billboard magazine in high school. My first real job was at a radio station and that's also the first job where I was fired (for pulling a prank during an overnight DJ slot). 

So while I still appreciate the music I grew up on, I can go long periods without listening to any of it. Ironically, I've listened to more classic pop and rock in the past year due to my 11-year-old son's obsession with it than I have in the past twenty years.

But there are lots of people in the world happy to swim in the warm and comforting seas of nostalgia and that interest has kept both Chicago and REO Speedwagon on tour for much of the past couple of decades. To their credit, both bands have continued to release new albums to little or no attention. But with no radio station format around to play them, they have increasingly become veteran nostalgia acts. And how you feel about that will probably color how you feel about this concert special, apparently recorded in 2014 for a DVD release.

REO has co-headlined with a wide range of fellow classic rockers over the years, ranging from Styx to Bad Company. They continue to do well, in part because unlike many of their fellow classic rock acts, they still have an original singer who can reasonably recreate the hits. Sure, if you see the band too close, it's hard to see past the frail bodies and sometimes uneasy rocking out. But they aren't embarrassing themselves and if you want to pay good money to hear a 66-year-old sing "Take It On The Run," then this is the concert for you.

Chicago is a tougher situation for me. They were by far my favorite band in high school and I dip back and listen to their older stuff on a regular basis. But I wasn't a fan of the 80s-era power ballad Chicago and honestly, I'd prefer watching a 12-hour-long "Sanford & Son" marathon to hearing "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" again.

But Chicago is also difficult to watch because the bulk of the band's lead singers and performers have either passed away or left the band. The current-day Chicago does indeed have a few original members, so they're not in the same category as Foreigner, who was recently touring without any original band members. But the Chicago of today doesn't much sound like the songs I treasure from my youth. That's a dealbreaker for me, although the band continues to release new music and co-headline successful tours. Watching Chicago isn't anywhere near the cringeworthy level of a current day Billy Joel tour. But it still brings on an uncomfortable mix of sadness and discomfort.

If you're happy with just seeing the bands today and remembering the good old days, that's fine. This as good of a concert as any to watch and seeing the two bands play together is interesting enough. But it's tough to see myself age, much less the bands of my youth. I loved doing stand-up comedy, but also recognize that continuing to tour at my age would be more depressing than entertaining. No audience ever looked at Henny Youngman and thought "Man, I bet that guy has a great personal life."

As a performer, I can understand why so many classic rock bands are out there touring 20, 30 or even 40 years since their last hit. It's difficult to walk away, even when your body tells you its time. And especially if people are still willing to pay to see your perform.

But yet....there are times when I do wish they'd make that call. As Rick Nelson sang in that great 1970s song "Garden Party," "If memories are all I have/I'd rather drive a truck."

  • Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: Music

Are Cassette Tapes Poised For A Comeback?

It's one of the perversities of the digital age that as physical copies of music disappear from the market, some hard-core music enthusiasts have embraced the formats of the past, such as vinyl records. After once almost disappearing from the market, vinyl albums and ep's sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. in 2016, a 25-year high.

The next hot growth format might be the cassette tape, which increased in sales 74% in 2016, according to recent numbers from Nielsen Soundscan. Granted, that translates to only 129,000 units last year, up from 95,460 in 2015. So cassette tapes remain a small niche of a larger niche of the music industry.

According to Nielsen, the best-selling cassette in 2016 was the soundtrack to "Guardians of the Galaxy," followed by releases from Eminem and Prince.

As for where cassette tape fans can find new titles, the highest-profile retailer for cassettes is Urban Outfitters, which also claims to be the largest vinyl seller in the U.S.

Can a resurgence of the cassingle be far behind?

  • Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: Music

New Music Friday: 5 Alt-Pop Songs You Should Know - 05/12/2017

It's another Friday full of new music and it might seem like an impossible task to keep track of all the good stuff. But don't worry, we've collected the five best new alt-pop tracks of the week right here.

Miley Cyrus: "Malibu"

I think it's fair to say that the last new music from Milley Cyrus (2015's "Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz") was an acquired taste. "Malibu" is the lead single from her still-untitled upcoming album and it previous a more mature and hook-friendly approach. It's a song that talks about her rekindled romance with actor Liam Hemsworth, whom she just reunited with after breaking off their engagement in 2013. And if the lyrics are any indication, things are going pretty well:

"I never would have believed you if three years ago you'd told me I'd be here writing this song, but here I am, next to you. The sky's so blue in Malibu. Next to you in Malibu."

Now, Now: "SGL"

It's been five years since the Minneapolis-based band Now Now released "Threads," a complex and weary alt-pop album that was one of that year's best releases. But the album's production and non-stop touring apparently left the band exhausted and needing a break. Founders KC Dalager and Brad Hale wrote and produced some other artists and fan-turned-band member Jess Abbott founded Tancred.

"SGL" is the first track from Now Now's upcoming album and it also comes with word that Abbott won't be part of the band moving forward. But the good news for fans is this new track is as good a track as the band has ever released. There are all the production flourishes and subtle guitar effects from "Threads," along with an optimism and near-ear candy quality that makes the single hypnotic.

Paperwhite: "Only Us"

The New York-based brother-sister duo of Katie and Ben Marshall craft these dreamy pop songs that manage to give a nod to the classic pop tunes of their youth while still sounding contemporary and fresh. "Only Us" sounds as if Kenny G had been transported forward in time to sit in with Everything But The Girl. As weird as that sounds, the result is a song that you'll have on a constant loop the next time you're headed towards the beach on a happy, sunny day.

Amber Mark: "Can You Hear Me?"

People handle the loss of a parent in many different ways. While some might decide to withdraw from the world or lash out in anger, Amber Marks took a different approach. When he beloved mother passed away in 2013, she lost herself in music. She uploaded her first track (S P A C E) to Soundcloud last year and within months it had made its way to the front page of iTunes. Her EP "3:33" comes out today and "Can You Hear Me?" is my favorite track. It's this delightful mix of quirky pop, driven by handclaps and a voice that is strong in all the right places. "Can You Hear Me?" is impossible to accurately describe, but it's one of those songs that leaves you with the feeling "Oh yeah, that's what I was looking for" the first time you hear it.

Whissell: "Legs Crossed"
Listen here on Soundcloud. There's no video available yet.

If the only music from Nashville you know is what gets played on country radio, you might think the only songs being recorded in the town are the seemingly endless variations of the bro-country themes of tight jeans, pick-up trucks and drinking beer under the stars.

But there is an amazingly rich and unexpected side of Nashville's music scene. Some of is classic-sounding traditional country, but there is also everything from country/hip-hop blends to old school country rock and soul. Nashville-based pop/soul songwriter Whissell released her debut EP, "Old Souls, Young Bodies," earlier this year and "Legs Crossed" is the new single off an upcoming project. Co-written with with Ali Tamposi (Beyoncé, One Direction, Demi Lovato) and Jacob Kasher (Meghan Trainor, Maroon 5, Selena Gomez), the song is a thumping slice of pop/soul that would fit right into any current Top 40 playlist. But it also has that honest rawness that comes across in the best of the Nashville underground scene.

Have any comments or suggestions? Send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow me on Twitter at @aysrick.

  • Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: Music

Jamiroquai Shows There Is More To Being A 90s Band Than The 'I Love The 90s' Tour

There was a lot of great music in the 1990s, but the number of bands from that decade still recording listenable music can be probably be counted on both of Donald Trump's tiny hands.

Jamiroquai was never a huge act in the United States and if you remember them at all, it's for their 1997 hit "Virtual Insanity," which won a Grammy and four awards at the 1997 Video Music Awards. Despite a number of personnel changes in the years since, they have continued to tour and release new music. And somewhat astoundingly, their new single "Automaton" is ear candy of the best kind. At least, it is if you like that special mix of European techo and Brit pop.

The song also sports a music video that includes some magically glowing headgear.