[Review] Foreigner (1977)

If Mick Ralphs and Boz Burrell could do it, so could Mick Jones and Ian McDonald.

Kronomyth 1.0: Immigrant you one wish.

I wasn’t a big fan of Bad Company, the obvious template for Foreigner, but there was just enough of Kansas and Queen at work on Foreigner to capture my attention, if not exactly my allegiance. Cold As Ice is a brilliant track, a perfect combination of “Killer Queen” and “The Things We Do for Love.” Feels Like the First Time is pure teenage testosterone scaled to epic proportions. Long, Long Way from Home just flat-out rocks. Toss in a couple of tracks like the Starrider and I Need You, and you’ve got the best rock debut since Boston.

Ian McDonald and Mick Jones were already in their 30s when the band released their first album. The rest of the band, though younger, featured experienced players including Lou Gramm (former lead singer of Black Sheep) and Dennis Elliot (former drummer for If). So, the band’s seeming overnight success didn’t exactly happen overnight. Their timing, however, was impeccable. Hard rock was just taking root as the green leaves of prog were fading and the seeds of heavy metal were being scattered. Few bands rocked as consistently hard as Foreigner, yet their songs were romantic enough that girls could get into their music too. At least, I think they could. The girls I knew liked The Clash.

At their best, Foreigner struck a balance between hard-rock braggadocio (e.g., Bad Company) and celestial synthesizers (e.g., Kansas or least the Steve Walsh side of Kansas). That said, their first album showed impressive range, reflecting the diversity of the band itself. Fool for You Anyway, for example, is more suited to a soft-rock group. “Starrider” is borderline prog. Woman Oh Woman could have walked from a Wings album.

You’d find less range on their later albums as the band’s songwriting crystallized around Mick Jones and Lou Gramm. The hits kept coming, the fists kept pumping and eventually the band would become better known for ballads like “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.” As a prog purist, none of their later albums felt like the first time for me, although Double Vision came pretty close, especially on tracks like “Blue Morning, Blue Day” and “Love Has Taken Its Toll.”

Original elpee version

A1. Feels Like the First Time (Mick Jones) (3:49)
A2. Cold As Ice (Mick Jones/Lou Gramm) (3:19)
A3. Starrider (Mick Jones/Al Greenwood) (4:01)
A4. Headknocker (Lou Gramm/Mick Jones) (2:58)
A5. The Damage Is Done (Mick Jones/Lou Gramm) (4:15)
B1. Long, Long Way from Home (Mick Jones/Lou Gramm/Ian McDonald) (2:53)
B2. Woman Oh Woman (Mick Jones) (3:49)
B3. At War with the World (Mick Jones) (4:18)
B4. Fool for You Anyway (Mick Jones) (4:15)
B5. I Need You (Lou Gramm/Mick Jones) (5:09)

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Feels Like the First Time (demo)
12. Woman Oh Woman (demo)
13. At War with the World (demo)
14. Take Me to Your Leader

Original 8-track version
A1. Feels Like the First Time
A2. Long, Long Way from Home
A3. Headknocker
B1. Fool for You Anyway
B2. Woman Oh Woman
B3. Cold As Ice (part 1)
C1. Cold As Ice (part 2)
C2. Starrider
C3. The Damage Is Done
D1. At War with the World
D2. I Need You

The Players

Dennis Elliott (drums), Ed Gagliardi (bass, vocals), Lou Gramm (lead vocals), Al Greenwood (keyboards, synthesizer), Mick Jones (lead guitar, vocals, musical direction), Ian McDonald (guitars, keyboards, horns, vocals). Produced by John Sinclair and Gary Lyons in collaboration with Mick Jones and Ian McDonald; engineered by Gary Lyons, associate engineer: Jimmy Douglass; mixed by Mick Jones, Ian McDonald and Jimmy Douglass.

The Pictures

Cover illustration by Alex Gnidziekjo. Art direction by Bob Defrin.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on March 8, 1977 in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS/TP 18215), the UK Atlantic, K50356), Germany and the Netherlands (Atlantic, ATL50356) and Japan (Atlantic, P-10376A) with lyrics innersleeve. 8-track version features different track order and manages to split “Cold As Ice” in half. Unbelievable. Reached #4 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 5x platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and 8-track in October 1977 in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS/TP 19109) and Canada (Atlantic, KSD 19109) with lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1984 in Germany (Atlantic, 250 356).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in October 1995 in the US (Atlantic, 87298).
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on April 2, 2002 in the US (Rhino, 74270) with 4 bonus tracks.

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