Live In '05

Foreigner

Foreigner has often been accused of being corporate rock — but that’s actually a compliment. A good corporation provides a product or service that’s in demand. A good corporation has staying power. A good corporation is expertly managed to survive major personnel shuffles. If Foreigner is, indeed, a corporation, it’s a damn good one. In a feat worthy of the cover of Forbes, Foreigner has weathered the replacement of most of its staff and one of its CEOs, singer Lou Gramm. Founder/lead guitarist Mick Jones is the sole original member, now accompanied by vocalist Kelly Hansen (Hurricane), bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken), drummer Jason Bonham (UFO, Bonham), keyboardist Jeff Jacobs (with the band since 1994), and saxophonist/guitarist Tom Gimbel. Foreigner’s sound has always been slick as butter on a hot skillet, and their live sound is just as impeccable. So if you’re looking for a live album that’s raw and earthy, keep going. But if you like a live sound that’s polished to a high gloss, stop here. Recorded at Texas Station in Las Vegas, Live In 'O5 is stuffed with smooth Foreigner staples: “Cold as Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “I Want to Know What Love Is” (although it’s surprising that “Double Vision” wasn’t included).

The disc does have some pleasing rough edges: nastier-sounding versions of “Dirty White Boy” and “Blue Morning,” and an appropriately raucous delivery of “Hot Blooded,” one of the best lust songs ever written, which rips open with a scorching guitar-hero solo and shudders with pulsating bass and drums. There are tasty treats mixed in, too, like a rendition of “Juke Box Hero” which segues into Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” a husky sax accompaniment and solo in “Urgent” (nothing beats good sax!) and the otherworldly progressive rock of “Starrider,” from Foreigner’s landmark debut album. Most striking are Kelly Hansen’s vocals, which are eerily similar to Lou Gramm’s. Distinctive and classy, Gramm’s vocals so typified the Foreigner sound that replacing him would make walking on water and parting the Red Sea seem idiotically easy in comparison. Yet Hansen has made the impossible possible — a worthy successor whose voice seamlessly meshes with Foreigner classics. Can’t wait for an album of all-new material from Foreigner’s latest lineup. This corporation is open for business, and business is booming once again.

~ Merryl Lentz

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